Susan T Spencer, Special for US Daily Review
Shortly after buying a large ham processing company, I ran into an ugly situation with the macho buyer for my single biggest customer—which happened to be one of the largest purchasers of deli meats in the Northeast region of the country.
I was in danger of losing the contract. Mickey, a paunchy, forty-five-year-old man who wore a bad hairpiece and a signature bit of jewelry—three silly-looking silver mice pinned to the collar of his shirt—turned out to be not only obnoxious but also physically aggressive.
Halfway into our first meeting—a dinner he had arranged—Mickey dismissed his sales manager, leaving himself alone with me. As soon as the sales manager was gone, Mickey moved closer to me. I tried to move away without being obvious, but it didn’t work. When he tried to put his hands on my leg under the table, I got up to go to the ladies’ room. When I returned, it happened again. I excused myself a second time, realizing that if it happened a third time and I rebuffed him more assertively, it would be awkward and embarrassing for him, and I’d probably lose the business.
Fortunately, by the time I got back to the table the second time, Mickey was drunk, and I had several men escort him out to a taxi. I had survived round one with the buyer, but business issues remained to be solved, and I knew that before we met again, I had to have a plan.
I decided to get all the dirt on Mickey I could from someone who knew him well, to see if I could learn anything that might give me an advantage to win round two.
Robbie, my sales manager, knew Mickey . . . and gave me a heads up.
“Mickey’s got the worst reputation in the business!” Robbie said.
It seems that Mickey had been with the same company for almost twenty years, during which he had gained a lot of power. So, despite his notorious reputation for intimidating women and putting them into compromising situations, apparently, his superiors were either unaware of Mickey’s obnoxious behavior or chose not to call him on the carpet because he continued this sexist conduct with impunity.
In fact, obnoxious is too kind a description for Mickey’s actions. I was both shocked and relieved to learn that I’d somehow escaped the way Mickey usually greeted a woman—any woman—which was to put his tongue in her mouth.
Robbie also told me something I already knew—Mickey drank a lot, and he routinely was drunk before the meal was over.
When I asked Robbie if he could give me any advice on how to handle Mickey, he simply said, “Stay away.”
Pressing him for more information, I asked if he thought we could do our business in the office and then send Mickey on his way.
“No chance,” said Robbie, shaking his head. “He only conducts business out of the office. It’s usually a dinner meeting . . . and he never pays.”
After speaking with Robbie, I realized that if I was going to win over this buyer—keeping both the business and my dignity—I needed to bring someone along with me to the next meeting who understood the problem and could watch my back. The only executive man in my organization at the time was Robbie. Unfortunately, he was spineless, and I knew I couldn’t count on him to come to my aid.
I did, however, have a very savvy CFO. Barbara was a slim, attractive blonde in her late thirties and my right-hand “man.” I told her about Mickey’s inappropriate amorous advances.
She agreed to come with me to the next dinner meeting, and we devised a plan.
The meeting took place at a local, upscale Italian restaurant. When we arrived, Mickey lit up at the sight of Barbara. He didn’t know she was coming, but he was only too happy to be dining with not one, but two attractive women.
I introduced her to Mickey as a consultant to the company and Barbara extended her hand. Sure enough, Mickey moved in to kiss her. Forewarned, Barbara turned her head as if to look around the restaurant, and his lips only grazed her cheek.
When we got to the table, we sat on either side of Mickey, understanding that he’d have to turn his head constantly to talk to each of us, leaving him little time or concentration to play tricks under the table. When he got up to go to the rest room, we took the opportunity to do the same—together—so we were never separated from each other.
Mickey was so happy to have two educated women at his table (blondes, no less!), both of whom were giving him lots of attention, asking him questions about his favorite subject—himself—that instead of making unwanted advances, he just laughed, made jokes, and relaxed. He basked in the envious looks and comments from other men walking by, and he was so busy holding court and trying to amuse us that he forgot about trying to grab a leg under the table.
Seeing him so happy and at ease, I got up the nerve to ask him why he wore the three ridiculous looking mice. His answer was as silly as the silver mice themselves: he had always wanted to serve in the army and wear ribbons and silver ornaments on his collar, but because he never was given the chance, he wore the mice in place of stars.
Mickey laughed as if this was the funniest thing in the world, and we laughed right along with him.
“Some hero,” I said to Barbara as we left the restaurant.
We laughed again, both at the repugnant man we’d just had dinner with and because our two gals are better than one plan, intended to keep Mickey distracted, had worked.
Bullies are a difficult challenge, but practicing safety in numbers works every time!
Susan T Spencer is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, award-winning author of www.BriefcaseEssentials.com and former GM and minority owner of The Philadelphia Eagles. The excerpt above is included in the chapter on Bullies and female-phobiques.