My boss invited me to a pyramid scheme.
September 30, 2013 3:53 PM   Subscribe

When a person holds some sway over your career path, how do you tell him that you don't want to join his network marketing team?

My work requires that I am represented by an agent. Intellectually, I know that my agent "works for me", but emotionally, I feel subordinate to him, as though he were my boss. He is extremely intimidating and sometimes unreasonable, and it is very difficult to express disagreement to him. Although I find our dynamic challenging, he's well-respected in our industry and we are a good fit in terms of the actual work, so I'm not sure I'd be able to find a more suitable agent.

My agent has joined a pyramid scheme / network marketing endeavour. He is flattering and cajoling me to join. I think pyramid schemes, this one in particular, are mathematically illogical and socially irritating bullshit and have no intention of joining one. But scoffing at my agent's new pursuit will ruffle his feathers, and the less he likes me, the less money I make.

What are some tactful things I can say to get out of this and make sure he never asks me again?
I'm fine with lying (I did already say my sister is with the company so maybe I can leverage that).
Any advice would be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just say no politely and offer NO excuses.

"I've thought about it and it's not for me."

That's it.

Don't offer to buy anything, or go to a meeting or even have dinner with him.

Also, find a new agent. This dynamic sounds kind of sick.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:56 PM on September 30, 2013 [26 favorites]

"Thanks so much for asking me, but in honestly evaluating my current life situation, there's no way that I can take that on right now."

Repeat as necessary.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:57 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Anybody who can't hear and respect a polite no is not someone you want as your agent.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

"Thanks, but I'm not interested."

If your agent persists say "like, I said, I'm not interested. Now, what do you have for me?"
posted by zippy at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2013

"Oh, that's not for me!" always works.

But here's something for you to consider: if your agent is trying to sell you on this, he may be trying to sell OTHERS on it. Like....the others to whom he would otherwise be trying to sell your work. That will hurt you more than anything, because it will make him seem annoying to the very people he ought to be smooth-talking. You might think he'd never do this, but people who actually join pyramid schemes as presumably smart adults often don't realize when they should NOT be trying to recruit. For that reason alone, I'd maybe start thinking about changing representation.

I suspect there are lots of people who will help you do good work to whom you can also disagree -- in fact, I wonder if you CAN really do good work in partnership with someone you can't express your disagreement to? Just food for thought.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:08 PM on September 30, 2013 [44 favorites]

"As you know, I don't get enough work to have any spare money to invest in my retirement, much less a business opportunity."
posted by juniperesque at 4:15 PM on September 30, 2013 [7 favorites]

Your agent is not your boss, you are his boss. However well-respected he has been in the industry up to now, that will not last long once he starts trying to sell his whole network on MLM.

You need to fire him. The way you describe the dynamic between you two would be reason enough, but the MLM stuff means you need to start looking for a new agent today. He is being so blatantly and utterly unprofessional it can only end up with his career down in flames; don't go down with him.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:24 PM on September 30, 2013 [33 favorites]

If this is the road your agent is going down, he's going to poison his entire well so fast. You have to get out as fast as possible, and maybe get someone you're more comfortable with in the bargain.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:27 PM on September 30, 2013 [14 favorites]

I agree with what SpacemanStix said because it is the least offensive. If you say something like I'd love to help out but I'm just totally maxed out now and don't have time for any new commitments and don't want to do a half-assed job at anything I do, it's hard to argue with that, and there is nothing negative about it in terms of what he is doing and the MLM scheme he is peddling. This approach keeps things positive but also conveys the message that you are not able to be involved. BTW, I do wonder about this agent because any agent who is making good money in his/her career probably would not have time or interest in an MLM scheme and/or should know better. But you said this agent is well respected and successful, so go figure.
posted by Dansaman at 4:53 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you can fire him as your agent (e.g., you're not under some long-term contract that would be difficult and expensive to break right now), you need to get rid of him as soon as possible. Because if he's heavy into a pyramid scheme, he is rapidly going to become poison in his industry, which will poison your career.

Get a new agent, and then once you're away from him, tell him why you did so.
posted by decathecting at 4:55 PM on September 30, 2013

SS6 gave the best probably but if you're stuck with the guy and he won't let up, try to get a starter pack on credit or the very minimum then come back frustrated or crying that you almost got arrested trying at your first meeting.

Know any really shady characters? Give then the guy's phone and tell them he's got a great deal going. No, don't do that...

Tell him you lost $50000 with Amway a few years ago and feel pretty burned out.

If he's running the meeting, set one up with a bunch of great aunt types that will keep him going for hours but no shell out a cent.

Have an actor friend call up sounding like a police detective asking very scary questions about the scam.
posted by sammyo at 5:24 PM on September 30, 2013

"When you're selling my work, are you bothering the buyers with this claptrap? Why are you risking my professional success on a mathematically impossible get-rich-quick scheme? I want your assurance RIGHT NOW that you're not alienating potential buyers of my work with your loony scheme."

Remember who's in charge. This isn't about you standing up to him by saying no. This is about him reassuring you that he's not damaging your career with his moronic fantasies. And "you're fired" should be on the tip of your tongue if you're not satisfied that he won't damage your career.
posted by fatbird at 5:49 PM on September 30, 2013 [11 favorites]

Just for general perspective here in the thread, Herbalife is exploding all over the dance and acting scene in southern California, and many, many people are involved. People with status and power at all levels are pitching the shit at auditions, to the people auditioning in front of them. The lines are not always clear, and what acceptance or rejection might entail can be equally fuzzy given the power dynamic.

Ultimately, I agree with other posters who say this is really unprofessional on the part of your agent. In the short term, I'd just say "It's not for me." or "I really don't have time for it now.". You can even say you intend to do it in the future, just not now. In the medium-term, you need to find a new agent.
posted by fake at 7:12 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

That would be final-straw evidence to me that I need to find a new agent - like now.
posted by summerstorm at 10:26 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I used to work back office for a just-legal pyramid scheme. We'd occasionally hear of religious objections being raised, because of the similarity to tithing. If he doesn't know your personal life that well, it might work.

But yeah, he'll not be respected in the industry for long (unless everyone is doing it) so bail when you can.
posted by cromagnon at 3:19 AM on October 1, 2013

What industry are you in? I have an agent and if mine were anything like this he would be looking for another client.
posted by sweet mister at 4:48 AM on October 1, 2013

If your agent is actually good at his job, why does he need to sell pyramid scheme bullshit?

I'd be actively looking for a new agent. If he's willing to rip you off one way, what makes you think he isn't already ripping you off some other way?

He's drunk the KoolAid. Run.
posted by spitbull at 5:24 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Nah, you know, I think we're good at our current level of involvement, actually. And by the way, obviously you're not pulling X and Y in on this too? You're keeping your project separate from my stuff?"

If you use the phrase "your project" it subtly diminishes it, and boxes it in for you without having to express your opinions.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:58 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

just want to nth that if my agent were into that kind of junk, I'd break up with her, and she is not intimidating nor unreasonable. if this well-respected agent fell for your work, another one surely will too.
posted by changeling at 10:51 AM on October 1, 2013

Start looking for a new agent; this relationship may be heading south, and yo don't want to be caught if it just implodes.

I would reply with variants/combinations of Oh yeah, you mentioned it before, Sounds like you really love it, Not for me, thanks, I don't have the time for it, segueing into Gee, Agent, you must be great at Program, you're awfully persistent, but I thought we discussed this before, and Umm, yeah, as I said before, and maybe You know, I googled Program and I don't want to be involved in it.
posted by Mom at 11:00 AM on October 1, 2013

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