Catherine Mattice’s journey from receptionist at a startup to HR director showed her she could conquer any challenge—even starting her own business. She went on to found Civility Partners, an HR consulting firm dedicated to ending workplace bullying. Catherine opens up about the financial and emotional importance of ending workplace abuse, the courage it took to start her company, and the advice every aspiring entrepreneur should hear.
Cofounder of Kiva.org, the world’s first crowdfunded microlending website and the author of Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration From Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most With the Least.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Courage. The strength to carry on, the willingness to make yourself vulnerable in the face of potential loss, embarrassment, or hardship, the openness of challenge, and the love of meeting challenge head on. Courage is one of the building blocks of growth, and is at the core of success, and this podcast is an exploration of what courage looks like and feels like, what it means in our lives every day. Welcome to Points of Courage. My name is Jessica Jackley, and in 2005 I co-founded a non-profit, Kiva, the world’s first online person to person lending platform. On Kiva, people around the world can lend $25 or more to an entrepreneur in need, and they get repaid. We started out trying to raise just over $3,000 for a handful of entrepreneurs in Uganda, and truth be told we had no idea what we were doing. I was working in a country whose language I didn’t speak, and with rules and institutions that I didn’t fully understand, but I was fueled by a drive to help the entrepreneurs I had gotten to know there. Their courage inspired me, so much so that I found my own courage to start an organization help them. Ten years later, Kiva operates in 84 countries and has facilitated nearly $1 billion in loans on the site. Kiva’s growth and impact continue to amaze me, and still, every day I am inspired. In this podcast, I am excited to share with you acts of entrepreneurial spirit, and acts of courage big and small that can inspire us all.
JESSICA JACKLEY: In this episode, we are going to talk to someone who uses courage in a way that most of us can relate to, or maybe in a way that most of us wish we could relate to. Our guest is an anti-bullying evangelist, and she has built a business around standing up to bullies. Except it’s not schoolyard bullies she’s standing up to, it’s full grown, full time job holding, respectable suit wearing, adult bullies. That’s right, every day, through her firm, Civility Partners, she works to help firms create a more positive workplace, to put a stop to bullying. Please welcome workplace consultant, author of the book, Back Off: Your Kick Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, and founder of Civility Partners, Catherine Mattice. Thank you so much for being here.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Thank you so much for having me.
JESSICA JACKLEY: I’m really excited to dig into your story. So how did you come to care so much about this issue of bullying?
CATHERINE MATTICE: Well, I experienced workplace bullying myself, so I got out of undergrad, and I got this job as an executive assistant for a non-profit organization. Over time, I worked my way into becoming the director of human resources, and definitely worked with a bully. And I also experienced bullying as an organizational person, because people were coming into my office crying about the way they felt, and sharing their stories with me, so I was kind of the brunt of the bullying for everyone else. I constantly went to my boss, the president, and asked him for help, and the president would always just say, “Well that’s just how he is. I don’t know why you guys let it bother you.”
JESSICA JACKLEY: By the way, can I just say as an aside, I’m hearing this—and we’re just beginning our conversation, but you seem like the nicest, sweetest person, it breaks my heart to think of you going through that. I mean, I’m shocked.
CATHERINE MATTICE: You know, I was a hard worker, I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that organization, and it was hard to feel like this person was really tearing that apart. Anyways, so during that period of time I decided to go back and get my master’s degree, and I had a class called “The Dark Side of Communication,” and I decided to write a paper on this person I worked with, he’s a dark force in my life—yeah, and that was when I came across the phrase workplace bullying.
JESSICA JACKLEY: So when you found this language for it, what prompted you to have this personal story of change, and this academic research, to moving on to actually bringing that into other organizations and talking to other people about it?
CATHERINE MATTICE: After I left the organization where the bully was, I actually got a job at a start-up, and just a few months into working there I got laid off, because of the recession. I came home and I said, forget this. I bought a website domain, and just sat down, and started pouring my heart out into this website, and then it’s just kind of like, I’m going to do this, this is what I want to do.
JESSICA JACKLEY: This is your thing, this is what you care about. That’s very clarifying, sometimes those challenging moments, if you can get through them, bring some strength to them, they turn into great, “Aha!” moments, right?
