Yes, Virginia, Being Uninvited from a Meeting at the Last Second is not a Good Career Sign

I felt a shiver go up and down my spine as I read a recent PR Week “experience” column. Jane Waldman, Kaplow’s director of recruitment, was asked by a reader if there were “…signs to help me tell if I am going to be fired so that I can start a new job search.”

Waldman responds by saying, “One possible fire alarm is that all of a sudden you are excluded from important company meetings.” I’d call that a three-alarm fire, Jane. Being uninvited from important company meetings is akin to the final nail being hammered into one’s career path coffin. I should know. It happened to me.

I was running a division of J. Walter Thompson and openly feuding with the CEO (also not a wise career move). Towards the end of my 15 months in hell (as I now refer to it), I started being uninvited to meetings. I remember David Johnson calling me one day near the end to say, “Hey Steve, just a heads up, but Jim’s removed your name from the list of attendees at tomorrow’s big AGA meeting.” And, later the same day, Kate Gomez stopped by to ask why the CEO had told her to uninvite me from a planned lunch with the Greenpoint Savings Bank client.

I was livid and demanded a meeting the following morning. I had been hired to succeed this CEO and, if anything, things seemed to be going in the opposite direction. The only thing I was succeeding in was in not succeeding.

The next morning I walked into the meeting with the CEO and, voila, there was the CFO as well, and she was armed with a stack of papers. They wanted to end things there and then and asked me to sign paperwork releasing them from some of their written promises. I refused. But, I left just the same. We later settled for a nominal amount and I signed their papers. In the meantime, Ed and I started Peppercom.

So, yes, Virginia, if you’re being uninvited from important company meetings, I would not pass go. I would not collect $200. Instead, I would start calling any and all contacts in hopes of finding a new gig. Ask not for whom the meeting bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

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