Can a Text Derail Your Career?

Posted In: The Office
Posted On: 11/3/2014

A former colleague of mine recently stepped into a new position at her company.  She beat out several people for the job and as a result, these competitors actually ended up working for her.  Although it was awkward for all parties involved, this is not unusual in the corporate world.

What was a bit more unusual, however, was something that happened to my colleague when she was working with one of these passed-over employees. Let me set the scene. 

My colleague was sitting in the back seat of a car that was being driven by the most junior person in this scenario.  In the passenger seat was the employee who was not happy with her new-found circumstance of reporting to my colleague.  As is typical in the food industry, these three were spending the workday visiting grocery stores to check out product placement and pricing. As my colleague handled a phone call from that back seat position, she saw a text that was sent to the driver from the passenger.  It went something like this: “Will this day ever be over? I can’t wait to get rid of her.”

What should my colleague do in this situation?

  • a)    Say something immediately to let the offender know that she saw the text and that it was not acceptable?
  • b)   Ignore the situation, chalking it up to immaturity/jealously on the part of the offender?
  • c)    File this away for a teachable moment at a later point?

I recommend c) and here is why.  Although this is insubordinate behavior and demonstrates poor leadership (putting down your boss to a more junior person is bad form), this forum was not the appropriate place to reprimand the offender.  Coaching that deals with negative feedback should always be given in a one-to-one setting.  And although this incident may seem somewhat insignificant, it is important the offender learn that this is inappropriate leadership behavior. What if you hate your boss?  Keep it to yourself and your best buddy, not your peers and certainly not your direct reports.  The immaturity demonstrated in that text could be an early indicator that our offender does not have the leadership necessary to move up the ladder of this company.  And my colleague, her new boss, is now questioning her judgment. That’s not good. Can a text derail your career?  Absolutely.  A few wrong words seen by the wrong person could be as detrimental as sharing a selfie of one of your body parts!