The Wall Street Journal today had an article about the now famous email exchange I blogged about a few days ago where Dianna Abdala, a recent law school graduate turned down a job offer from an attorney, William Korman. The article discusses the fact that in some circumstances, people who are getting notorious reputations for being particularly rude or inappropriate aren’t suffering any career damage:
We all know what happens when someone commits a particularly embarrassing gaffe in a private email conversation: The message gets forwarded, with each recipient instructing the next to “read from the bottom up.” Indeed, this testy exchange skipped off servers as far away as China with a subject line attesting to its journey: “Subject: Fwd: FW: FW: Lawyers Behaving Badly.” People also added comments, such as “Great lesson here… on email and how to ruin your career.”
But not so fast. Certainly one could turn this into cautionary tale No. 1,346 about what not to commit to private email. But if you haven’t learned that lesson yet, you haven’t been paying attention — or, more likely, you don’t care that much. “I’m more worried about whether I’ve left my hair iron on than this little email exchange,” [the law school graduate] told me over the phone.
These days, résumé building can be less about preserving a reputation than about acquiring one in the first place. Just ask Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, the “Apprentice” contestant who famously said, “I’m going to crush my competition, and I’m going to enjoy doing it.” She has parlayed her backstabbing into a television career and speaking engagements. “Who knew that being soo bad could be soo good$$!!,” the show’s Web site quotes her as saying.
“I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this kind of behavior is naturally rewarded,” cautions Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communication at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “But it does lead to success in some realms.” And those realms can include the legal profession, sales teams, trading floors, entrepreneurial endeavors — in other words, the corners of the business world where unmitigated gall can be more marketable than galling. “This could be great for [her] career if you think about it,” he says.
Is having one’s “unmitigated gall” displayed for the world to see a good thing? I sure hope not. While I certainly don’t like to see people live life with a scarlet letter, I don’t think they ought to be rewarded for being rude.
Of course, not all notorious reputations should be viewed as problematic. In my blog post, I mentioned perhaps the most famous email from the legal world to circulate throughout cyberspace — that of the Skadden Arps summer associate. He wrote: