Literal Thinking

Real stories of workplace follies

Friendly communications, unfriendly consequences

Posted by A Friend on 1 February 2009

Careless Whispers Some of the most common workplace follies we see occur when people too quickly speak their minds out only to realize a second too late that they would have been better off keeping their thoughts to themselves.

In this and our next two posts, we will present some short cases from our own practice where spur of the moment statements made led to unfavorable results. The underlying theme of this series is some thoughts are just not meant to be spoken, even if these were true.

Eric is a young consulting professional working for a big four type organization. Eric was with a small boutique consultancy prior to joining this company, and while he is “in the big league” now, he made it a point to maintain friendly ties with some of his former colleagues.

Eric’s current and former companies are directly competing in a high growth segment of the local market. His previous company was one of the pioneering niche players, his current one a global behemoth that sees and wants to take advantage of local growth opportunities.

In one high profile project prospect, Eric’s current and former companies decided to submit a joint bid. The former company has the established local reputation, the current company has the financial clout and global name – it was going to be the perfect collaboration.

On paper, that is. In reality, Eric’s previous company sees the joint bid as its only opportunity to be involved in projects of such a large scale, considering that it does not have the financial muscle to be a sole bidder. On the other hand, Eric’s current company looks at the joint bid merely as a convenient entry point into the local market, and it intends to eventually ease the small partner out of the project.

Eric thought that he could quickly make a name for himself in his current company by being the unofficial liaison between the two new partners. He communicated directly with some of his previous colleagues about the new project prospect, mainly on a social level, and all in an unofficial capacity.

In one such social communication, Eric matter-of-factly mentioned his company’s plan of slowly easing his previous company out of the joint bid. It was just a purely social conversation, and he did not think much of it. Until the next day, when he was called in by his managing director, advised of a formal reprimand about company confidentiality, given clear instructions to stop communicating with his previous colleagues regarding company matters, and officially rolled off the prospective project team.

When this case happened, Eric was looked upon as a young consultant with a very promising future. However, there are things that one learns only from experience. As a budding consultant, Eric was keen to build rapport and relationships. This unfortunate experience will tell him that such an exercise does not require total honesty in all situations.

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2 Responses to “Friendly communications, unfriendly consequences”

  1. Mark said

    How do we contact you mate?

  2. A Friend said

    Mark – You can send us an email, address is at the right sidebar.

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