What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Boardrooms are more like the Trump White House. I suppose I’m as guilty of that as the next guy. OK, maybe more so. Whatever. Here are three stories of awkward and embarrassing boardroom moments from my corporate days in Silly Valley and beyond.
Renee. Renee. Renee.
During a typical board meeting of a typical Silicon Valley startup, one of our directors – an old Scandinavian dude who called in remotely – asked our new SVP of operations Raj a question about his plans going forward.
“Well Renee,” answered Raj, “here’s what I’m thinking …”
The thing is, the director’s name was not Renee. It was Rein. Close, but not really.
I tried motioning to Raj but he was laser focused on the Polycom conference phone and well into a long-winded response. All through the ensuing exchange he kept saying “Renee” over and over. By the second or third time it was too late. All any of us could do was bite our lips and try to keep from bursting out laughing.
OK, who cut the cheese?
This one comes from the boardroom of a midsized public company deep in the heart of Texas. Dallas, Texas, that is. Our engineering veep was giving an update when the CEO, sitting just to my right, leaned a little toward me and cut a big ole fart. You know, the kind with two or three syllables.
Being new to the company and unsure of how to react I looked around the room. Nobody said a word, looked up or even seemed to notice. The engineering guy just kept right on talking as the air infused with methane.
Turns out the boss did it all the time. Everyone had gotten so used to his chronic flatulence that they all just ignored it. From then on, I sat across from the guy. Just in case.
Is he dead?
The last story took place in the heady days of the dot-com boom. This time I was working for a big, well-known tech company. The setting was an intimate, two-on-two meeting between our CEO and me, a top dog from Sony headquarters in Tokyo and one of his lieutenants.
Everything was going along just fine until, in the middle of my boss’s presentation, the Sony exec fell sound asleep. I mean, the guy was out like a light.
It wasn’t unusual to see an old Japanese bigwig crash during a long boring meeting, but that usually occurred on their home turf in a room full of blue and gray suits. I’d never seen it happen in such close quarters while an American CEO was presenting. My boss gave me a questioning look, I looked at him and shrugged, and he just went right on talking.
The dude eventually woke up and spoke with his underling in Japanese for a very long time – catching up on what he missed, I guess – and the meeting went on as if nothing had happened. Just another day in another boardroom in corporate America.
Image credit TaylorHerring via Flickr