The Director’s Moral Compass

Written by SuzyQ

I want to talk to you about being a Mary Kay sales director. We are not all monsters. There are some who are monsters… and those women should not be allowed to work with people anywhere. But for the most part, something happens to a normally decent, smart and loving human being when she becomes a director with Mary Kay Cosmetics.

There is so much stress in achieving the position of director in addition to learning new things  about how the company really works and pays. There are many things that are not discussed.

For example, I don’t believe we are ever told directly to reinstate inactive consultants. But enough information about this common practice comes through so we can figure it out, under the guise of “doing whatever it takes.” And the hope of a better month next month. There is a gradual moral erosion, the deeper we are in the pink fog, the less accurate our moral compass becomes.

In this process of being a Mary Kay sales director, we lose sight of people as people and they become numbers. We are constantly extolled to do more, be more, work harder, work smarter. We begin to equate Mary Kay with God.

We are continually reminded that our Mary Kay business is our “mission field” and the symbols of THE SUIT and the sizzle are used as enticements to draw others to us. We are told we have the power to change women’s lives. We are told we are making a difference in women’s lives. We are commonly held in some sort of awe by consultants who want to be like us and therefore have all we seem to have. We begin to believe our own press and armed with God, there is no way we can lose.

“I” stories are tweaked to deliver more of a punch. Exaggerations become standard fare at events and meetings and interviews. Just a little extra here and a little extra there. Name it and claim it, goal posters, affirmations, belief, and fake it till you make it become our mantras.

We pray about production, about using the right words with new recruits, before the interview pitch, before individual consultations, before approaching someone in a store for warm chattering. We ask God to place sharp women in our paths, for women with resources, for women who will be like us.

The friends we had prior to Mary Kay fade into the background. They can’t help our businesses and we are driven meet the next goal. We surround ourselves with positive Mary Kay women.

Our entire vocabulary changes. People outside the “Pink Bubble” don’t understand our work and don’t value our societal impact. We quit engaging in non-income producing behavior and stop watching television except for evangelical programs. Our former hobbies and activities that gave us pleasure are put on hold. We tell ourselves that when we become national sales directors, we will have all the time in the world to read, to cook, to needlepoint, to nap. We are making short term sacrifices for long term gains.

We are cut off from the world as those outside the pink bubble see it. The world is negative, and negative information is to be avoided at all costs.

We cannot discuss our fear about our ability to be as successful as the woman ahead of us in the director line-up. As we cut off negativity, we also cut out reason, logic, analysis and our families. We are told Mary Kay did not like her directors to have JOBS so we quit our full time employment. We are told that so long as we have bridges to our past, we will never work hard enough to insure our futures.

Our only source of information is our sisters in pink. Only when it is late, and we are drinking in a hotel room do we consider asking a roommate if she is having trouble making this whole thing work, too. We justify any of our expenses as tax write-offs. We look for answers everywhere in the bubble. If anyone has anything to read, to promote, to listen to, to “help,” we include that as a necessary expenditure for our personal growth.

The “truth” as we know it comes from the company and the directors who are more successful. We need bigger units. We need more people. New blood. No more “dead reds.” Better meetings. More models. Different promotions, different prizes.

We are told we are the ones in our own way. We are told to never give up. Women who do “step down” are losers and didn’t work their businesses. We are told that the speed of the leader is the speed of the gang and that you can’t follow a parked car. We are told that God placed this dream in our hearts, and to not follow it means certain damnation.

We hear stories of other women who had more issues than we do who made it happen. We then feel guilty. We are told to never prejudge anyone, and are reminded of the 3 foot rule. We are told we are the highest paid business women in the US. We are told we can have it all. We are reminded that we are the only Bible some people may ever read. The only Mary Kay people may ever meet.

Inventory talks are tweaked to perfection. Personal use consultants are called “PU’s” and we are reminded that Mary Kay never intended for anyone to be a personal use consultant. We rarely inform the new consultant that an $1,800 wholesale order is really more like $2,200 out of pocket, but we do include all of the bonuses they will earn.

We admire and are slightly in awe (and more than a little jealous) of those who can routinely pull $3,600 inventories and up. If we question (albeit gently) that we heard they don’t “work” with consultants with less than that, we are told to worry about our businesses, not theirs. They are in Cadillacs and we are not.

When we express dismay at recruiting tactics, we are told to turn the other cheek. To ask ourselves, what would Mary Kay do? We are reminded of karma as a sort of comfort measure. We are told that one recruit will not make or break our unit.