CATHERINE MATTICE: Exactly, yeah. Yeah. I had a mentor, she has a master’s degree in positive psychology, and I sat down with her, and I’m like, “I have this website, No Workplace Bullies,” and she says, “Well, you can’t sell a whole. You can’t sell a no something.” What happens with—
JESSICA JACKLEY: Good point.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Unless you’re like an exterminator or something.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah. So what happens when you leave an organization? What will they have when you’re done? So we worked together, and she actually came up with the name Civility Partners, which I get a ton of compliments on, I love that, that name.
JESSICA JACKLEY: It’s really strong.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, yeah. So I went out and got a job as a teacher, and so was using that to help fund the business as I moved forward, and by the time I was single, I lived in this little tiny apartment in Ocean Beach in San Diego, and my rent was $600 a month, so I just hammered it out and made it go.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Made it happen.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, and I lived very humbly, and it was great.
JESSICA JACKLEY: How did you make that initial relationship happen that turned into your first gig, right? Your first job?
CATHERINE MATTICE: Somebody had found my website online, and he could see bullying happening in his organization, it was just one person who was kind of wreaking havoc.
JESSICA JACKLEY: So they found you. That’s amazing.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, they found me online. So I did a little $2,000 audit for them, or a little questionnaire, and—it felt all important, flying to the Bay Area and doing my thing.
JESSICA JACKLEY: It was, it was—it was the beginning, beginnings are important.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, there we go.
JESSICA JACKLEY: When did you think of yourself first as an entrepreneur? Or do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur even today?
CATHERINE MATTICE: I like to use that word solopreneur, because it’s—yeah, so far it’s just me.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Solopreneur, okay. I like it. Do you find—I mean, I meet people who say, “Oh I really want to be an entrepreneur, because I want to be my own boss. I really want to be an entrepreneur because I don’t want to have to report to anybody.” And yet, when you’re a solopreneur, as you’re saying, that could be mostly true. I do find, there are always people that you’re—you’re tired to. So escaping a boss, and escaping any kind of contact with the world is maybe not a truth of entrepreneurship, so be careful if that’s what you’re thinking about and listening to this.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Right.
JESSICA JACKLEY: There are always people that you are going to be serving.
CATHERINE MATTICE: This is true. And you could say, “Oh, I want to make my own schedule and not work on Fridays,” but if a client needs something from you, you have to give it to them. So it’s—yeah, you’re right, it’s not—
JESSICA JACKLEY: Or you don’t have a client anymore.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Right.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Was there a moment early on where you sort of hit a wall or where you had some big challenge where you thought, oh now wait a minute, maybe I’ve made a big mistake?
CATHERINE MATTICE: Sure, that happens all of the time.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Daily?
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, I go through it pretty regularly. I get requests for proposals that I feel, or I wonder, is that out of my league? Am I not the right person to do that? Sometimes I get requests for things that I just don’t want to do, you know? But now I’m at a point where I can say no to people that I don’t want to work with.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Or if you know that you are being asked to do something that will just be for show, that will just—that won’t actually solve the problem.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, I don’t do those anymore.
JESSICA JACKLEY: What do you tell yourself? Do you have some words that help you? How do you draw on that courage?
CATHERINE MATTICE: When I first started doing this, and I tell people, “I want to be a workplace bullying consultant,” pretty much 100% of people I met say, “That’s not a thing. What are you doing? You could be a communication consultant or a leadership consultant.” And I’m like, no, there’s a million of those, that’s not what I want to do. I believe in what I’m trying to solve here, I know that there are a lot of people out there who hurt because of the way they are being treated at work, and whatever problems I run into, or challenges I face, I know I can overcome this, and I have to overcome it because I need to help those people.
JESSICA JACKLEY: It’s very clear and very inspiring to hear that.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Thank you.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Tell me some of the ways that Civility Partners has gone in to work with the individual, all the way up through broad cultural programs.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, sometimes it’s just the coaching, and so the way that works is you meet with the person who is the bully. The bully, I say—
JESSICA JACKLEY: Do you tell—I was going to say, “Hey, you’re here because you’re a bully.”
CATHERINE MATTICE: You’re a bully! No, no, no.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Are you that direct?
CATHERINE MATTICE: No, no, I say things like, “The perception of you is that you are fairly aggressive, or that you’re abrasive. Do you recognize that?” And often they will say things like, “Yeah, I know. I know such and such doesn’t like me, or this happened.” They kind of see it but they don’t realize how negative it is, or how poorly they are perceived. So we have a conversation about that, and then I get their permission to do a 360 degree review with the people that they work with, so that I can collect that evidence. And then I can sit down with them and say, “Here’s what people are saying. I don’t work here, I don’t know you, this is what is being said about you. Are you interested in changing these perceptions?”
