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Infamous Emails Don't Always Kill Careers 269

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "Those oft-forwarded email gaffes don't always lead to career meltdowns for the ashamed senders, Jared Sandberg writes in the Wall Street Journal. In some corners of the business world, preserving a reputation can be less important than acquiring one in the first place. For instance, the 2003 legal summer associate who accidentally emailed 40 colleagues to announce he was 'busy doing jack' ended up getting a job at the firm. More recently, the young woman who told off a lawyer offering her a job -- and saw her email forwarded worldwide -- is quite confident that the notoriety can't hurt, and might even help, her career."
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Infamous Emails Don't Always Kill Careers

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  • by fak3r ( 917687 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:44PM (#14770258) Homepage
    there's no such thing as bad publicity.

  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:45PM (#14770262) Homepage Journal
    You can't extrapolate from one intern who was hired despite having sent out a stupid email. TFA implies he spent the rest of the summer kissing ass and working his butt off.

    As for Abadala, she's a trust-fund baby. I suspect she'll learn the hard way that professional networking is extremely important in a services career.

    Many people have been passed over for hire for something stupid they posted to Usenet or an Internet forum. Googling a person before hire to learn as much about them as possible is standard practice these days.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I agree. Am I the only one surprised that a lawfirm would hire someone who sent information to unintended recipients? It could just as easily have been a customer, competitor, court official, or opposing counsel that received the email about "doing jack" and "doing jack" could just as easily have been confidential information or something offensive.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Thats not the point. The point is that everyone expects interns to fould up at least once. The real test of character is how they react afterwards. This chap put his nose to the griondstone and straightened up, and that was the kind of person the firm was looking for.
    • by cavtroop ( 859432 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:55PM (#14770367)
      Googling a person before hire to learn as much about them as possible is standard practice these days. Not at Radio Shack :)
    • I think you underestimate the "good" Ms. Abdala did for herself in the legal profession. Remember, these are people who are paid to give the verbal and written smack down to the lawyer across the table on a daily basis. If anything, other lawyers that know of her and practice in her area will now know that she is potentially more competent and a better advocate for herself and her clients than that guy she turned down. This could result in a job offer, or at least, more "street cred" during negotiations wit
      • by dal20402 ( 895630 ) * <[dal20402] [at] [mac.com]> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:25PM (#14770633) Journal
        Lawyers are not paid to "give the smack down." They're paid to achieve the best possible result for clients. Once in a while, that may involve being forceful. But, more often, that involves succeeding in negotiations and working with the opposition to achieve a resolution that works for both parties. Even in litigation, things go more smoothly for everyone when opposing counsel have a good working relationship.

        If I were a client, I wouldn't touch Abdala with a ten-foot pole; I wouldn't trust her to have the good judgment and professional collegiality necessary to get me a good result. If I were a lawyer, I'd dread any situation where I had to work with her, and I certainly wouldn't hire her to work in my firm.

        • Keep in mind this potential boss screwed her. He renogiated her salary after accepting the offer. That is bad and she did the right thing but could have done it better.

          I would of emailed them back accusing them of violating the verbal contract and mention not wanting to work for such a boss.

      • The worst thing you can do as a lawyer is lose control of _yourself_, which is far more dangerous than losing control of a case or other legal problem. In any legal community, you're going to see the same people more than once. God forbid you piss off or personally insult a judge. Sometimes the opposing lawyer will even be your friend or someone you went to law school with. Basically you must have the ability to work with people you don't like or don't agree with.

        The kind of unprofessionalism, overconfi
    • Many people have been passed over for hire for something stupid they posted to Usenet or an Internet forum. Googling a person before hire to learn as much about them as possible is standard practice these days.

      That's why I post here under a pseudonym, and not my real name, Robert Ericson.

      Google doesn't index slashdot comments, does it?
      • Dear Robert,

        We're sorry to inform you, however, your posts on the popular internet forum "Slashdot" indicate that you hold opinions that are in opposition to our company. We found these posts by using Google and searching for "Robert Erickson."