So we persist, year after year, event after event, I story after I story. Mary Kay sales directors continue the process, working the numbers, trying to stay on the razor thin wire as we walk across the abyss of failure, economic ruin, relationship issues and time constraints doing as we were taught.

We cheat, lie, exaggerate, fluff, hide behind God and co-god Mary Kay Ash, tweak, rewrite, revamp, reinvent, redo, replay and eventually, we find ourselves filled with unbelievable despair and profound depression as we finally come to terms with the fact that it can’t work if we do it ethically, with integrity and with honesty. We have an in-depth soul searching and we leave Mary Kay. Some with grace, others with rage. All with profound self-loathing and depression.

Or…we continue the illusion. There is no going back after a certain point in this journey. To go back, to permit truth or reality, is to acknowledge the damage to the very core of our being. The erosion of our moral compass. Our lack of integrity and candor. We look back at the lives we changed in the worst possible of ways. The abusive manner in which we used God for our personal gain. The sometimes irrevocable damage we caused to the relationships we held dear. The financial costs to us and those who trusted our business acumen.

To look deeply within causes too much pain. The pink balm soothes a troubled soul. Pushes back the questions, stops the bleeding, and closes the wound. Those who persist in questioning are shunned, avoided, and are told they “don’t get it.” Prayer and Power Groups are formed to keep the illusion alive and well and intact. Events are planned at careful intervals to maintain an appropriate level of pink in one’s blood.

So are we monsters? No. The process of director indoctrination is subtle and seductive. The process of reclaiming ourselves is incredibly painful. We are haunted by the things we said and did in pursuit of our “God-given dreams.” We did not reinvent this wheel. We taught you as we were taught. All of us were doing the best we could with the information we had available to us at the time.

To the posters and many of the lurkers, we here can’t begin to know how to undo the damage that was done to us personally, let alone the damage we did to you. Are we victims? Hardly. We knew, but we would not see. Or we saw, but we did not act. The good news is that we have this opportunity to discuss, to share, to process and to begin the moving on and away from Mary Kay. With integrity and with heads held high.

16 Comments

  1. MLM Radar

    I was never a Director myself. I was an MLM consultant briefly. But I was also the wife of a MLM “true believer” husband who thought MLM was his path to freedom, and the best friend of a woman who thought MLM was a ministry to women in need.

    This narrative sounds like it was written by an addict who wanted to make the pain go away. You didn’t mean to cause the pain. You didn’t mean to exploit anyone. Deep down inside you’re really a good person. So we should be willing to forgive, shouldn’t we?

    Right? You admit you were weak, and everything will be OK again?

    This is a good start. But for those of us who were victims, you’ve got a long way to go. Helping other see what you’ve learned is good, but apologizing and making restitution to your victims is also necessary, particularly when we are your family and close friends. Those of us who are your family still have to deal with the debt. The lies you told still confuse our kids. The insults you wielded still sting (you’re not supportive, you’re a short-term thinker, your whole family is a bunch of stupid wage slaves). The damage you did to your spouse’s credit rating will take years to repair. Sure, you can get it discharged in bankruptcy court, but bankruptcy sticks to a credit rating for 10 years; did you know that? And until that credit rating recovers, the damage caused by you (spouse in MLM) lingers on.

    So please, please take the high road. Yes, you feel hurt for yourself. Yes, you don’t want to look at the damage you caused. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go away that easily.

    Please take the focus off yourself long enough to apologize to your family and friends. Please admit you were wrong and start making restitution. And please understand that it will take a lot of time, and a lot of work on your part, for us to also recover and trust you again.

    1. SW

      Fair enough, though I think the point of the article was more that no personal sense of integrity can keep one from becoming abusive in such an altogether rotten pursuit, so this is a warning to stay away no matter how honest one believes themselves to be and how innocent it may initially seem.

    2. Char

      I cannot disagree. I do feel that MLMers often give themselves a pass, but that is because it wasn’t in their original nature to be corrupt – except the “successful” serial MLMers of course. They are rotten to their core with no moral compass.

      The unique thing about MLM is you are both the perpetrator “upline” and victim “someone’s downline”.

      I’ve always thought the term “willing victim” seemed appropriate for “unsuccessful” MLMers who weren’t able to recruit. Once you involve someone else however, your criminal “career” has begun.

