I had an odd experience today that I have coined ‘hospitility’ – loosely defined as hostility masquerading as hospitality. Specifically, I walked into the lobby of a company where the receptionist warmly and politely welcomed me, asked me who I was there to see, and then told me very matter-of-factly to sign an NDA.
Perhaps I lead a cloistered life, but I have walked into many hundreds (thousands?) of companies’ offices during the last two decades plus. These companies have ranged from tiny one-person start-ups to multi-billion dollar public and private firms. This was a first for me.
This particular company is a few hundred people and is a division of a large firm that is itself a division of a huge publicly-traded global firm. I knew the company when it was a couple of guys sweatin’ to death, bangin’ out code in their underwear during the summer months because their office building didn’t turn on the air conditioning on nights and weekends!
To ice the cake, I wasn’t even there for a business meeting – I was there to go out to lunch with an old friend who works at the company.
Protecting one’s intellectual property is, of course, eminently reasonable. Demanding that anybody who walks through the front door sign a three page NDA on the spot is unreasonable. The couches in your lobby are not proprietary innovations. The spread of industry magazines on the coffee table are not trade secrets.
Needless to say, I did not sign the NDA. I did have a very nice lunch with my friend. Next time I’ll just meet him at the restaurant!