        One particular comment, maligning Windows, "If I want to make use of old hardware in my house, I'll install linux, hands down -- without a window manager" demonstrates your opinons. Google has helped to ferret out your true nature that you failed to disclose in the in
    • Thank goodness I have a sufficiently common name that googling for me is effectively pointless.
    • by cluedweasel ( 832743 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:54PM (#14770910) Homepage
      "Googling a person before hire to learn as much about them as possible is standard practice these days." Well that explains a lot. Googling myself (don't do that in public) the other day I found someone convicted of supplying heroin with not only the same name as me but the same age and living in the same town as I worked in at the time of his conviction. I wonder how many HR folks put 2+2 together and got 5 on that one?
    • In the workplace, there is no limit to what can hold you back.
      Someone who is brilliant, but socially awkward is not going to climb the corporate ladder.... (If interested, read up on Emotional Intelligence- It is one of the big things they pounded into us at Business School)
      The truth is, tiny things can snowball on the executive/prof. tracj- For example, if you look bad in your suit (rubber soled shoes in the office instead of leather soles etc) then maybe you rub someone the wrong way and you get passed
      • I don't know where you went to B-school but they never said that where I went (Top 25 MBA). We were more trained on the Type-A fast tracker who burns out, and the things to NOT do to keep your career going ahead. Your dress is somewhat important, you can't be a slob, but getting RESULTS in your area is the most important. How to maximize your effectiveness with minimm use of your time was stressed. The HR types like the touchy-feely stuff like "Emotional Intelligence" whereas the other areas such as Financ
    • I saw an editorial in a recent issue of my alma mater's student newspaper where a girl was claiming to have been turned down for student-employment for lack of discipline or something like that. According to her story, when she asked for clarification, it turned out that the person who made the hiring decision had looked up her facebook.com profile and found a colorful hortatory statement with the president as its object. I'm pretty sure from her description, and a certain facebook profile with no optional
  • It depends (Score:3, Funny)

    by ATAMAH ( 578546 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:45PM (#14770263)
    I guess it depends on whether your boss has a sense of humor or not.
    Come to think of it, it also depends on whether you are indeed "doing jack" all the time...
    • by flewp ( 458359 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:50PM (#14770308)
      Or if your boss's name is Jack...
    • Re:It depends (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:01PM (#14770424)
      testimonial: I was leaving work one day and...the elevator stopped between floors. I pushed the emergency talk button and got a P..rson talk.. th..sounded ..ike t.is (the sound cut in and out) . I was told, by the dispatcher (what I could hear of the conversation and from later discussion) communication problems were my fault (huh?). Since I could hear little, I talked into the mike and explained where I was and what the circumstance was. then settled back on the floor of the car, and waited 2 hours for someone to get me out. This was a Friday night and I was perhaps the only one in the building by then...
      By the way this was the 2nd time I had been stuck on an elevator in that building and the final upshot was the maintenance company lost the contract. But, on to the thread: I sat down with my iBook and wrote a log of my experience via email(s) and sent it to Building maint. CCed to my supervisor (wireless) and by 1.5 hours the email contained the word "damn" in one line. Nothing worse; just that.
      Next Monday I was called on the use of offensive language.
  • CLM Vrs CEM (Score:4, Funny)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:45PM (#14770266) Journal
    In the company I work for, misuse of e-mail may constitute a CLM.

    That's a Career Limiting Move. Not to be confused with sleeping with the boss's daughter--a Career Ending Move.
    • Unless the boss's daughter is fat and desperate, in which case it could be a Career Building Move.
    • It becomes a CEM when you stop sleeping with the boss's daughter. Or his wife. Or his dog.

      WHAT? Oh like you never have.

    • Marry the daughter. That is a definite promotion move.
      • Re:CLM Vrs CEM (Score:4, Insightful)

        by metternich ( 888601 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:53PM (#14770902)
        Reminds me of this old joke:

        A shadkhen (matchmaker) goes to see a poor man and says, "I want to arrange a marriage for your son."
        The poor man replies, "I never interfere in my son's life."
        The shadkhen responds, "But the girl is Lord Rothschild's daughter."
        "Well, in that case..."

        Next, the shadkhen approaches Lord Rothschild. "I have a husband for your daughter."
        "But my daughter is too young to marry."
        "But this young man is already a vice president of the World Bank."
        "Ah, in that case..."

        Finally, the shadkhen goes to see the president of the World Bank.
        "I have a young man to recommend to you as a vice president."
        "But I already have more vice presidents than I need."
        "But this young man is Lord Rothschild's son-in-law."
        "Ah, in that case...."
    • You should take a page from Star Trek.