      Shouldn’t one thoroughly investigate something before taking on the responsibility of involving others and having them invest their money? I guess when one benefits from that investment, one doesn’t really care. So that’s “you” consultants, but it doesn’t sound very nice when put that way, does it?

      The consultant is directly responsible for recruiting their downline into a corrupt business. How does that feel? How about you return the money your victim invested? I wonder if that were the law, would you do a better job researching this “business” and think twice before profiting off them? Just something to think about.

      In this day and age, there is way too much info on the internet to claim ignorance; but MK tells you to ignore that information, don’t they? Just take a moment and think about that too.

      They want you ignorant!

    3. TRACY

      This comes off as incredibly harsh sounding to me. I don’t think SuzyQ is minimizing the damage caused by directors (herself included). Rather, she is demonstrating how easy it is to fall into the MK trap and tell yourself that you’re helping people and doing good things and become completely blind to what is really going on.

      1. MLM Radar

        I apologize that I came across that way. I know she wasn’t trying to claim she was innocent. But I can see how you may believe I overreacted.

        I did significantly tone down my comment before posting. My background still tainted my words. The details are painful even now. I was insulted and verbally abused for years because I refused to support the MLM nightmare.

        Ultimately I resolved the MLM related debt by borrowing all the equity in my home, and am stuck making the payments myself with no help. I’ll be in my 70s before it’s paid off. And there was a great deal more evil done to me in the name of such schemes. For cleaning up my husband’s mess I was rewarded by being told I shouldn’t judge and should just put it all behind me, like he did. As for my best friend, she felt so conflicted by her MLM “ministry” that she wound up getting drunk one night and dying in a car accident. That hurt won’t ever go away.

        Thanks for listening. To Suzy Q and Tracy both, I apologize.

  2. raisinberry

    This essay is right on the money and really tells the strategy of how a “normal” person gets sucked in and seduced by MLM and Cult-like groups. Mary Kay is most DEFINITELY a cult…no doubt about it. When your masters control all input, dogma, behavior, and any objection or criticism brings about a thump on the head and shunning, you are in a cult. Detoxing out of one is painful and embarrassing, largely due to awakening your reason and rationality and being in utter shock that you ever played the game!

    MLM’s are nothing to play with. They have extremely effective stories, strategies, methods, controlling scripts, and inducements to cause you to voluntarily shut out any outside voice of reason, as hostile or negative.

    The people at the top are professional exploiters. They know what they are doing, do not kid yourself.

  3. Cindylu

    MK started this mlm. This pyramid originated based on being a workaholic and ignoring quality of life. The concept of short term pain for long term gain is a misnomer. Multi tasking is another misconception. Chasing Directorship at the expense of family is not worth it. Our NSD certainly was a selfish narcissist. It took her decades to become a NSD when home parties were accepted. I recall two DIQ’s who tried to become directors. They seemed to be running around like chicken with their heads cut off. In the end my SD sabotaged them and took their recruits. She had tried the same thing on her one and only Director but failed. Thirty plus years later she is still a SD going no where. Sadly though she has ruined the lives of dozens of other women. Some of the schemes that mlm promotes included advising us to include lip stick samples to kids trick or treating. Ugh.

  4. Still Breaking The Basic

    “Exaggerations become standard fare at events and meetings and interviews.”

    Like showing potential recruits your highest commission check but the date is changed or obliterated so no one sees that it is 10 years old.

    And you don’t tell anyone that your subsequent checks keep getting smaller and smaller.

    Not even your husband.

  5. Mickey2942

    Encouraging an MK consultant to apply for a credit card to stock product is really helping her build her business.

    When a consultant’s husband is negative, helping her realise that he is jealous of her success is helping her to be independent.

    Isn’t it interesting how MLM’s re-frame everything? And of course, everyone makes $1000’s of dollars. If they are really committed. If you are not making $1000’s, you just are not trying hard enough.

      1. Mickey2942

        The level of criminal thinking to justify immoral behavior is epic in MLM. It is immoral to continue to bolster the illogical notions that spending money on products is the way to make money.

  6. pinkpeace

    Suz – this is one of the best pieces you’ve ever written. Each word resonates deeply with me.

    As a brand-new consultant, I was dazzled by these successful women driving pink Cadillacs, and assumed they had achieved their positions by hard work, just as I had achieved my own corporate position. So many assumptions went unchallenged in Mary Kay, because it never occurred to me that Mary Kay was a predatory multi-level marketing company. My only concept of MLM was Amway, and Mary Kay Ash and her cosmetics were not even in the same universe.