JESSICA JACKLEY: And at that point, do you ever get, “No.” Do you ever get, “I just feel picked on, I feel bullied, I’m the victim, I’m gone”?
CATHERINE MATTICE: Sometimes people who receive this message do feel bullied, and they experience sadness, and anxiety, and some of the same things that targets of bullies—
JESSICA JACKLEY: They have caused, right.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Right. And so it’s a paradigm shift that they have to make in their head, but then from there we can do exercises, and communication skills coaching, and I give them tools to try to rework things. For example, I remember one lady, she would write these really nasty, really long e-mails. So I created a little worksheet for her, it’s kind of like, “Insert your e-mails in this worksheet—“
JESSICA JACKLEY: Like Mad Libs.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah—before you send them, and then if you feel the need to say all this other stuff, just document it. Because that was her thing, “I have to document, I have to document.” So it’s like, okay, you can do that but it doesn’t have to be in the e-mail. So it’s just—
JESSICA JACKLEY: Right. Or there can be your version of documentation, like pour your heart out, and then what you need to get done in this actual task, yeah.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, nobody’s reading a five page long e-mail, that’s for sure.
JESSICA JACKLEY: But it does sound like a huge role is played by individuals who find the courage to bring this up, in a strategic way, to the people that can make a change.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Oh man, yeah. So when people call me looking for my services, they are afraid of what will happen to them if the CEO doesn’t want to solve it, they’re afraid of what the bully will do if the bully finds out that they are trying to find other ways. And a lot of times these are HR people who call me, those are my clients, and they are HR for 1,000 employees, or they are the SVP of HR for a national company, or even an international company, and they are afraid to talk to their CEO about this. So it’s very crippling to have this happening, and so yes, it does take a lot of courage for them to try to bring this to their leaders and say, “We have to solve this.”
JESSICA JACKLEY: Right. I guess, how does a workplace know if this is a problem?
CATHERINE MATTICE: Gosh, I guess I would say if you feel bullied you know it, or if you see bullying you know it.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Like, if you’re asking the question—
CATHERINE MATTICE: There’s probably something there. That’s a great point, yeah. If you’re asking yourself, is there bullying? Then there probably is. I mean, it’s such a long list of behaviors. One thing about bullying though, is that often it is very manipulative and insidious and kind of under the radar, so although the people who experience that know it’s happening, it is hard for leaders to really understand that that’s what’s happening.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Well, where you worked before, your very first experience, the person you were trying to call out and get help for was seen as a high performer, right? And so that was sort of, consciously or not, overwriting any of the possible glimmers of truth that might have been seen by the person in the leadership role.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Right, and speaking of leaders, now I understand that if you want to convince a leader to address the bullying, the answer is, “Yeah, but if they’re costing us this, this, and this in turnover, and poor productivity, and lost customers, then they’re not actually that great of a performer,” if you discount all of the stuff that they are causing. Really, major researchers have said that in an organization of 1,000 people, a bully is probably costing you about $1 million, not including litigation.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Wow. That’s stunning.
CATHERINE MATTICE: OSHA actually—sorry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is a government agency, and I bring it up because it’s kind of fascinating. OSHA knows about workplace bullying, is well aware of it, talks about it on their website, and they actually did a study on workplace bullying, and they found that 11% of the targets are customers. So you have people in your organization who may be bullying your customers.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Wow. I mean, that is shocking. So you’re saying that, even if you feel like, well, everyone is fine, we can power through, there is this person that is not being the nicest, but it’s okay. But that person might actually, when coming into contact with customers, be pushing them away, scaring them away.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, so that’s another reason. If you’re trying to figure out ways to convince your leaders to solve this—
JESSICA JACKLEY: Okay, we’re going to shift gears a little bit. Do you have any advice for somebody out there who has a passion like you have had, and who wants to strike it on their own as a solopreneur?
