We have a long-standing customer in a mature industry. They have been a delight to work with – challenging but interesting, the people we work with have been great, and from a commercial perspective they’ve been firm but fair. We’ve really enjoyed working with them.
A few years ago a hedge fund took a large position in them, with the view that it was an under performing stock which could double with the right management.
The resulting carnage has been horrible to see. Morale is in the toilet, no one knows who they can trust, and individuals will do anything to anyone for a small short term advantage. And it is getting worse.
As a result, all the social capital that company had has been destroyed both internally and externally. They are treating us as a supplier terribly, even though they are approaching a time where our good will will be essential. In fact, their aggression is such that they are currently out of contract with us.
I guess they think that we need to do business with them, and eventually we will submit to their demands. Right now they’re playing a mix of “Good Cop, Bad Cop” and “We’ve got bigger lawyers than you” which is quite depressing – because clearly they feel that’s the best and most appropriate way to treat us.
All we’re talking about here is a routine maintenance renewal and a consulting gig of maybe $10k!
Unfortunately we learned a long time ago that no amount of money is worth the energy drain that would come from exposing ourself to this kind of culture, and the loss of self worth that would result from knowing that we have no option but to appease the bullies.
Our BATNA is quite simply to stop talking to them. We can walk away.
Sadly for the people trapped in that company, they can’t walk away. As human beings they are stuck in that toxic culture waiting for it to be their turn to get shafted, knowing that the more dedication they show in shafting everyone else, the longer they will survive as an individual.
The human toll must be horrific – what’s this doing to people’s emotional and physical health? As an Empath, I find it genuinely painful to contemplate.
I would feel a bit better if the end result was a genuinely better company but I suspect whatever remains after this will be horrifically broken from a human perspective. All their relationships going forward will be tainted by the knowledge that betrayal is just around the corner.
As a business owner I’m all for Capitalism, but there has to be an alternative to this kind of wonton vandalism of a once-great company.