      If the Klingon captain isn't honorable enough to sleep with her, it's your sacred duty to relieve him of command and take over the ship.
    • About four or five years ago, PNC bank (philadelphia area bank) fired 50 some people for using Internet sources outside of the intranet (it's a wonder why they even let people hit the Internet)....all but three of them were fired for doing things like checking personal e-mail, going to news sites, etc. The last three were deleted for d/ling porn (and i think one instance was child porn). The last three deserved to get fired...the other 47 did not.
    • I dunno, if you're good that could be a career-boosting move. After all, why would the boss fire his daughter's boyfriend? Wait until you get promoted out of his department though, if you plan on breaking up with her afterwards.
  • by creepynut ( 933825 ) * <teddy(slashdot) AT teddybrown DOT ca> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:47PM (#14770276) Homepage
  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:48PM (#14770287)
    Does this article remind anybody of when Peter got the promotion, and Michael and Samir got layed off?
  • by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:49PM (#14770301)
    Hey, I was busy putting off my project work and came across this funny page: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/02/21/175222 6 [slashdot.org]
    You guys all get the irony, right?
  • Ummmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:50PM (#14770315)
    Maybe this is because in the legal profession you need to be forceful and unyielding in order to help you argue your cases. Who has ever heard of a famous lawyer who felt others pain, considered their positions and was meak and soft-spoken in court?

    As a geek, though, I have found that many human resources types leave you alone when you come off strong and watch your language. Projecting dominance works well with them. If you do it right, you leave them no grounds to say "he was intimidating me" because the authority looks at your conduct and says, "uh, right. Next case."

    It's about a simple rule. The average person doesn't really respect those they think are weak and/or vulnerable. This applies to both genders. Women don't like men who just give them what they want, and men don't respect women who just blindly take whatever a man does. People who are unwilling to just sit there and take it get much more respect in almost any organization. Usually the types that complain shut up in the face of a counter-challenge.
    • Re:Ummmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:01PM (#14770423)
      Maybe this is because in the legal profession you need to be forceful and unyielding in order to help you argue your cases.

      "bla bla bla"
    • Who has ever heard of a famous lawyer who felt others pain, considered their positions and was meak and soft-spoken in court?

      Atticus Finch.

      (famous, but he did lose, though...)
    • IANAL, but I'm starting law school in the fall. Folks, being a forceful advocate for one's client does not necessitate being a jackass - which seems a reasonable description of Ms. Abadala, based upon TFA. One can be persuasive, dedicated and hard-working without blowing people off - and it's a good idea to do so. Eventually, you *will* screw up a memo, or miss a deadline, or something like that. Whether you have a reputation for being a good, solid sort after that can determine what happens next.

      I would al
  • Dianna Abdala, the lawyer in TFA, sounds like a giant dick. If I were hiring lawyers and did a quick search on the applicants' names to see what came up, and I read such an immature emailed exchange, I definitely would not hire her. No matter how good a lawyer she is (and I'm sure she's not the best lawyer ever, so there are plenty to choose from), anyone with an attitude like hers would be really difficult to work with. I wouldn't do that to myself or to the people who had to work with her. YMMV (you m
    • TFA doesn't mention it, but other media reports have stated that the employer tried to cut Abdala's starting salary *after* she had accepted the job offer.

      See, for example, http://www.masslaw.com/break021506.cfm [masslaw.com]

      And so far no one has said that forwarding a private e-mail exchange doesn't reflect well on a CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY -- a person who is expected to exercise great discretion with other people's private communications.

      Abdala arguably committed gross errors of form, but IMO everyone overlooks the s
    • For me the important part was:

      As for Ms. Abdala, she says a mea culpa "will never happen." She's living on funds provided by her father. . .

      Maybe having daddy's money means there are no consequences for your actions?

      • While it doesn't mean that there are not consequences, it does mean that you don't actually have to work for a living.

        What she doesn't understand is that as a lawyer she's allways working under somebody. Then again, since she's living on funds provided by her father maybe she actually isn't working. Must be nice...

  • Replied Ms. Abdala, a 24-year-old law school graduate: "A real lawyer would have put the contract into writing and not exercised any such reliance until he did so."

    Mr. Korman: "Thank you for the refresher course on contracts... Do you really want to start [annoying] more experienced lawyers at this early stage of your career?"

    Ms. Abdala: "bla bla bla."

    So she wants to be a lawyer, eh? Is she going to use that little act in front of a judge?

    Judge: Ms. Abdala, you're badgering the witness. Please stay within the confines of decorum.

    Ms. Abdala: Yada-yada-yada... whatever Judge...

    I agree with Mr. Korman: highly unprofessional. I guess she's looking to start an ambulance-chasing practice because I can't see anyone hiring her if that's as professional as she can be.

