THE BLOG
06/11/2010 10:15 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Not to Work a Cocktail Party

You know, I think there are guys in this world who just have a deathwish, that's all. It's the only way to explain what they do. Like, you know they're not stupid, because if they were stupid they'd have been killed or just plain expired a long time ago. And yet... they do stupid things. Particularly when they have a drink in their meaty little fists.

This brings me to this guy I know. Let's call him Bundt. He's a rather powerful fellow in his little world, and makes a ton of money. This in spite of the fact that he has a couple of funky habits. The worst of these -- and I guess it's nothing compared to the great, hairy miscreants of Wall Street and Main Street -- is that he loves to talk about his money. He's not alone in this regard. For some reason, people who make a lot of money tend to talk about it too much to people who don't. You wonder what they're thinking. But maybe they're not thinking. Maybe they're just being atavistic, which is generally part of the successful business person's act anyway.

Anyway, I was at this cocktail party the other night with Bundt and a bunch of fellow prisoners. And I see that Bundt has his boss, a super-senior mid-level haute executive who has flown in all the way from Chicago, in a verbal hammerlock, schmoozing his teeny heart out, practically giving the guy a hickey. The bossman is listening to Bundt with one of those polite little smiles people paste on when they feel like a very fine needle is being inserted into their eye socket by a person whose feelings they don't want to hurt. I walk over and attend the conversation, just to see what Bundt is going to do now. The guy has a unique way of saying interestingly disadvantageous things, and I'm hoping to get a snapshot of this gift in action. And I am not disappointed.

"Your operation is doing very well, Mr. Bundt," said the superior officer. I bet he says that to all the girls.

"Yes, I know," says Bundt, and I am aware that he's about to deliver something excessively dumb. "I was having lunch with Bob Dimler the other day and he said that if I were working for him, I'd be the President now."

Bob Dimler is the head of our #1 competitor. If there's one thing we're taught to do around here, it's to hate Bob Dimler. If you work for us, you don't "have lunch with Bob Dimler," and if you do, you don't tell your boss about it, and if you are stunningly idiotic enough to tell the boss about it, you don't add how much Bob Dimler loves you. But Bundt did all those things. Why?

His boss simply looked at him in stunned silence, which I'm sure Bundt interpreted as admiration. He then walked away replete with self-congratulation at the super-positive exchange. The Chairman looked after him and said, "If he wants to be working for Bob Dimler, I'm sure we could arrange that."

Why do people do these things? Do we all, to some extent, undermine ourselves in one way or another? In what way are you doing it right now?