I came across this list of “10 things you should never say on the job” and I remembered my own painful little lesson about something you should never say. Figuring that the statute of limitations on saying stupid things is long over on this one (it happened a decade ago, possibly more), I thought I would share it with the world. Here goes:
We had hired a new COO in our modest, $2B global company (note: he liked to refer to himself as CEO but he was in fact formally the COO — this probably tells you a little about this gentleman already) and I had been working closely with him on a couple of projects, as he was also the acting Executive Vice President of Marketing and I was a direct report to the EVP position. Anyway one day the head of HR bounces into my office and says — “So, you’ve had a good chance to work with __________, what do you think of him?” (You should understand that at this point in my career I was getting very jaded and was in fact quite intent on leaving the company as soon as I could navigate myself out of it, so my “political correctness filter” wasn’t functioning at full BS level.) Anyway, when it came to the new COO, I wasn’t really very impressed by what I had seen and thought it valuable and useful to share my true feelings. So I said to the head of HR — “Well, he seems a nice enough gentleman. Too bad he is incompetent.” And as the words were leaving my lips my brain was saying to me: “Gee, Tim. As head of HR, ____ probably had something to do with hiring him, and so may have some vested interest in hearing some positive feedback.” Too late — the words were out, the head of HR looked shocked, stood up and left my office. Without a further word. We never spoke of it again. And I don’t think we ever enjoyed the same quality of working relationship for the rest of my time there.
Of all the stupid things I did say on the job, that is the one that really stands out for me, except of course for some of the really fun exchanges with said COO who I went on to have many, many interactions with and get yelled at a lot by him. But those all went without saying because, luckily, my brain was back in control of my mouth.
So, read the list of 10 things never to say on the job here; there is some good, sound advice in it all. And try to refrain from calling your COO/CEO incompetent. It probably won’t have a happy ending…