One Man’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.
A friend of mine recently quit his private industry job. He was young but one of the best of his field, though I’m sure he never fully realized how much his clients appreciated him, mainly because he had the occasional retired General picking him apart. His technical skills were excellent, but it was his easygoing personality and customer service attitude that made him extra special. Even without him telling me so, I had no doubt that he genuinely cared about his clients, more so than their money.
He’d been under pressure from his boss for a long time to do something he believed was wrong. He couldn’t bring himself to treat people that way. He knew he wouldn’t be able to work for his employer forever and that time was running out, but an ethics question forced the issue and he left the company in an instant.
I admire that…that he took that kind of leap without anything to fall back on…because of his sense of integrity. That he took such a huge risk because he couldn’t stomach his employer’s antics.
In my Department of Defense career, I’ve seen far too many people cave in when it came to an ethical question. They’ve wanted to be team players. They’ve wanted to be liked. Two years ago, a woman I’d respected stood in front of me and asked me to save her.
“You don’t need me to save you,” I told her. “That’s not my job. It’s your job to stand up to them and say no.”
“But in your job, you can stop it so I don’t have to say no.”
I agreed. I could—and did—put a halt to the coming train wreck she was working on. Four people came to me to complain about an ethics issue with their boss, and it turned into a royal mess that got my boss, me, and two other colleagues in trouble because the four people who provided evidence to us backed down during the investigation and denied they’d said anything to any of us. Including the woman pleading for my help.
“Please do something, Lorna,” she’d told me the second time we discussed it. “I can’t. I can’t have them mad at me or I’ll never get promoted.”
I’d been in her situation. I’d chosen having people mad at me. And just by her telling me of an unethical situation meant I’d have to take action if she wouldn’t. That was my job.
“I know what they’re doing is unethical,” she told me, “but I need that promotion.”
So when my friend told me he’d left his company and why, my heart went out to him. Whereas my respect for my former colleague plummeted when she put her own ego ahead of what was best for the soldier in the fields, my level of respect for my friend was ratcheted up a few more notches. I’m proud to have a friend like that.
How coincidental that I called a writer-buddy yesterday afternoon to check on her recovery from an eye strain and she had guests in her home at that moment. Before we could end our call, a conversation broke out in the background and my writer-pal asked me if I knew my friend who’d left his job and where he was and if he was still in the business.
It seems that her guests had had a thriving business relationship with my friend and that he was the only person left in the business that they trusted. They’d called his office to schedule a meeting and had been told he was gone, no longer in that field at all, and not coming back because of certain deficiencies, which they spelled out in an attempt to discredit their former employee.
Only, it didn’t work. What they listed as a deficiency was exactly why his clients trusted him and no other.
According to my writer-pal’s guests, his former employer has since replaced him and wanted to arrange for them to meet his successor. They said, “Not no, but hell no! And when we find out where he went, we’re taking our business there.”
During my phone conversation, I could hear the irate houseguest in the background complaining about the attitude of the person on the phone with her that day and how if she knew where my friend had found a new job, that she’d announce it in church on Sunday and she’d spread the word to all of his former clients that he’d landed elsewhere and in a far better place.
I had to laugh. His old employer was so busy talking trash about him that they didn’t realize they were reinforcing to his former clients just what a treasure he was.