“Several years ago I worked at a major Wall Street firm and my boss (a senior manager) was retiring. They asked me to participate in a company “roast” for him at a big farewell dinner in Manhattan. I had been the top person in my division and was well respected by the company. So I agreed and I clarified with everyone involved that this was really going to be a roast and not simply a dinner with a few funny comments. The answer was “roast away!”
As the evening progressed it seemed all was going well. When my turn came I roasted him fairly effectively with what I thought were several great jokes. I got a standing ovation from the room and a big hug from my boss. Fantastic fun…right?
Literally the next morning, I was summoned into the new Exec VPs office who told me that my comments were completely inappropriate and that I was not “his kind of guy.” I was stunned and tried to protest but this was not a conversation…it was a spanking. Just to clarify, there were no four-letter words or clearly absurd behaviors…just some of what I would call New York humor that fit the tone of the event perfectly. But my performance was the catalyst to ship me off to another division and caused my eventual departure from the firm.”
Frank Maselli, of The Frank Maselli Company, Inc., told The Grindstone that story. Pretty brutal, right? Especially since he was asked to participate in a roast. But Frank makes a good point that even though work events may feel very social (and supply a lot of alcohol) you still have to be aware of your behavior. Frank said:
“For me, the moral of this story (and of countless other examples) is that corporate “social” events are always observational trials. All behaviors are being carefully scrutinized by everyone on the team, peers, seniors and subordinates. They will become the subject of extensive commentary in the days following the event. I’ve seen with my own eyes careers destroyed by a single dumb comment or a misplaced hand. I watched as three mildly intoxicated execs got into a limo with the equally drunk CEO to continue the party at another bar. Two of them were gone in a week!
Any overly-relaxed behavior at a social event can have three bad effects. From your superiors perspective it can become a permanent scar on your career progression. From your peers it can become a weakness to exploit in competitive situations. From subordinates it can cause an erosion of respect, trust, confidence and discipline.”
Frank said this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy professional social gatherings but you have to remember they are different. We talked to some more experts on things you may say at a work event you will regret the next morning.