When working as a junior banker, one of the most dreaded questions directed at you is “Could you swing by?” This seemingly innocuous request nearly always carries in its wake negative outcomes of greater or lesser degree. Coming from an associate above you, it will typically mean “I’m going to ask you to do something so ridiculous, you won’t believe it”. Of course, he will never say that exactly, but will insist that the frivolous task is critical to complete.
Take the case of George D., an associate who asked me this question one fateful night years ago. Upon “swinging by” at about 9 PM, George instructed me to take a book of probably a thousand pages (an industry trade reference manual of some sort) down to the copy center to have it copied by morning- the whole thing. When I reported back that they wouldn’t do it due to copyright law, he exploded hurling profanities at me then demanded I stand at the copy machine and do it myself. When I kindly told George to “GFY- I won’t be standing at the copier all night”, another explosion ensued which was sure to quickly devolve into a melee had not a nearby MD stepped out of his office to query the cause of consternation. When I explained what I was asked to do, the MD flatly told Georgie boy that “we pay these analysts too much to stand at a copy machine all night”. George hated me ever after.
When this phrase comes from a VP above you it typically means, “Grab your pen and a notebook and prepare yourself for the most hideous assignment imaginable.” For example, an in-depth survey of all Polish dairy farms because the MD at the top thinks the industry is “ripe for consolidation.”
Finally, when “Could you swing by?” comes directly from an MD without first going through someone with a higher title than you, you should be prepared to get “lit up” about a small mistake in a pitch book, or again in this reporters case, when you do swing by his office, you’ll find your MD with an HR rep whom you’ve never met before and they proceed to tell you about the “terms of our separation”.