What They Don't Teach You At The University Of Chicago Graduate School Of Business

by , Dec 15, 2006, 6:00 AM
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Painting your office bright chartreuse when the other 2,000 people you work with have battleship-gray walls does not make you a change agent, it makes you an insensitive outcast.

Saying you are living "at the Hampton's," as a word play on the fact that you are living at the Bentonville Hampton Inn, might strike people who live between 14th and 96th streets in Manhattan as clever. However, such "insider' references are simply lost on--or worse still, offensive to--people who live and work in Arkansas.

If you are going to humiliate your husband by asking him to deny you have had extramarital affairs, you might as well sleep your way UP the ladder, rather than down.

Approving production of a holiday TV ad portraying a husband and wife discussing racy lingerie in front of their extended family (which draws customer complaints and has to be taken off the air), then approving an ad from an agency you want to hire that shows lions fornicating, does not so much signal "I understand your corporate culture," as it does "and you can stick it where the sun don't shine."

When a retailer whose primary pull is price--not style--wants to move slightly more upscale, launching a fashion-oriented direct mail catalogue might be a better first step than staging a fashion show in New York and buying an eight-page ad insert in Vogue magazine.

When the ground rules for accepting favors from vendors are posted on the wall of every conference room in the building, it is a not-so-subtle hint that management takes those rules pretty seriously.

Issuing a press statement that "your job as an agent of change was completed" when you are forced out in the middle of the night--and within hours, the real reasons for your departure will become apparent--shows a profound lack of understanding about something you are paid to manage: image.

It doesn't help to dispel the rumors when you reserve a URL that suggests you might go into business with the guy you swear you haven't been sleeping with.

When you are invited to a dinner for a group of consultants who help conduct ad agency reviews serving as impartial facilitators for their clients, it is impolite, if not downright insulting, to praise any particular agency--especially when you intend to hire them shortly thereafter.

It doesn't help convince management you have made an intelligent, impartial agency choice when you have spent enough time with the head of that agency to have the rumor mill link the two of you romantically.

When it all comes crashing down, don't play the "it's because I am a woman" card. It will only be perceived as one more time you have dealt from the bottom of the deck.

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