It's About Business

Q: Having been in sales for several years, I have occasionally dealt with people (customers, prospects, other guys) who made crude jokes and tried to send me trashy e-mails and/or texts. I travel a lot, and my wife happened to see a lewd picture (as a joke) sent to me by a client I had visited out of town the week before. What’s the best way to tell the client that it’s all business without screwing up the deal?

A: It is very interesting to hear from the perspective of a man on this topic. It is often brought up among my female friends, but I must admit that this is a bit beyond my testosterone-lacking scope of expertise.

These “professionals” may have this behavior due to some sort of insecurity or feelings of inadequacy.

Maybe they are acting out because they couldn’t get the personalized license plate they wanted for their new Porsche. Maybe they are tired of never being able to find size 6 shoes at the store. OR maybe just maybe they believe this is the way men are supposed to behave without those irksome women around to spoil all of the REAL fun.

While we all march to our own idiosyncratic beat, with no two people containing the exact same sense of humor or ideas about personal boundaries, there are certain expectations and standards that should be met when on a professional trip. Amusing, casual male e-mail banter is one thing, but sending crude photos and e-mails with adolescent humor is out of line and goes beyond the bounds of appropriate business behavior.

Where should you draw the line? It may start as an inappropriate joke but end up with someone suggesting that you meet up with some lady friends for drinks after the big deal is closed.

Unfortunately, we may not know what our boundaries are until we are put in one of these unique situations when we have to define them quickly. Inevitably our boundaries and the boundaries of others can often crash like two tectonic plates, causing an earthquake that could end an important connection for your career.

My advice for a happy relationship is to always be the same person, whether you are at home with your family or in a hotel bar with business associates. If a gut check says that something feels wrong and could be construed as disrespectful should your spouse learn of it, be a REAL man and speak up. It may take the curl right out of their piggy tails at first, but ultimately you will gain the respect and reputation as a no-nonsense professional and family man.