CATHERINE MATTICE: Talk to people who have what you want, you know? Whatever kind of business you are trying to create, those people will talk to you about their business, and how they got there. People love to share their own stories, so if you want to own the—the best plants shop in town, then find the other plant shops and talk to those owners, and find out what they are doing, and how they got there, and—I wish I had done more of that, and I still try to do that now, you know? And also, another piece of advice is, there is a personal development guy named Greg Reed [?], he talks about the fact that the people who say no to you, or tell you that you shouldn’t do it, or that’s a crazy idea, are the people who are essentially jealous of you, that you have the courage to do something like this. They don’t have the courage, and so in their mind it’s like, just stay back here with me and work your 9:00-5:00. And so people are going to demonstrate that to you, but you just—
JESSICA JACKLEY: You need to know where it’s coming from, and what it’s really about.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Great advice. I’m so enjoying learning more about your work, and I really look forward to reading your book. Can you talk a little bit about that process?
CATHERINE MATTICE: That took some courage to—to say, I know enough about something to write a book about it, and people are going to care about what I have to say. And I had in my head that I wanted to have Ken Blanchard write the forward. I had written an article for Personal Development magazine about what to do if you are feeling bullied, and they did this little about the author thing where they asked me some questions, and one of the questions was, “If you could have dinner with anybody, who would it be?” And I said Ken Blanchard. So then, we’re writing the book, and I’m just kind of not sure how I’m going to get Ken Blanchard to write the forward, but that’s what I had in my head. And I see just this little random thing he was doing in San Diego, so I get my magazine, I go to this event, and I’m going to get Ken Blanchard to write my forward. So—
JESSICA JACKLEY: Or at least have dinner with you, because that was your wish.
CATHERINE MATTICE: That was my goal. So I get there, and everyone’s kind of hanging out in the foiree networking, and I see Ken Blanchard behind a podium or something, and he’s eating a sandwich, and he’s just kind of hiding back there trying to eat before he gets on stage. So I march over there with my magazine, and I open up the page, and I say, “Look, I want to have dinner with you. See, it says it right here in this magazine.”
JESSICA JACKLEY: If it’s in a magazine, it’s truth.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Truth, right. So he says, “Well, does this count? I’m eating, have a seat.” So we had a great conversation, and then people realized that he was there and then a line started forming. So then I said, “All right, well I’ll let you network but I have one more question. Would you write the forward to my book? I’m writing a book,” and he said yeah, and he gave me his personal e-mail address, and—another piece of advice for entrepreneurs, if there is an opportunity, take it, take it, take it. Yeah.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Take it. Take a deep breath, go up and ask. It can’t happen unless you ask.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah. So that’s a cool story.
JESSICA JACKLEY: I love that. Do you keep in touch with that original bully? Or does this person know that they’ve just inspired this amazing work?
CATHERINE MATTICE: I wrote my master’s thesis on bullying, and I dedicated it to him, and he is well aware of that as far as I know. So we used to call him the “Post-It Nazi” and that’s who I dedicated my thesis to.
JESSICA JACKLEY: And he knows—have you had a direct conversation about it?
CATHERINE MATTICE: I don’t know if he’s read it, but I was told—I was still friends with people who worked there, so yeah. She had told me—she had told him. “Just so you know, Catherine did this.” So I don’t know if he knows how far I’ve—I’ve come now. I did actually run into him though, and it was pretty amazing and surreal. So I was working at the school where I was teaching, and I was sitting in a classroom with a student, we had the door open, he was just kind of asking me some questions after class, and my bully walks by and I just saw a flash of him walk by the door, and I turn to my student and I was literally having a panic attack. My heart was beating so fast, and so I just kind of turned to the student and I said, “That was my bully. I—I can’t—I can’t talk to you anymore, I’m—“ and I just kind of lost it, and just was trying to keep it together. So then I went straight to my HR person there, and I’m like, “Does this guy work here?” She said, “Yeah, we just hired him recently, he’s—“ So he had left that company, and I’m like, “That’s my bully! I can’t believe you hired him!”
JESSICA JACKLEY: Oh my goodness. So now do you see this person on a more regular—well, you used to see him.
CATHERINE MATTICE: No, I don’t teach—yeah, I don’t teach anymore. So that was the only time I had seen him, but it was just interesting to see what my reaction would be. So now I know the answer to that question.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Although it could be different now, because it was a while ago, right? So you never know, but my goodness.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Yeah, for sure.
JESSICA JACKLEY: Well thank you so much for spending some time today to do this. It’s been a pleasure, and it’s been really exciting to get to know your story. I’m going to be cheering you on.
CATHERINE MATTICE: Thank you. It was a pleasure to chat with you and kind of revisit how I got to where I’m at, so thank you very much.
JESSICA JACKLEY: That’s it for this episode of Points of Courage. I’m Jessica Jackley, thank you for listening.