    “We tell ourselves that when we become national sales directors, we will have all the time in the world to read, to cook, to needlepoint, to nap. We are making short term sacrifices for long term gains.”

    For some reason, this hit me hard. Before I was a consultant/director, I had many hobbies and interests. I read lots of books, was in a dance troupe, took classes at our local community college for fun, loved to cook and bake, took regular “field trips” with my kids. It was a rich life, but I found myself dropping those activities to concentrate on my MK climb to the top. Nothing was more important than becoming an NSD and providing my loved ones with that Family Security Plan. They were my “reason,” after all.

    Short-term sacrifice inevitably became long-term pain. After some years, it was clear that directorship was the worst possible position to have in Mary Kay, ESPECIALLY if you’re trying to do it in any way ethically. I had to leave, and I did so thinking I just didn’t have what it took to be successful.

    Thank God for Pink Truth, which showed me I wasn’t just me, and it had nothing to do with my talent or drive. And thank God for women like Tracy, SuzyQ and Raisinberry who have helped me in my journey back to self-respect.

    P.S. to MLM Radar: You are totally right in wanting us ex-directors to make amends to those we harmed in Mary Kay. Years had passed by the time I understood what a corrupt system MK was, and by then, I had lost touch with almost all of my consultants. Thankfully, I didn’t have family members involved.

  7. OnelessSD

    Suzi.. I’m with PinkPeace… your article spoke deeply to me. I was a small time director.. never earning a car – but I did the court of sales 5 times consecutively. I could sell the product and I enjoyed doing that. I didn’t necessarily enjoy recruiting – but obviously I wanted to become a sales director- so I did. It took me a long time to get to the position, and a lot of hard work- so when my unit was really faltering- I sucked it up and made of the difference in production myself, through my sales. My children were young – and I too had many fun hobbies I enjoyed before MK… which quickly went by the way side as I tried to grow my business. Relationships became really one-sided as I was dropping people left and right because “they weren’t all supportive” of my business venture. It wasn’t until about 4 years into directorship that I really saw the ‘dark side’, the deception, the blatant lying, etc. But by that time- I had a really hard time even thinking about giving it up… I had worked so hard to get there- most of my business contacts only knew me at the Mary Kay lady, etc. It was my whole identity. When the blinders finally fell all the way off- I let it go… meaning I missed production 2 months in a row and they terminated me. I had mixed emotions and I cried a bit that weekend. How was I to put a positive spin on this?! Thankfully, by this time- I was a faithful reader of Pink Truth, and you all helped me to leave it behind and realize that I’m not a failure- but the system is. That there was no way on earth that I could honestly succeed without the lies and deception. So yes Suzi…. not all SD’s are monsters – but the company is. For those who have never been in the situation really can’t comprehend what goes on or the pressure put upon us. So thankful to my family here at PT- you’ve helped me heal.

      1. Char

        I don’t understand this statement. Is there still some lingering MLM fog where the thinking is that companies that use the EXACT SAME scamming method are somehow different?

        Are people who have been hurt by another MLM company less important and not entitled to express their anger against MLMers? Why? Why does the brand matter?

        Advocates don’t usually go around saying Patron tequila killed my friend. Rather, they say a drunk driver did it and they try to make awareness – not about the brand, but the act.

        FTR, I do think Corporate and upline attempts to brainwash one’s thinking. Again, “willing victim” in many cases, but not for the true con artists. I wonder though at what point do we expect people to take responsibility for their actions, think for themselves, and do due diligence?

  8. SuzyQ

    The comments were thoughtful, thank you. I wrote this 10 years ago and it still rings true for me. The pain, the depression, the bankruptcy, the anxiety, and the over-whelming fear. So many memories. Pink Truth and Tracy saved me. And when we (I am speaking for Raisinberry and PinkPeace too) found this website, we had been directors for years. This was all new information for us and it was stunning. When I joined MK, there was no real way to do due diligence. I knew about Amway, of course, and avoided it like the plague, but I didn’t consider MK to be MLM. We were taught it was a “dual marketing system” and it never occurred to me to question that. Pink Truth was the first “negative” site I had ever seen. And speaking for myself, I most certainly was a “willing victim” —I wanted it all, every bit of it. And I made my decisions at the time based on lies instead of the truth.

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