A: I don't suppose you can remember what you so quaintly call your fist-fight was about but anyway the cause is immaterial. What troubles both you and your opponent is a residual trace memory: yours of victory, his of defeat. Despite the fact that none of his colleagues can possibly know of this distant and unseemly spat, your client feels inferior in your presence. However undignified the process, you need to reverse this.
What you must do, as publicly as possible, is to contrive occasions on which you are seen to be wrong and Nigel is seen to be right. Here are a couple of suggestions - but please feel free to improvise your own humiliating moments should the opportunity arise.
- At a large planning meeting, at which several of his underlings are present, wait until your client mentions his market share of 24.7 per cent - and then correct him. You assert the true figure to be 27.4 per cent. With confidence bordering on cockiness, call on your account planner to settle the matter. She confirms that the true figure is 24.7 per cent.
You apologise abjectly while simultaneously giving the impression of physically deflating. (This can be convincingly achieved by allowing your shoulders to slump and pushing your bottom forward on your chair.)
- When presenting to your client's parent board, recount amusingly how you and Nigel wagered a significant sum on the outcome of some creative research with Nigel the comprehensive winner. (It is all to the good, of course, if this incident actually took place; but Nigel is unlikely to correct you even if it didn't.)
A word of warning. Two incidents along these lines should be sufficient.
More than two and Nigel and his associates may begin to conclude that you are terminally incompetent.
Q: I've just joined an agency as a junior art director after trying for a job for 18 months. My elation has been tempered by discovering that my creative director, whom I respected, hired me because (as he's told everyone) I have large breasts. Now I notice the way he always leers at me. What should I do? Incidentally, he's older than my father.
A: First, you should write a letter to your managing director with strict instructions that it remains unopened.
It should be signed and dated and contain a detailed description of your plan (see below) and the reasons why you've found it necessary. Then you must move into obsessional mode.
Take every opportunity to lean across this ageing lecher's desk - preferably in the presence of several others. Stand as close as you can to him in the crowded lift. In meetings, hold his eyes across the table until he looks away. Call him at home, asking his advice on some weekend work you're doing. Then call him again later. And again the next Saturday.
Leave a message with his wife that Angela's called: he'll know what it's about. Design a logo for yourself (preferably incorporating the attributes for which he apparently hired you) and use it to sign off those intriguing Post-It notes that you leave every day on his laptop. Send text messages of tantalising ambiguity.
On a warm day, wearing tank top and hot pants, contrive to meet him while weekend shopping with his family.
That should do it. It's ten to one on he'll take serious fright and plead with you to keep your distance. But should he be idiotic enough to complain about you, you'll be pleased you wrote that letter.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. A compilation of his business advice, Another Bad Day at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced £5.99. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.