WELCOME TO CORPORATE LIFE

After thirty years in the corporate world, Don Spetner shares his insights, lessons and reflections on life at the office.  Most of the pieces on this site are taken from his “Last” column from PR WEEK.   To view the full selection of writings, simply click on “Archives” and browse away.

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Change Management

How would you like to be running an automobile business today? How about a toy company? Media conglomerate? Hotels? Maybe own retail stores? Virtually every client I work with is dealing with some form of disruption or change, and for many, it means the very survival of their business. The management of disruption is a [...]

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The Agony (and reward) of Firing Someone

A friend of mine started a new job six months ago, and she already had to let someone go for poor performance. She was recruited to be the head of corporate communications and inherited a team that wasn’t operating at its peak. Apparently, the guy she let go had been foundering at the company for [...]

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Showing up with a Coffee Stain at my Big Interview

I was once a finalist for a big job at Charles Schwab. I had made it far enough in the process that I had to meet Chuck Schwab himself. I was excited and nervous, and I booked a flight from LA to San Francisco for an 11 a.m. sit down with the business tycoon. I [...]

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Learning Not to Suffer at Work

I had a little run-in with a motorcyclist. I slowed down to stop at a yellow light, and didn’t realize that a cyclist was accelerating behind me, hoping that I would speed through the signal. The cyclist swerved to avoid me, and I heard a small bump. I was relieved to see him upright and [...]

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I’d Rather be Lucky than Good

My brother had a roommate in college who became a millionaire, due in no small part to an amazing twist of fate. While the roommate was charming and hard working, he wasn’t a particularly good student, and his career got off to a less than promising start. After graduating, he managed to land an entry [...]

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The Magic of Grunt Work

A couple of weeks ago I found myself working in a suffocating, windowless conference room with bad fluorescent lighting. I languished in this room for an entire day, surviving on stale vending machine food while editing power point slides for what felt like forever. I was accompanied by two junior associates, each close to 30 [...]

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The Age of Transparency

Here’s a very short, pithy clip of my insights on The Age of Transparency. Just scroll down to watch the video:

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Young and Dumb

When I first got promoted to senior management, I had a chance to meet a former intern for breakfast. She had just landed her first job and wanted to thank me for helping her. On the day of the breakfast, I arrived early so that I could read the paper and have coffee before she [...]

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U. City High Reunion Speech

Good evening everyone. I am so happy to be here, and I am flattered and honored to address the Class of 77. I want to thank Mark Gillespie, Stacy Safron, Kerry Wilson, Vetra Moore and Renell Couzart for pulling this together. First of all — how can it possibly be 40 years! 40 Years! Who [...]

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When Change Gets Lodged in Your Company’s Throat

When I was a young account executive, the PR agency I worked for brought in a consultant to upgrade our IT system. The goal was to improve the technology infrastructure and implement new time- and money-saving processes. The agency had global offices, so this was a complicated and disruptive move, and fraught with risk. The [...]

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When Pupil Surpasses Teacher

A friend of mine was recently appointed to the role of Chief Communications Officer for a Fortune 500 company, and she just turned 41. It’s a young age to assume such a big role, but she’s absolutely qualified and ready for the challenge. She’s got the brains, the stamina, the technical skills and the political [...]

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Sniffing Out a Snake in the Workplace

There is an old saying that if something looks rotten, smells rotten, and tastes rotten, it probably is rotten. The older I get, the more I understand the wisdom of this adage, especially when it comes to people. If I had embraced the concept earlier in my career, it might have saved me a lot [...]

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Is Your CEO Unreasonable?

I know I’m a little late to the party, but I just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. I then watched the Danny Boyle movie based on it. Both paint an unflattering personal portrait of a man who will arguably go down as one of the greatest CEOs of our time. And they [...]

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Why am I Dialing in on Vacation?

During my headhunter days, I helped recruit the Chief Communications Officer for Yahoo. It was a difficult search, the company was going through a CEO transition, its business model was under attack, and we struggled to find the right candidates. I mostly remember lots of tension and stress during the process, but there was one [...]

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There’s Always Someone Smarter, Richer and More Powerful

In the tenth grade I transferred to a new high school. I didn’t have any friends, didn’t know my classmates, and was surrounded by a community of people who seemed to have been together since grade school. To add insult to injury, I was 15 years old, 5 feet 2 inches tall, wore glasses, and [...]

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