The Upside

You Could Be In An Abusive Relationship With Your Corporate Career. Here’s Why.

I hope that you’ve never been in an emotionally abusive relationship. However, unless you met your life partner at a young age, it’s likely you’ve experienced some type of emotional manipulation from someone you loved and trusted. I know I certainly did. 


In an emotionally abusive relationship, the rhetoric coming from the abuser can look and sound a lot like this:


  • You have a lot you need to work on. Here’s what’s not awesome about you.
  • You need me.
  • I need you, please don’t leave me.
  • Good luck being without me. Look at what’s out there. You’ll never do better than me.
  • Do you realize how many people would love to be in your shoes?
  • Here’s a little token of my appreciation of you. Very. Little. Token.

What’s fascinating is that, over the course of someone’s corporate career, the experiences are not that dissimilar. Let me explain.


You ask for more responsibility and a promotion:

You have a lot you need to work on. Here’s what’s not awesome about you.


The economy is awful:

You need this job.


You threaten to quit:

We need you right now. Don’t leave.


They find out you’re looking at job boards:

Good luck. Look at what’s out there. You’ll never have it better than this.


You ask for a raise:

Do you realize how many people would love to be in your shoes?


You go in for your end-of-year bonus after surpassing all goals for the company:

Here’s a little token of our appreciation. Very. Little. Token.

Most professionals have experienced some version of the above over the course of their corporate careers. 


I can remember being 23 years old and going in for my first annual review with the big boss, after already receiving a verbal promise of a specific salary increase from my direct supervisor.


When I brought up the raise that was discussed, the big boss replied, “You should be paying us to work here since you’re learning so much. We’re basically giving you an MBA on the job!”


And so it began: years of micro-abuses from supervisors, bosses and companies that consistently kept me from asking for more or knowing my worth. 


In fact, it wasn’t until a headhunter called me out of the blue one day with a position that tripled my current salary and gave me my own corner office on Park Avenue, that I finally realized I was being undervalued. PS, I got the job and never looked back.

Here’s the hard truth: most corporations
want you to feel undervalued. 

It serves them well if you feel grateful for the opportunity.


…for you to be aware that there’s a line out the door of people clamoring for your job. 

…for you to think you can’t do better.

…for you to stay put.

…for you to never know your true value or ask for more.


However, none of this is actually true. In fact, in reality:

They are lucky to have you and it’s a pain to replace you.


There are many people who would love your job, but none who can deliver or perform like you.


Many companies would be thrilled to have you on their team.


You know your worth and are willing to walk away if you’re not being paid your full value.


This emotionally-broken culture is especially tough on those who are 50+. Not only have they been through 30+ years of corporate micro-abuses, but they require a significant salary, lack some of the latest skills, like social media, that twenty-somethings do in their sleep, and come from a background where relationships, not technology or cutting-edge trends, matter most. 


In my recent podcast interview on Going Solo with David Shriner-Cahn, I discuss how corporate professionals can overcome these barriers and find a wealth of value out on their own. 


In the world of consulting and advisory, your longevity and depth of expertise is your value. And you have a LOT more value out on your own than you may think. 


Dive in and listen to my episode of the Going Solo podcast here.

Have you fought back against an abusive relationship with your corporate job? Let me know on Instagram or LinkedIn – I want to hear about it!

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Erin Halper

About the Author

Erin Halper is the founder and CEO of The Upside and the leading authority on independent consulting. Since launching The Upside in 2017, Erin has helped thousands of professionals transition from corporate life into consulting to achieve flexibility, autonomy, and a renewed sense of purpose in their careers.

Erin has been a frequent speaker at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, and Brown and has been featured as a leading future of work expert on dozens of podcasts as well as in Forbes, Business Insider, Nasdaq, Crunchbase and many more.

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