Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Can I Take That Back?

Recently I saw an article on about workplace embarrassments. Luckily, I haven’t had any major embarrassments at work (or if I did, I've blocked them out). I’ve done stupid things like send the wrong document to the wrong client, and stuff like that. But nothing really humiliating that has made me not want to go into the office again, ever.

But I know someone who did. And it was big. And juicy. When I was in my 20s I worked for a variety of dot.coms in the Boston area. It was an interesting environment to work in. The big thing about the late 90’s workplace was that the management was younger and more laid back. People didn’t dress up for work, yet they worked with a cult-like devotion. At more than one of these places I worked I heard the phrase “We’re onto something big here, I can feel it!” uttered about whatever people-will-never-live-without-it service that the company was touting on their site. Ultimately many of the companies I worked for at the time failed. Despite the fact that they were “onto something big,” they lacked a revenue generating business model.

At the I worked for when I was 24-25, the management went through a radical change. One CEO was told where to go, and another was brought in. The new CEO brought in a devoted group of his followers, and the company that I had liked working for turned into a club for the new CEO’s cronies. The new VP of Sales was the CEO’s best friend, and actually had performed the wedding ceremony when the CEO married his wife. Yeah, they were tight. Meetings with these people left me feeling like I needed to shower afterward, and the people who were not in “the club” were left uninformed and “out of the loop.” And because of my penchant for not wanting to be “one of them,” I had intentionally stuck myself on the outside of this exclusive club.

One day the CEO and his best friend the VP had interviewed a woman for some bullshit VP position. I cannot remember the exact title, but it was something ridiculous like “VP of Business Motivation.” (These were the days, remember? Job titles were made up in an effort to make one workplace cooler than any other.) The VP of Sales sent around an email to announce that this woman would start in this new position in the coming weeks, and that we were to all make her feel at home.

The CEO replied to the email, intended for his best friend to read it, but stupidly clicked on the “Reply to All” button.

The first thing to arrive in my email inbox was an Outlook request from the CEO that said he wanted to withdraw his email. I deleted that. Then the actual email from the CEO came through a second later. Naturally, my curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to know what CEO said that he so desperately wanted to withdraw.

Then I heard it. A gasp from a co-worker on the other side of the cube wall. An “Oh my God!” from another down the row from my desk. A giggle from another cube on the other side of the hall after that. I opened the email, which left me with my mouth hanging open:

“Hey Bob,

What a great ass on her! Imagine getting a piece of that!”

The CEO never left his office for the rest of that day. The VP of Business Motivation started her job a few weeks later, and I wonder if anyone ever said to her “Don’t worry if you make a mistake on the job. Just bend over and shake it, and all will be forgiven.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reply To All: Ending Careers since 1988!


February 3, 2009 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

But it really didn't end his career. The guy went on to be a CEO to other companies later on, and still is one to this day.

February 3, 2009 at 11:44 AM  

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