Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

by Bates, Suzanne Wednesday, August 03, 2011
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The mother of a friend of mine always used to say, "Nothing good happens after midnight." After reading the August 1st WSJ article about the Allstate insurance executive who got fired for unflattering remarks about his boss, I would only add "...at the company off-site meeting."

The fellow who undoubtedly wishes he had stopped at one (martini, scotch, beer) is Joseph Lacher, the now former president of Allstate's home and auto insurance division. Lacher, who reported to Chairman and CEO Thomas Wilson, was said to have been enjoying drinks with some of Allstate's top-selling insurance agents, when he called his boss a double barreled explitive that begins with f- and ends with a_____. The press release was short and not so sweet - Lacher was "leaving the company, effective immediately."

So what actually happened? According to Joann Lublin and Erik Holm of the WSJ, Lacher's fate was sealed at a Ritz-Carlton hotel bar in Orlando right after a company Leaders' Forum with 2,000 agents and employees. Our man and his boss had just unveiled plans to shrink Allstate's sales force and change the way the insurer calculates commissions. Some agents were angry, and the CEO was a popular target.

The context of Lacher's remark was not entirely clear; some claim that he actually said Wilson would "have to be a "f—ing a—" if he didn't feel responsible for the company's performance. Never the less the context was lost and word got around that morning before the coffee and danishes were gone. Eight weeks later Lacher was gone.

These stories make us wince. There aren't many of us who can claim we've never heard the alarm go off and thought, "I wish I hadn't said THAT."

But ...the degrees of THAT range on a scale of one to ten from "true-and-mildly-amusing-but-essentially-harmless,: all the way up to to "pants-on-fire-holy-toledo-I-am-praying-nobody-remembers-I-said-that. And it's pretty easy to go from a level 1, to a 9 or 10, if you hare harboring some latent hostility toward your boss and you are sufficiently in the bag.

I know a few people who have quit drinking after a DUI. I don't actually know anybody who has quit drinking after an IDUS ( I DON'T UNDERSTAND how I could be that STUPID) but my friend's mom was right.

One technique that many smart people find useful at company after-hours-events is to take both hands and push firmly against the bar until your seat goes back. Then, stand, say goodnight, and walk toward the door.

You'll never know how what you didn't say may help your career.