Friday, March 21, 2008

Unsolicited Rant: Did He Really Just Say That?

By Matt:

So yesterday I was asked to lead a conference call with my primary account - an extremely high-profile company that brings in a huge bulk of our business each year... READ: They're really important and I protect this relationship closely.

This call is supposed to be between two individuals at the account, myself, and this guy named Gary who works for a 3rd party organization representing companies in our industry. Our goal is to orchestrate a string of promotions on an industry level that have never been carried out before at this account. In my mind it's pretty simple - I get everyone together, present the ideas, give a little here and take a little there, and in 30 minutes it should all be set up and done.

Well the call gets off to a slow start. I'm on the phone, and Gary is on the phone, and so is this guy named Steven at the account, but we're waiting on one more person. So Steven says to us,
"I'm going to mute you guys for a minute while we wait for Bryan to show up."
Which is fine... Steven presses mute and goes on working, I assume, with us on speaker-phone. Gary apparently does not assume this. Gary thinks he can't hear us and starts asking questions of me about Steven! I've never met Steven before, and Gary knows this... I told him before the call began. But he continues on:
"So what does Steven do? Does he work in marketing? How long has he been there? Was he at that conference we all went to last year?"
And then horror becomes reality as Gary asks in a point-blank tone I can only describe as ignorantly stupid:
"So, is he a black man?"
What!? Did you really just say that? I can't believe you just said that! You cannot say those things... anytime... let alone with him sitting there on speaker-phone listening to you!

Eventually Steven gets back on the phone and, my gosh, that was the most awkward conversation of my entire life. And Gary will not be allowed to speak publicly in my presence ever again.


Words For Hire said...

I can only imagine the look on your face! I of course would have unmuted myself and answered the question.


Matt @ Corporate Hack said...

It was a terrifying moment for sure. Thanks for dropping in Karen and making yourself known - it's good to have you!

Words For Hire said...

It's my pleasure Matt, glad to have found you!


Ben Overmyer said...

I didn't know that questions like that still existed in the corporate world. Were I in sales, I'm sure I would have had a very difficult time not simply blowing Gary off... after all, morals trump dollars.

Matt @ Corporate Hack said...

@ Ben: Yeah, and that's about all you can do... just ignore it and not entertain foolishness. Thanks for dropping in!