July 2017: Goliath wielded his mighty power, crushing David into a thousand tiny pieces: such was the outcome of the battle between Amber Harrison Channel 7 and her employer. Her epic legal battle has caused her the loss of her career, reputation, income and perhaps even her sanity, leaving her on the verge of bankruptcy.
This is the ultimate outcome that targets of workplace bullying dread, which is why so many far more horrendous cases never make it to the justice system. That justice is only for those who can afford it, is made abundantly clear by the sheer volume of media articles citing Channel 7’s deep pockets, capacity and lust for “lawfare.”
Amber Harrison made 5 crucial mistakes she could have avoided by taking certain preventative actions. My aim is to help you head disaster off at the pass and redirect you towards a beneficial outcome.
Firstly, we have the following information from media reports:
From the reports, we get the sense that Amber was in a state of deep distress. Outrage, hurt, disappointment, perhaps even despair seemed to be the fuel that spurred her on. We’ve read about her desire for revenge and satisfaction in the possibility of “getting even.”
Unfortunately, taking action from a place of emotional reactivity is highly unlikely to generate a beneficial outcome. We want that person to “feel as terrible as s/he “made” us feel.” However, what someone else thinks or feels is outside of our control, so any attempts to change another person in the way we desire won’t have the effect we seek.
In addition, when under duress we’re “not in our right minds.” The stress response creates tunnel vision, focusing our attention only on the immediate threat, meaning we miss the important information available in our peripheral awareness.
It’s impossible to fashion a reasoned argument with intelligence, stealth and intellectual dexterity in a state of emotional reactivity. Only a relaxed state of mind is capable of defeating the enemy. From there we can access the intuition and creativity we need to defeat Goliath.
Amber needed to have the right kinds of evidence to defeat a Goliath as mighty as Channel 7. The judge said she didn’t have that. So what is the right kind of evidence?
When documenting evidence, it’s important to stick to the facts of: what, when, how and whom. Then, using descriptive language in a neutral tone, state what happened as if you were describing the scene to a director shooting a film.
Avoid adjectives that overlay events with your personal judgements or outrage, or that serve as “shorthand” because you can’t be bothered stating in detail what actually happened.
For example: “On 13/12/2106 at 1pm, I saw Tim Worner take out a small plastic bag of white powder from his top pocket, spread it on his desk and cut it into lines with his credit card before snorting two lines in each nostril.”
Vs: “Worner started the afternoon shift as high as a kite, in a disgraceful state and totally incoherent; he couldn’t even get it together by evening.”
You see how both examples ostensibly describe the same thing, but the first one paints a vivid picture in your mind which you’d have no difficulties shooting as a film director, whereas the second could be interpreted in so many different ways, all inaccurate.
In addition to your written account, make sure to supplement with additional documentation, such as emails, photographs, videos, voice recordings, financial statements and witness accounts wherever possible.
Amber Harrison Channel 7 probably made the mistake nearly everyone bullied at work makes, which is expecting HR or management to care about what happened to her. Then, finding out they don’t care, she plotted the best way to exact revenge.
However, like most individuals, the corporation only cares about their own self-interests. Therefore, you need to appeal to this base self-interest in your official correspondence with them.
How could Amber have done this? By using leverage, not reactivity. If she’d collected enough of the right kind of damning evidence, she could have pointed out the ways in which Channel 7:
1) Violated their own policies and procedures
2) Contravened their stated ethical standards and
3) Broken the law
In a short, sharp letter written in the style of “Psychopathic Legalise” (a term I’ve coined to describe the kind of leverage this letter gives), would have delivered Channel 7 the strong message that it would be in their best interests to negotiate a fair and swift settlement.
Further, having some success with this strategy would have grown Amber’s confidence in her own power to effect an outcome on her terms and not to be intimidated by the “boy’s club.”
Do you think Amber set out to experience bankruptcy? Probably not. I’m guessing that beyond her simple desire for revenge, to humiliate the bully corporation, she hadn’t spent much time specifying the exact outcome she wanted.
Something like “I want to walk away from this company with 12 months’ salary and a reference,” is a specific outcome; in contrast to: “I want to make him pay for what he did to me,” which netted her a possible bankruptcy.
The outcome I’ve outlined is achievable, as long as you have the right kinds of tools and methods to effect it and the will and discipline to execute the steps. It’s what I teach participants in my “Free-Spirited Me” online programs designed to help you work through situations of high work stress.
No doubt it would have been a thrill initially to have been chosen as the sexual partner of a powerful man. Amber Harrison Channel 7 admitted as much when she said: “It wasn’t about love, it was about power.”
But what kind of power? I’m guessing the sexual power that comes from being an attractive, desirable young woman whereby you’re accorded enormous privileges on the basis of your physical attractiveness. At the same time this privilege requires minimal effort into developing a more substantial power base.
There’s also the classic employee mindset, which says: ‘I’m prepared to put in the minimum of effort to generate the maximum result’. Certainly, Amber experienced the perks of being a favoured Channel 7 employee. Like its Tim Worner, she had a licence to use the company credit cards at her discretion.
However, sexual power is fleeting and Tim Worner had greater power. Amber was his subordinate whose power only lasted while he favoured her.
He came out the winner in this case – with his job and bonus intact. She lost her career, reputation and income, in a repeat of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal before her.
What of Tim Worner’s abuse of power and his questionable personal ethics? This is something Channel 7 still have to wrestle with. It will continue to dog their reputation in years to come.
The right kind of power comes from holding high moral authority and coming from a place of service. The question: “Who do I serve and how?” trumps forceful corporate power any day (yes, I also teach my clients how to wield this kind of power).
Another type of power comes when you’re able to tell a clear, concise and persuasive story in a way that benefits you. Even if you’re forced to sign a non-disclosure clause, you can still tell your story. Your story is YOURS – you own it. Plus, telling your story is healing. You can even leverage media coverage to tell your story while getting the outcome you want. Yes, I help clients with that too!
If you want to make a start in implementing the strategies I’ve recommended in this article, download my “Workplace Evidence Gathering Kit” and work through the steps I’ve outlined.
In conclusion, Amber Harrison has certainly succeeded in damaging Channel 7’s reputation. Their share prices fell by 8%. Australian viewers are outraged by the corporate bully “boy’s club” closing ranks against a female employee. But at what cost to her? What would she respond if we asked her: “Was it worth it, Amber?”
1. Amber Harrison says legal battle with Seven ‘a lesson in how many ways can you screw a girl’ – ABC News 18/7/2017
2. Court Hears Amber Harrison Channel 7 Wanted To “Kill” Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner – B & T Magazine 10/7/2017
3. Amber Harrison Channel 7 Racked Up A “Comical” $534,355 Credit Card Bill – B & T Magazine 29/3/2017
4. Amber Harrison Channel 7 ‘tried to destroy reputation of radio exec’ before Tim Worner affair – Herald Sun 10/7/2017