That was after I connected the dots.
Every time I went to pick up the rescue pooch following a business trip or doing an onsite day assignment, the 60-something would recount who in the complex has screwed up.
The tipping point when she detailed how a family with a new baby had been evicted. They were behind in the rent. There was no compassion in her voice. Just glee at others' misfortune. I could have been in that family's financial pickle when I was in my early 30s.
My sense that she had to go was confirmed when several neighbors asked, not with genuine concern, if my business had picked up. Once, in small talk, I had confided to the nanny that no new assignments had come in. Of course, that became embedded in the complex's memory bank. They viewed me not as a great success.
Clearly, there is no such thing as small talk. Not if we Baby Boomers want to continue to work. Everything we say could and often does have an impact on our personal branding.
When the U.S. economy was crushing it, there was a margin for error in how we presented ourselves. There was so much work available. If the neighbor who was a vice president at a Fortune 500 perceived us as a jerk, like, who really cared.
That was then. Now opportunities are scarce. Every perception of us potentially could be factored in our ability to land or keep work.
Takeaway: There is no such entity as small talk.