A few days ago, I was having lunch with a good friend. Just as we were seated, a man at a table about ten feet away started a phone call. I couldn’t tell whether he was the recipient or the dialer. He was wearing a very nice polo shirt embroidered with the name of his company, which was locally owned. My friend and I overheard his conversation. We weren’t eavesdropping; we couldn’t help it. Neither could a few other groups around us. That’s how loudly he was talking.
As we listened, we realized that this was the sales manager. We knew this because he was discussing sales reports, prospects, and even individual results of salespeople. At one point, he was speaking of one particular rep (whom he named to the person on the other end, including first and last name), and said, “Yeah, he’s not going to make it. He’ll probably get fired in a couple of weeks.”
Wow. Again, this was a locally owned company, so it wasn’t like he had a shirt of a company like Budweiser or Pepsi, where you weren’t 100% sure where he worked. As I watched the faces of the people around us – who were clearly annoyed by this guy – I wondered if anyone knew the person who was about to get fired. It was very possible – we weren’t in a bigger city like Kansas City. And the conversation just went ON AND ON. I was there for an hour, and he hadn’t stopped talking when we left.
There’s a lot to unpack here. First and foremost, to have a loud conversation of that length in a busy restaurant is just plain bad manners. He was disturbing the lunches of other people – myself included. I could tell by the face of the server that she wanted to ask him to pipe down, but wasn’t quite feeling brave enough to do so. I do of course take the occasional call when I’m eating lunch, but I keep them short or I step outside.
Second, when you are on a call in a public place, you should be careful about WHAT you say. More than one sale has been lost because of an overheard conversation. I saw this exact thing happen in an airport a few years ago. I was heading back from a convention and a few other people from the same convention were at the same gate. One of the attendees was having an easily overheard conversation about pricing strategy. The guy next to me got really quiet, and I could tell that he was listening. After the first conversation ended, he jumped up and walked off quickly. After a couple of minutes he came back grinning. I said, “You’re going to snake that guy’s customer, right?” He just looked at me and smiled.
Third, when you are wearing apparel that readily identifies the company you work for, you must be on-brand at all times. That’s because you are not 100% yourself – you are a representative of that company. And yes, that even goes for times when you are not “on duty.” Look, I’m as much of a “work hard, play hard” person as the next guy. Maybe more. But you have to be conscious of what you’re doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone drunk and behaving like a jackass in their work apparel. Do you think that leaves a good brand impression on those around that person? It does not. And in this case, based on the glares that our subject was getting from those around him, he was leaving a negative impression of his company. And I’m betting it’s not the first time.
Much of what we are talking about here is simply common sense. Use good manners. Keep company business within the company. And don’t do harm to your company. The sad fact is that “common sense” sometimes isn’t common.