Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Poor Etiquette in Email May Not Harm Your Career Afterall.


Last week I posted about Dianna Abdala and her email exchange with a potential employer. I commented on the unprofessionalism of both parties involved. The gist of the stories linked to in that post was that this kind of behavior (emailing unprofessional comments to a potential employer) could be fatal to a young attorney's career.

Well, perhaps we need to slow down.

According to a a Cubicle Culture article by Jared Sandberg on the WSJ online today, such emails are not always career-killers after all. Sandberg notes that "[t]hat's because in the rough and tumble of business, bad behavior is sometimes admired, and good behavior isn't necessarily rewarded. Take, for example, corporate whistleblowers, who don't exactly get promoted for their efforts and often have to turn to the law to protect themselves . . .." Further, Sandberg points to prior "infamous" emailers who have demonstrated that these kinds of email gaffes don't always kill a career. Take, for example, the story of Jonas Blank, a summer associate from New York's giant-firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom:

In 2003, Jonas Blank, a summer associate, sent an email in which he described his job at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. "I'm busy doing jack," he wrote. "Went to a nice 2hr sushi lunch today at Sushi Zen. Nice place. Spent the rest of the day typing emails and [gabbing] with people."

But Mr. Blank inadvertently sent the missive to a group of 40 colleagues, about half of whom were partners at the law firm. Needless to say, at least one of the recipients flicked the email into the wider ether. Mr. Blank subsequently responded with a tortured apology: "I am thoroughly and utterly ashamed and embarrassed not only by my behavior but by the implicit reflection such behavior could have on the firm."

Despite that episode, Mr. Blank got a full-time position at Skadden and still works there today, though he is less publicly communicative than before: "I really can't comment on it in any way," he said last week. Added Carol Sprague, director of attorney hiring at Skadden: "He recognized that he had made a mistake and then really worked hard all summer and proved that he was an intelligent, hard-working person."

In the Abdalla situation, both Abdalla and the would-be-employer share the opinion that the episode probably won't adversely affect her career:

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.

And Mr. Korman? He calls Ms. Abdala's behavior "preposterous" but still credits her with having high energy and "spunk." And despite all the chatter about how the incident will hurt her, he says, "I don't think that anything that's happened throws an obstacle in her path."

In fact, that's something the two almost agree on. "It really isn't going to affect my career," says Ms. Abdala, "and if it does, it's probably for the better."

At the very least she's gotten her name out there, for better or worse. And I'm sure that somebody will pick up on whatever happens with her and it will make the blog-o-sphere headlines.