A few years back, while I was in the early days of writing The Radical Edge, I encountered something that stopped me in my tracks and made me wonder what the world of business relationships had come to.
I was prowling through the sleek metal and glass halls of O’Hare Airport and killing time as I waited for my delayed connection. I had ignored the gate agent’s admonishment to “remain comfortably seated in the boarding area” in case the weather gods suddenly changed their game plan. The airline was having enough trouble negotiating their pilot contracts let alone getting cooperation from the supreme powers that be, so I bugged out to wander the concourse and pump a little blood into my travel-weary brain cells.
I turned a corner and found myself face-to-face with a large and very odd billboard advertisement. It was a picture of a blue oxford button-down shirt with a red power necktie, and it would have been the classic image of clean, conservative business, if not for one bizarre detail: the tie was on fire.
Accompanying it was a big, bold headline that read, “Burn Your Boss,” and a tagline at the bottom that said, “Report the use of unlicensed software.” This was, essentially, an invitation–no, a challenge–for a person to spy on and rat out their management, and it was punctuated with an 800 number hotline for people to CALL RIGHT NOW and strike the sparkling, gratifying match of revenge.
Now, I have as much respect for intellectual property rights as the next person. Probably more. I’m dead against pirating and plagiarism in all their forms. I sided with Metallica over the early Napster debates and I gladly contribute to artists by popping for a buck a song on iTunes as opposed to trolling the web for “free” sources. Software’s in the same category, especially on an enterprise level.
But, “Burn Your Boss”? Had things at work really gotten that bad? Did this organization really expect to tap into some unexpressed reservoir of rage trembling under the surface of other business travelers like myself? More important, was this ad working? There was one way to find out. I called the number.
I was hoping to get a live person on the line, so I could simply ask the question. What I got, though, was a recorded message saying something about their organization and their office hours followed by an invitation to “leave your information” (about that hated boss, I assumed) after the tone.
As to the question of whether their ad was working, I got my answer right away. Before I could say anything, their recording spoke to me.
It said, “You cannot leave a message because the mailbox is full.”
Seems like we have a bit of work to do.