Mary Kay Bullying

Written by PinkPeace

I was talking with one of my heroes here on Pink Truth, Raisinberry, and the topic turned to the subtle form of bullying that goes on in Mary Kay.

You may be thinking that bullying is only for schoolchildren, and that adults outgrow it. Certainly it could never happen in a company that’s “God first, family second and career third”! But it does, and the reason no one recognizes it is that Mary Kay cleverly turns it on its head presents it as positive recognition.

Bullying makes someone feel “less than” and preys upon her lack of power in any given circumstance. It’s intended to cause distress and push someone toward behaving in the way that the bully wants her to behave.

It starts with the brand new consultant. She has just signed her consultant agreement and is making an inventory decision. She is encouraged to order as much product as possible, because the more she orders, the more the director is paid in commission. At the weekly unit meeting, the new consultant sees Star Consultants paraded to the front of the room, given little prizes, and applauded for “making the smart business decision to work with a full store.” Star Consultants are invited to special quarterly “star parties.” They are recognized on unit websites and in newsletters. They get to sit in special seating at unit meetings and events. Those consultants who don’t place big orders are made to feel inferior and unimportant, and so the cycle begins.

Mary Kay would just say that directors reward their consultants for a job well done, and what’s wrong with that? But I say that having enough space on your credit card is not an accomplishment, and since no one tracks what is actually sold to an end consumer, there’s no way to know if star orders accurately reflect sales efforts.

Ask a lower-ordering consultant whether this recognition positively motivates to work harder and order more. Almost always, she’ll tell you she feels shamed and is left wondering why, when she’s trying so hard, she can’t make it to star or the next level in the business. It’s a subtle form of bullying designed to make the consultant want to order more inventory, even when it’s not in her best interest. There are some women who are so desperate for any bit of appreciation in their lives that they will do whatever it takes to have someone in power (the sales director) tell her she’s important and give her a bit of applause in front of her peers.

But wait. Don’t managers in other companies reward their sales forces with prizes and recognition? Well yes, but the circumstances couldn’t be any more different. In any legitimate company, the manager knows exactly what each sales person sells and the employees know what their sales targets are. No one has to front their own money for inventory or sales aids; the company supplies it all. The sales people compete in a fair market, with set territories or an equitable division of accounts. Sound like Mary Kay? Of course not.

But it’s more than sales. There is a powerful and insidious form of put-down that only escalates the higher a consultant moves up the MK ladder. I’m referring to all the pieces of clothing that Mary Kay pressures you to wear to show your status within the company.

It starts with the red jacket. How many times did you hear in a unit meeting that “you’ve got to get into red”? Directors are taught to pump up the red jacket talk so that everyone will want to be wearing it – it shows that a consultant is serious in her business, and it’s her reward for sharing the opportunity with others.

Again, the red jackets have their own up-front recognition at meetings. They sit at a special table. They are given prestigious duties at a meeting. They have their own private training at events. The whole point is to make others envious of their position so that they will recruit and have their own red jackets to wear. And let’s be clear. Directors LOVE red jackets – new recruits mean more money in their pockets each month.

As we all know, directors wear their own suits to show off their status as being higher still on that MK ladder. Do you remember your directors talking about the suit all the time? They were trying to get you to want the suit, want the position and think that being a director is the be all and end all of your life. Why? The production that you’ll have to do to make it to directorship is essential for the director’s bottom line.

But there’s always more. Each level of directorship has its own distinctive uniform, whether it’s the color of the blouse, a certain type of jacket lapel, a special scarf or other accessory. Of course, there are also the unit club and bumblebee pins – instant ways to see how successful everyone is. When directors get together, the very first thing they do is to check out everyone’s director suit to see where they all stand in the pecking order. When you’re at the lower levels of directorship, the feelings of being “less than” continue.

Everyone becomes objectified. Directors look upon their consultants with the thought of “how much money can she add to my unit?” Nationals look at their own directors with an eye toward whose production will propel them higher on the Applause scoreboard. Struggling to make minimum unit production? Don’t expect a call or any encouragement from your National.

