How not to be an arrogant prick

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Stephen Chandler is the founder of the coaching & mentoring consultancy Chandler & Friends. He originally trained as a pilot before working in advertising for 25 years – first with network agencies and then his own start-ups.

Biggest fuck up? 

As a very green account handler working at Ogilvy in the mid-nineties, I walked into the telemarketing department and noticed that a significant number of the staff were missing from their desks. In fact, it brought to my mind the Agatha Christie novel, ‘And Then There Were None’ – where, one by one, the protagonists disappear from a remote country house. 

Thinking myself very clever – and ‘literary’ – I decided to cockily make that observation out loud to those still at their desks.  The trouble was my edition of that particular book dated from far less-enlightened times, in which the title included the N-word. So you can guess what my oh-so-very bloody clever, ignorant and shameful exclamation was.

And yes, you’ve guessed it, all the people sitting in that department at that moment were black. It still makes me shudder today.

I was not so idiotic or thick-skinned that I didn’t realise immediately the appalling offence I’d just caused and profusely apologised –but the response was not ‘warm’, shall we say? 

Mortified, I immediately hot-footed it to the MD, confessed all, and received sharp advice mainly in line with my lesson learned below.

The MD did also (later) tell me about a relevant acronym: W.A.I.T. – which, rather wonderfully, stands for “Why Am I Talking?”

I subsequently made enormous efforts – for the rest of my time at Ogilvy – to make amends.

Lessons learned: don’t be an arrogant prick, never show off, engage brain before mouth, and ALWAYS have empathy and respect for others.

Rant

My biggest annoyance is the daily, random occurrence of people I do not know, who ‘reach out’ to connect on LinkedIn, typically with a message like, “I really think we could benefit from each other’s networks. Look forward to connecting with you”, which evidently translates as “I want access to your network”.

Or the other classic, “I see we have some connections in common. I was compelled to reach out here on LinkedIn to connect”… mate, I’ve got a fair few connections on LinkedIn, and the FOUR we have in common is, basically, called a fucking coincidence!

Useful Advice

When someone asks you a question you don’t like or that makes you feel uncomfortable (especially in front of other people), simply smile gently, and – instead of feeling pressured to answer that question – ask them the following: “Why are you asking me that?”  

And then shut up, keep quiet, don’t fill the silence…!!  Trust me, they will dig their own grave after that, whichever way the conversation then goes.

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