The Seven Habits of Highly Questionable Op-Ed Contributors

Rare is the guest columnist or op-ed contributor who isn't trying to sell something, be it a book or a company or a war.

Rare is the guest columnist or op-ed contributor who isn’t trying to sell something, be it a book or a company or a war. And so it is up to an editor to ensure that the sales pitch is somehow worth reading — perhaps it is particularly timely or contrarian or delivered by a uniquely situated person.

Not so in the case of and Keith Ferrazzi, “CEO of consulting and professional development firm Ferrazzi Greenlight,” who wrote a column this week on the evergreen topic of office romance. In an instant classic of the self-promotional genre that will surely rank up near Thomas Friedman’s relentless use of the phrase “the world is flat,” Ferrazzi manages to work into his absurdly clunky, jargon-laden lede a plug for his company’s services and the title of his book (both of which are, of course, repeated in his bio at the end of the piece):

“Whenever companies have me help their people build stronger relationships for professional success and personal joy, I always share one powerful point that’s quite prominent in my book Never Eat Alone: Business relationships are personal relationships.”

Ferrazzi must have thought long and hard about how to cram all of that self-promotion into his first sentence, because the rest of his column reads like an afterthought. He tells us that office romances are not unusual. He cops to two such relationships himself, using jargon to dress up what amounts to TMI: “Both times I was involved with someone from work, it was our shared passion for growing the business and achieving our team’s lofty goals that served as the initial foundation for the relationship … we derived great joy from sharing our business victories.” He makes an Excel joke: “[C]ouple the unmistakable monotony of Microsoft Excel with our undeniable human sexual nature, and it only takes a hint of physical attraction to make it more fun to fancy bodies in bedsheets than noses in spreadsheets.” And he offers seven “Rules for Office Romance,” one of which is, in part: “The only thing you should get caught ‘making’ at work is more money for your company.”

It’s clear what the Ferrazzis of the world get out of columns such as this (nothing says “vanity column” like an oversized headshot). It’s also clear what’s readers get out of columns such as this (very little). What’s unclear is what gets out of it. After all, not only do they not have to worry about filling pages — being a Web site and all — they already have someone on staff, Scott Reeves, who is perfectly capable of cranking out “Seven Tips For Any Topic You Can Imagine.”

“Smell Ya Later/Seven Tips On Tackling Employee Hygiene Problems,” anyone?

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.