Like most people, I look at my e-mail box several times a day and answer my emails by order of priority. I am generally efficient as I classify my emails according to methods shown in best-seller books such as the “Hamster Revolution”. However, every once in a while I receive one of these impersonal emails addressed to me from individuals that ask my benevolence without offering any gratitude about who I am. My answer to these emails is generally inexistent as I politely press the “delete” button to clear my mailbox. However, I constantly ask myself, what makes these people think that I would take my time to help them when they are not even able to take a second to mention my name in the email they just sent me. In other words, why do these people press the damn “send” button that would email their spamming message to a whole bunch of innocent recipients? It seems like anonymity or some sense of anonymity has made some individuals think that they could spam the whole webosphere. However, some might say, but Jean-Francois, where are you going with that boring story that doesn’t seem related to marketing at all? The answer is in the next paragraph.
A little story to make you think about that “send” button
A few weeks ago, a student entered, with an hour late, the first class of the “Brand Management” MBA-class taught by Professor Scott Galloway at New York University (NYU). Professor Galloway, who is the former president of Red Envelope and also an ex-member of the board of directors of the New York Times is well-known for his arrogance but also his fairness and crispy examples. Professor Galloway (politely) asked the student to comeback on next class, since he was late and that according to the course outline, being more then 15 minutes late was not accepted in his class. The student left the class, but email Professor Galloway a few hours later to explain him that he was not agreeing with his behaviour. However, Professor Galloway answered the student’s email with an “in-your-face” ironic email as a response and decided to send it to every other student registered to the course. The conversation is presented below and for more juicy details you can refer to the following article: NYU Business Professor has mastered the art of email flaming.
“Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:15:11 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Brand Strategy Feedback
I would like to discuss a matter with you that bothered me. Yesterday evening I entered your 6pm Brand Strategy class approximately 1 hour late. As I entered the room, you quickly dismissed me, saying that I would need to leave and come back to the next class. After speaking with several students who are taking your class, they explained that you have a policy stating that students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted to class.
As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency.
I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.
MBA 2010 Candidate
NYU Stern School of Business
And The Reply:
“—— Forwarded Message ——-
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 9:34:02 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: Brand Strategy Feedback
Thanks for the feedback. I, too, would like to offer some feedback.
Just so I’ve got this straight…you started in one class, left 15-20 minutes into it (stood up, walked out mid-lecture), went to another class (walked in 20 minutes late), left that class (again, presumably, in the middle of the lecture), and then came to my class. At that point (walking in an hour late) I asked you to come to the next class which “bothered” you.
You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.
In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.
xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It’s with this context I hope you register pause…REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:
xxxx, get your shit together.
Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It’s not too late xxxx…
Again, thanks for the feedback.
So what do I think about this story?
1. I personally think that the student should not have sent this email.
2. I also think, that the response of Professor Galloway is brilliant, especially the last paragraph.
3. I, however, do not think that forwarding this email to everyone was the best thing to do.
So what is the moral of this story?
Some thoughts are better when not shared. If you are arrogant, before sending an email, make sure to know your sender well. Once your email is sent, anything can happen, and sometimes, this “anything” is not necessarily good for your career. The main lesson that one should learn from this “Brand management” Professor is that every time you send an email you are putting your personal brand into play. What do you think?
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