    • Abdala should re-take a course on contracts. They could sooo sue her ass for breach, writing or no. For an employment contract at least for the cost of the business cards, stationery, and computer.

      I assume that they both have their own councils, though, and I'm not a Lawyer, I'm not your Lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
      • by shawb ( 16347 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:54PM (#14770907)
        From another article [masslaw.com] on the topic, the hiring firm had decided after the verbal agreement to lower the pay. If anyone would be liable for breach of contract, it would be the hiring firm. And then he would be seriously in violation of breach of confidentiality by doing this... if I knew of a lawyer that did this I would do everything in my power to never hire him. And I don't believe that responding "Bla bla bla" is really that bad as the extremely unprofessional threat the lawyer made: "You need to realize that this is a very small legal community, especially the criminal defense bar. Do you really want to start pissing off more experienced lawyers at this early stage of your career?". To me this sounds like a very thinly veiled threat that he is going to try to get her disbarred for 1)not accepting the job after he had changed the terms of the contract by lowering her pay and then 2)making a rebuttal to his statement that her actions were unprofessional.

        Now, maybe she should have thought a little bit more carefully in dealing with this creep, but you think a seasoned lawyer would be the one showing some modicum of professionalism. Instead, he acted like a whiny little brat, used semi-vulgar language, made threats and then forwarded a conversation on to others that may have had a small expectancy of privacy.
        • I didn't know about the rate change.
        • But she still agreed after he lowered the pay.

          Now if she agreed and then stated the lower offer then she could sue him back.

          It was when did the renegotiated salary take place will be key on who sues who.

          Still she could have acted more professional. She could have plainly stated that she felt violated and wanted immediate renegotation. If they refused then she would not accept the position and explain why. This would look better in court.

          I dont think they will have her disbared. But I bet what they will do i
    • ...it's ten years later and Ms. Abdala is sitting across a small table, staring down rather sheepishly at her formerly well-manicured nails:

      Bar Representative:Are you aware, Ms. Abdala, that this is your second time in front of this board for accusations of malpractice?

      Ms. Abdala:Yes, but you have to understand . . . I really didn't want to talk to my client. He's soooo boring . . .

      Bar Representative:Regardless of your opinion of his personality, you did, in fact, take money from him?

      Ms. Abdala: W

    • Forwarding private email conversations on a *job offer* to "friends", making it impossible for an unexperienced upstart ever get work. I can't believe *he*, as a practicing lawer, is accusing *her* of unprofessionalism. I mean, I can understand it from a 24 year old, well, girl.
  • Well, you have to say, that an abundance of confidence isn't anything that young woman is lacking, now is she?
  • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:53PM (#14770354) Homepage Journal
    What is the issue?

    That someone put snotty comments in an email?

    Or that some other person choose to use them as means other than intended by forewarding them on to a bunch of other people?

    It looks like the article (yes, I RTFA) is bashing the wench for being snotty, not the recipient for using the email to further their own ends.
  • Ms. Abdala sounds like a spoiled nutjob who thinks that her thoughtless gall in her personal life should automatically transfer to her professional career. The fact that cattiness is framed positively and rewarded in today's business world is disheartening. There is a difference between being bold and confident and being petty. Moreover, just because you have gall does not mean you are always correct. As a man whose initials are JK once said in a widely watched debate, "You can be confident and you can be w
  • by albeit unknown ( 136964 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @03:59PM (#14770409)
    I'd like to move us right to Peter Gibbons. We had a chance to meet this young man, and boy that's just a straight shooter with upper management written all over him.
  • by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:02PM (#14770425) Homepage
    Who does or doesn't remember, Bernard Shifman is A Moron Spammer? [petemoss.com] Of course noone would hire an idiot like him.
  • Sometimes you don't get punished for being honest. This sounds like a perfect candidate for: In Soviet Russia...
  • This story was originally covered by the Boston Globe on the 16th of Feburary [boston.com]. Welcome to last week, guys.

    The most disturbing part of the email was her princess tone. The attitude is just...incredible. It's like she lives in a whole other reality:

    ''The pay you are offering would neither fulfill me nor support the lifestyle I am living."

    She said she ultimately decided not to take the job because the reduced salary ''might have been realistic for other people to survive on, but I like nicer things.

  • And then, of course, there was Bernard Shifman [petemoss.com]. Wonder how he is doing these days?
  • Hmmm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by abscissa ( 136568 )
    Hmmmmm.... yes... but what about gaffes like THIS ONE [gkko.com]?
  • I remember a number of years ago I worked through school doing tech support for a local ISP. When sending out some generic emails, I would change my 'From' address to be 'support@xyz.net' instead of my own 'firstlast@xyz.net'

    One day, while particularly bored and feeling I could use a little more challenging job, I sent out a volley of emails to potential employers inquiring about possible opportunities.

