A Women’s Viewpoint of Bullying

By Beverly Flaxington

April 15, 2014

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

I was once asked by a major periodical in the investment advisory space to comment on research that showed an inordinate percentage of women who get to senior-level positions in investment firms end up voluntarily leaving to start their own business or to enter new industries. The “brain drain” of women from investment advising has been significant.1

I thought about this brain drain when I received another letter on the issue of bullying, this time from a woman. The letter writer asked to remain anonymous but allowed us to use some of her experience in this week’s column. On a personal note, as a woman who has worked in this industry for over 25 years, I can relate to some of what she wrote. This woman developed some coping strategies that could be useful to our readers, so I decided to pass along her ideas.

Our writer says she was told early in her career, by a former colleague, that women belong as secretaries on Wall Street. As an outsider who did not feel she fit into the culture of older men who were interested mostly in playing golf with clients, she developed her own niche and worked with “wonderful clients.” She found she resonated with the “widows and orphans and scared people,” and they were often the ones “who had the most money and needed more consultative, less bullying approach.” The widows were often poorly informed, as were the heirs, and the people who were retiring or selling a business were often scared about what to do next. She found a great deal of success with these clients.

In my opinion, the industry has trended over the last decade toward more relationship-based selling and servicing. Practicing active listening and focusing on those who are less educated and needier is now recognized as critically important. Financial advisory is now more about knowing the investor’s whole picture and acting as a trusted consultant and guide, rather than finding the best stock for a portfolio and playing good golf!

The second strategy our writer employed is one I am a huge proponent of – learning the art of detachment. She states that she “gave no significance to their bullying.” She took the attitude that it wasn’t about her but was really about those who bullied her and about their insecurities. This helped her to be more objective and less triggered by their responses.

Learning this art is helpful when dealing with irate clients or difficult prospects, too!

While it can feel good in the moment to simply “punch them out” or to respond in anger to being bullied or demeaned, it’s often more effective to practice detachment and turning a deaf ear.

This woman went on to write that after close to three decades in this industry, she has a thriving practice and is doing very well. She stuck it out and it has paid off for her.

Thank you for all of the personal stories that were shared. One can be an outstanding professional and technically proficient, but if one faces a toxic working environment or bullies in the area, it’s often very hard to find job satisfaction.


Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers.  She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.


1. For more percentages and other data, see last fall’s column, The Real Reason Women are Leaving Wall Street.

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