Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be nice and upfront.
The first time I learned this was almost 30 years ago. I had an account director working for me who was simply incapable of follow up. He was a wonderful strategist, but just couldn’t get the work done on time. I had been coaching him for months, but finally came to the conclusion that I would have to let him go. It was early December. I mentioned it to the president of the agency I was working for and told him I would let the account person go right after the first of the year. The president insisted that I do it immediately. Truth is, the account person would have been useful to me for the next couple of weeks (I was head of account management and he ran a particular account). The president insisted that I do it that very day. I refused – among other things, the account person was a religious Catholic and had a child with problems; I wanted him to get through and enjoy the holidays. While I was sitting there, The president picked up the phone and called accounting and told them to prepare the account director’s final check immediately. He then told me either I should fire the account person or he would. Since it was my responsibility, I reluctantly said that I would do it.
When I went to terminate the account person, I was not going to lay it back on the president in terms of the timing. I felt that the account director worked for me and so I should be the one to fire him. I have a great deal of disdain for the wimps who allow Human Resources to terminate the people who report to them so that they can play all apologetic and surprised once the deed is done. This account person, to this day, tells people I am heartless. But I guess that comes with the territory of being a leader.
It happened again last week when I thought I was doing the right thing.
I ran a listing on a job board. I identified myself (rather than running the listing anonymously). Sometimes I do this to shake loose a candidate I might know but I may not have seen for a while who suddenly has developed the right credentials and I didn’t know to call him or her. However, the issue with doing this is that inappropriate candidates contact me demanding to be submitted. I ran a listing saying that appropriate candidates had to have current agency experience and had to have worked on a major package goods account. I got an off-spec résumé from a purely client side person who had only worked on very minor brands.
I also know that when submitting résumés to a job board, most go unanswered. I thought it would be nice to acknowledge the submission. Because my name was identified with the listing, I thought I would write him to tell him he had great credentials, but not for this job. Rather than thanking me, I got a kick in the pants.
Following is our verbatim email exchange (these are direct quotes):
My first email: Dear Henry: Thank you for responding to our listing. However, you lack the necessary ad agency experience which this job demands. We will keep you on file in case something more appropriate comes along. Sincerely, Paul
His response: I have been working with and directing ad agencies for over 2o years..in any case thanks for not reading my resume carefully
Me: Thanks for not reading my job specs carefully. The job clearly calls for someone currently working on major package goods at a major agency. There is no reason to be belligerent.
His answer: I have over 20 years of package goods experience and that’s why we get so upset because people like you blow good people like me away
My final response: You are rude. I thought I was doing you a favor by responding. You do not work for an ad agency and your background doesn’t match the listed specs. Stop writing to me.
I hate it when I get wrongly accused. And I really dislike it when someone dumps on me for being nice. I just don’t get it.
Thanks for letting me vent.