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They Did What?

True Stories from the Naughty List Files

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The holiday season is well and truly upon us; the time of year to joyfully celebrate timeless holiday traditions. In San Diego, we look forward each year to the annual holiday boat parade—the aquatic version of the famous Macy’s extravaganza.

Then, there are the less agreeable holiday traditions: Time-tested business blunders that occur among the LinkedIn set again and again this time of year. We’ve seen it all.

Here are a few favorites from our "naughty list" files:

Office decorations with a bite

A staff member for one of our long-time clients, a multibillion-dollar revenue services firm, thought it would be nice to ring in the season with festive decorations. The freshly cut, evergreen holiday garland that she brought in and strung throughout the office was received with great cheer until the next day, when, upon arrival, her co-workers found their office space infested with holiday insects!

To combat the new tenants, the office was sprayed with a strong repellent…which led to another staff member protesting concerns of insecticide poisoning…which led to the health and safety officer ordering the entire office space vacated for the rest of the holiday season while the fumes died away. The lesson? Forget going green. Next time, go artificial.

"I'm on a tight schedule"

Who doesn’t love dealing with airports, taxis and the like during this most testing of travel times? So, when one candidate for a Chief Financial Officer search volunteered that he would fly cross country the day before Thanksgiving to meet with the client’s CEO, everyone applauded his courage and appreciated his flexibility.

It was unfortunate, then, that the first words out of his mouth when greeting the CEO were, “I’m on a tight schedule; we need to keep to the agenda.” Any remaining goodwill was lost when he agitatedly stared at his watch during the final 30 of their scheduled 90 minutes together and, with ten minutes to go, declared, “I need to cut this short and make sure I make my return flight.” Next time forget the in-person visit and just send a card.

Over-the-top holiday cards

Speaking of cards, the annual ritual of sending out and receiving holiday cards is a classic reminder and expression of the season. While we are certainly guilty of producing (tastefully!) over-the-top holiday cards, there is still a standard etiquette and protocol to be observed.

Don’t confuse the merriment of the season with professionalism in sending follow-ups to interviewers, as one CIO candidate did when sending a cartoon snowman-themed “thank you” to the client executive leadership team—and as nice as it is to send and receive a “family holiday update” letter, Aunt Gladys’ latest antics don’t resonate so well with a client you just met 24 hours before. The lesson? Keep it personable without getting too personal!

Bah humbug!

It’s universally accepted to wish people good health and happy holidays no matter what specific occasion they observe, so imagine our surprise when, in response to a generic “happy holidays” e-greeting, an otherwise mild-mannered executive emailed back in response, “I don’t celebrate the holidays, I celebrate ____________!” That’s one person on next year’s “naughty” list for sure.

Happy Holidays!

With all that said, don’t forget to embrace and enjoy the camaraderie of the season and best wishes for the holidays!

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