Dan Rather’s parting shots at CBS were probably not the most graceful words the legendary journalist has uttered in his nearly half-century-long career. He lamented the network’s treatment of him and said he would not accept the offer of an empty office and no assignments on which to work. You really can’t blame him. And, considering the fact that his days as a major network anchor are over, Rather probably didn’t burn any bridges with his potshots.
That said, one does have to be very careful about what one says about a former employer or co-worker, especially in such a relatively small field as public relations where everyone knows everyone else. In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit to being guilty of violating this credo, having often shared my very negative views on the CEO to whom I once reported. While I was (and am) wrong for badmouthing the guy, many others who have come in contact with the Neanderthal agreed with my feelings (and often have better, even more insane anecdotes than my own).
Badmouthing a former employer can come back to bite you in the butt in the least expected way. Recently, for example, we were competing for a piece of new business against several other firms. At the end of our presentation, the prospect pulled my partner aside and told him that a former employee (now with a competitor) said she had been our best publicist and that, since her departure, we no longer had any top-flight media relations people. The prospect told my partner he’d automatically eliminated the firm because of the unprofessional comment. And, needless to say, that particular individual won’t be welcomed back to our office any time soon.
So, think through what you’re going to say before ‘dissing’ someone. According to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book about the Lincoln cabinet called "Team of Rivals," Honest Abe would always write a "hot letter" to himself listing the transgressions of someone who had really ticked him off. Having vented his anger, Lincoln then proceeded to discard the letter. That sounds like a great way to deal with negative feelings about former employers or co-workers.
Hat tip to Dandy Stevenson for this idea.