Nationals specifically teach the best way to make others feel inferior. I attended countless director meetings taught by NSDs where they instructed us to:

  • Never share a room at Seminar with anyone who wasn’t a director
  • Only offer to work with consultants who were ordering product consistently
  • Ignore our non-ordering consultants, other than sending them a monthly newsletter
  • Set up special events for our top people only
  • Taunt our consultants by telling them that we had exclusive information and perks that they could only get when they became directors
  • Talk constantly about the one of-a-kind camaraderie that belongs to sales directors alone, using inside jokes and other exclusionary language

All these elements of “recognition” actually bring out the worst in a person.

You’re encouraged to feel jealous of your sister consultants. If you’re not progressing up the ladder, you’re excluded from special unit events and prizes. You’re made to feel inferior to those who are “moving and shaking” in the unit. Directors are taught to encourage envy in the hopes of increasing unit production.

And if you have gotten to a certain status in Mary Kay, such as directorship, you can develop a very ugly attitude of superiority over consultants or anyone who is behind you on the ladder. That happened to me, and I am so ashamed of how I thought about others, and more importantly, how I treated them.

Make no mistake, it’s ALL about the money for those directors and NSDs above you. The more they stir up feelings of inferiority, dissatisfaction and envy, the more they hope you’ll work harder to pump up those orders and bring in new consultants. See it for what it is – bullying.


  1. raisinberry

    Pinkpeace, this was a very good article. We didn’t even know it was happening because this manipulation is dressed up to appear positive. I too remember the NSD teaching these things..and one more; “She’s a dead red.”

    The ladies at the head table who had 3 active, but might not be selling much personally or recruiting more women into the biz ’cause they don’t get in front of faces…these are your Dead Reds. You are supposed to shun them so they get moving again.

    If any of the pro-MK consultants actually knew what a con game they are under and what is REALLY said behind their backs, they’d head for the door. And, all of this is justified by the >wink,wink< sales leadership because they know how to get you to the top.

  2. Peaches

    Mean Girls have to start somewhere so why not Mary Kay? The worst for me was the silences, and the rolled eyes. And don’t forget those obnoxious comments: “If you are not willing to spend xyz, you are not serious about your business” or ” If you don’t come to a weekly, monthly, yearly training, you are not serious about your business” or ” You can earn child care, car fare/payment, doctor’s fees, with just one SCC. If you don’t, can’t or won’t, you are not serious about your business”.

    Bullying comes in many forms but none so brutal as the smile with the Red, Pink, or Brown MK Lipstick.

  3. Morningstar

    I remember being at a brunch in the 1990’s where the star consultants were to sit at the front table. I was stoked to be recognized and my director could not attend. So many people; the room was crowded and I was across the city with others I had not met yet that were under the NSD. My director had failed to give the info that I was a 2400 star to whoever was coordinating the head table. I went up looking for my placeholder name couldn’t find it and went to NSD who could not be bothered. I pulled up and extra chair which made the head table crowded. I assumed that it would be no big deal. WELL the shaming and eye rolling of the others at the head table was intense. They pushed and shoved to where my plate and elbows wouldn’t fit. I was feeling low and gave in to the rude women who at that point acted like I was a non person. I went to find a place at a table and everyone was “saving seats” for their guests buddies etc. I finally found a table, the women were semi cold but saw I was being crowded out at the front. I had driven 40 miles to be humiliated on a Saturday morning. I listened to the I stories and felt even lower, because the directors were also at FT jobs. Prancing and touting about how they are going to quit the Contempo clothes jobs etc. That day I was sad but now I think back and there was a angel on my shoulder exposing me to what would come next if I left my aerospace Job for MK full time. I had blanked this whole incident out of my mind until this post today on PT. I felt the rush of being shamed again as I read this today. How crazy was I to think that 2400 in shiz was going to get me somewhere?
    That was the beginning of the end where I had to try and JUSTIFY/VALIDATE myself to others that thought I was being crazy for trying to vye my way to the coveted head table. Thank you for letting me be included here at this site. It is truly the truth and weeds out faulty perceptions.

    1. BestDecision

      I was once left to find food with no car and eat by myself because I didn’t qualify for a special luncheon at an event. I knew no one, and we were out of town and driven by my Director.

      And remember the shoving and attitudes when you’d try to sit down at Career Conference, only to be told by a lady that she was saving the entire row? This, after running in as the doors opened.

      You’re not one bit crazy, and we all had so many similar or same experiences.

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