It was August 2003, and I was 2 months into my tenure working in the sales department for the NBA’s Washington Wizards. An afternoon staff meeting had been called by Team President, Susan O’Malley; the plan was for Susan to meet with the sales staff to discuss several new policies and for us to brainstorm new strategies for the upcoming season.
I happened to walk to the meeting that day with one of my colleagues named Mike (not his real name), and I sat next to him once the meeting began. In total, there were 30 people seated around a large table in a conference room.
At the meeting, Susan told the staff about a new commission policy that was unfortunately going to reduce each person’s earning potential for the following season.
Mike raised his hand and said the following:
“Susan, I do not understand the philosophy of this organization. Why does the company always look for ways to nickel-and-dime us every chance they get?”
There was complete silence in the room, as 29 heads turned to Susan to see her response. However, being the pro that she was, she remained calm, as she politely thanked Mike for his comment and explained the policy 1 more time. Then, we moved on to another topic.
I remember sitting in the meeting being blown away that my colleague had the nerve to question the President of the company in front of the entire staff. However, I learned a bigger lesson that afternoon when one of the older sales reps came over to me and asked if he could talk to me for a moment.
We walked to a quiet spot in the office, and he asked me what I thought of Mike’s comment. I responded by saying that I could not believe what he had said.
My colleague then gently reminded me that I had walked into the meeting with Mike, sat next to Mike, and left with Mike as well. He pointed out that Susan did not know me, given that I was a new employee, and he added that it would be wise for me to keep my distance from Mike in the future. He said that it was just a matter of time before Mike either left the company or got fired, and that I could potentially be lumped in with Mike if senior management saw me hanging out with him often.
In summary, be VERY careful who you are seen with at work! Fair or unfair, we all make judgments about other people based on who we see them with. Especially when you are a new employee, make sure to surround yourself with people who are respected at work. You cannot avoid certain people altogether, but when going to meetings, office parties, networking events, and so on, you can always control who you go with and who you hang out with. Make sure you aren’t hanging out with anyone who has an attitude like Mike did!
Thanks for reading!
President of Idealize Enterprises
College Speaker and Career Expert for Gen Y