Back in the days when I made my living as an editor, I went to a good number of conventions.
One afternoon, while on the phone with an author (let’s call her Jane), the conversation veered to one of those upcoming meetings.
Without warning, Jane said, “I guess Pierre [my boss at the time—not his real name], will be dragging out that ratty black jacket he always wears. God, that thing is awful. I wonder where he got it? He’s the worst dresser I’ve ever met.”
Then she was silent. And I was dumbstruck.
An important work lesson
I didn’t know what to say. Should I disagree and defend my boss? (“I don’t think the jacket’s that bad, Jane. Plus, it’s not nice to gossip.”)
Or should I agree with her? (“Oh boy, you hit the nail on the head with that one, Jane! And he’s French, too? I thought good taste in clothing was de rigueur.” Tee-hee.)
Either way, this was an important client relationship, I liked my boss, and I didn’t want to get into it.
Then it hit me: I didn’t have to say a word.