    Yup, you guessed it. I was stupid enough to accidentally send them all from 'support@xyz.net' which wa
    • Back in the day, we used the built in mail package in VMS for our corporate e-mail package. VAXmail used your username as the FROM field, but since this was usually something like VQXC4995, or some such, the package allowed you to add a "personal name" string, which showed up in emails, along with your FROM username, so that people could tell who it came from without having to consult a table of usernames. Unless you looked at it, though, you wouldn't see yours normally. One night, a particularly annoyin
  • Since when do *most* thing kill careers? I personally witnessed a HR Manager accidentally forward peoples compensation in a spreadsheet to the company email group (everyone). This person did not even get a hand slapped. Another time a different employee showing up drunk/stoned - told to go home and come back the next day - they got a warning. An Executive level manager getting trashed at a client dinner and getting physically abusive, next day we were told that they resigned. It is sickening what peo
  • I wouldn't want to work with either of the lawyers in this story.

    He offered her a job and then reduced the salary after she accepted. That's a huge red flag. Highly unacceptable.

    She's a spoiled brat ("trust fund baby"). You've got to wonder what her father, who's still supporting her at age 24, thinks of her behavior.
  • by Routerhead ( 944388 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:19PM (#14770590)
    ... she said this: I'm more worried about whether I've left my hair iron on than this little email exchange

    Translation: I can't get a job now.
  • by fwice ( 841569 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:20PM (#14770597)
    note: not for the faint of heart, or those of us with morals (there must be somebody out there)

    Tucker Max [tuckermax.com]
  • I've been on the net for around 11 years now. I've been posting with the same username most places for probably 7 or 8 of those years. Sometimes I say incrediably stupid stuff and on one or two occations, other people have said stupid things using my name. As time goes on, this is only going to get worse. The question is, is it better to adopt different nicknames and change them over time or is it better to build at least some kind of recognizable reputation based on just one name? Which is worse if so
  • Is it something about Blackberries that makes people stupid? Or are those little things too hard to read so that it's difficult to tell to whom you're sending copies of mail? I don't have one so I don't know; in my organization of over 100,000 employees, we have less than 1000 people with Blackberries. A while back, when that number was under 300 and you just knew that any email with that little blurb at the bottom about being sent via Blackberry meant that the sender was one of our highest-powered execu
  • Must be nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrNougat ( 927651 ) <.ckratsch. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @05:14PM (#14771114)
    From TFA:

    As for Ms. Abdala, she says a mea culpa "will never happen." She's living on funds provided by her father and has rented office space for her own practice. "I've never been the type to work under someone," she says.

    I won't work under someone, earning my own way, but I'll shamelessly nurse from the teat. That doesn't work for people whose parents don't have the funds to be venture capitalists for their children.
  • I mean, who even heard about that smarmy tart before she was shown screaming for more on thousands of spamvertized websites around the world?
  • She would've had one of this disclaimers at the end of her email that read something along the lines of:

    This e-mail message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. (I stole the disclaimer from my friends email; hope that doesn't count as 'use')

    And, in this case, the ??? step would be "sue for unauthorized distribution). Quote the business plan; quite job, send snippy

  • ...the series of emails that went back and forth between some proto-spammer and an anti-spam advocate a while back? This was circa 1999. I think the proto-spammer was looking for a job as a developer, emailing his resume all over the place, and the anti-spam advocate took him to task over it. A really funny exchange of emails took place, with the job seeker acting nuttier and nuttier, and the distribution growing wider and wider. At the time, people speculated that the guy had easily scuttled any chance of
  • In the Netherlands we can put entire private computers stashed with ongoing police investigations at the trash. Especially if they do not work because they are stacked with porn and spyware (it was "broken").

    http://www.nu.nl/news.jsp?n=422656&c=14 [www.nu.nl] [dutch]

    Or what about memory sticks with military intelligence without any encryption?

    http://www.computable.nl/nieuws.htm?id=1088404 [computable.nl] [dutch]

    No careers were harmed during these operations. Email is for loosers!

    [warning: do not try this if you earn less than $200
  • Something tells me that Peter Chung, formerly of the Carlyle Group, still regrets sending the infamous e-mail [hereinreality.com] to his buddies that ended up in the NYT.

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