Bullies in Mary Kay

Written by PinkPeace

I was thinking about 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.


  1. Ugh, and it never stops!! Even the NSDs are out there striving for Inner Circle. There’s NEVER a space to simply be good enough.

    • And they even single out the top Inner Circle on the tip to get her own special prize and bonus!

  2. It’s a toxic mix of “love bombing” to lure them in and shaming to get them under control. The successful cult leader knows how hard to push each and when to switch tactics.

    And the person who devised the levels of clothing, the easily identified rank pins and prizes, and pitted woman against woman was Mary Kay herself. She brags about it in one of her books, how she used jealousy and competition to keep the worker bees working.

  3. It’s all just a more grown-up version of the mean girls on the playground. If you’re not in the clique, you suck. Don’t have the latest Cool Thing (be it a food, an article of clothing, a toy)? You suck. Have the Cool Thing but don’t do Cool Activity (watching a show, liking a band, piano lessons)? You still suck. And on and on and on just so the mean girls can watch you go crazy trying to fit in, and the kicker is that they’re never going to let you in the clique. They’re just yanking you around because they hold the power.

    That was my life in grade school and ESPECIALLY junior high. I got no support from my mother so my life was an endless hell of never feeling good enough and self loathing. The hunger for approbation (actually any acknowlegement, good or bad, that I existed as a person) is real. I’d have done anything, no matter how amoral or even illegal, to win a place in that inner circle… which in hindsight I’d never have gotten, because they’d just move the goalposts again and again.

    To those in the bubble: forget about approval from your upline. Is what you’re doing making YOU happy? Is [insert “career” move your director is throwing at you] what YOU want, or is it what you’ve been told to want? When things go wrong, are YOU unhappy, or are you afraid of making someone else unhappy (who will in turn blame you for their own unhappiness)?

    Forget god, family, and career and put YOURSELF first. I know, it goes against everything we’re taught, but an old sedan that runs like a top is way more useful than a Lamborghini without an engine. Whatever it takes, get to know the real you. What you want. What gives you joy. Live for yourself and those you care about.

    Once you do that, you’ll take your power back from the mean girls. You’ll be able to pray with a whole heart because you won’t be begging god to help you out of your latest MK pickle, or being told to pray for what you “should” want. You’ll be a better parent to your children because you’re not spending all your money on inventory and spending all your time at meetings instead of their events. You’ll be a better spouse because you’re not hiding credit card bills and regarding them as the enemy of your so-called “dreams”. You’ll be able to work a job and be a good employee because you’re not trying to foist goodie bags and catalogs off on your coworkers instead of working, and enjoy the steady money and fulfilment a real job can bring.

    I mean, FFS, I begged and begged my mother to buy Fruit Roll-Ups until she finally did, and I took them to school all proud of myself only to be told they were the wrong flavor. You can’t win with mean girls. Don’t play their game and go do what makes you happy.

  4. Using jealousy as a corporate tool … ENVY … well noted in the 7 Deadly Sins – MK finds this a commendable motivational practice. I find it to be well defined with the other 4 letter E word. EVIL.

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