Shortly after receiving my first promotion to Customer Service Supervisor, I was confronted with my first managerial quandary. My company would often consign products to large customers in the hopes that it would stimulate the purchase of large quantities of them at a later date. As such, in reviewing the list of outstanding consignments, I noted that several TV’s that had been shipped to a local hotel had never been returned, even though the consignment had expired. I confronted our salesman who assured me he would take care of it. After an appropriate time had passed and nothing had happened, I drew up an invoice and sent it to the hotel management with appropriate documentation requesting either the return of the product or payment for it. It took only a few days before I was summoned into my managers office where I was asked it I realized that “I had placed the General Electric Co in an unfavorable position with Holiday Inns of America. Due to the minimal cost of the product, GE was going to just write them off. The lesson was that I needed to temper my approach and consider consequences when dealing with large customers, or any customer for that matter. What they could not criticize me for however, was administering company policy and doing my job.
Over the years, as I progressed through the ranks, I became more pragmatic, but no less staunch in performing my responsibilities. I once told a sales manager that I would not be able to honor his request for a truckload of freezers he saw sitting in the distribution warehouses inventory as they had been forecast ed by another sales region for a promotion and I was not at liberty to let him have them without checking with his counterpart in the other region. Sales managers were not used to people saying no, especially people several notches down the totem pole from them. Needless to say, the news reached my boss before I even got back to the office, and I was summoned upon arrival. Upon entering my bosses office, he asked me what I had done and I reiterated my conversation, whereupon he said, “you have got to be the most unpolitical person I know, but you were right. I have called the other sales manager and he absolutely refuses to relinquish the product.”
And so it goes, similar situations raising their head throughout my career. I know I could have taken the easier road, but that would have required compromising my values. I often thought about when my working days were over, that all those issues would mean nothing, if I remembered them at all. What would be important was, did I do what I was supposed to do, given the responsibilities with which I was charged. Did I maintain my ethics, even when the decisions were hard or unpopular.
I don’t write this as a “Look at me. Am I great of what?” On the contrary. I write this because of what I see around me today. I see the CDC “discovering” old smallpox vaccines, and massive automotive recalls, and a government crumbling under the weight of self aggrandizement, and I ask myself, “How can this happen?” Where have the values gone? How can people work and live within, and contribute to corrupt organizations, and not feel any guilt? How can they go to work every day and not do their job and be OK with that. We hear about government workers that were found spending 80% of their time watching porn. We have officials raise their hand and swear to tell the truth, then lie or subvert the truth. How can they condone saying one thing while doing another? Maybe it is because there is no consequence anymore. People get caught, but nothing changes. When has a verbal admonishment ever changed a practice, or a philosophy? I have to look no further the the VA or the IRS.
I guess I have become obsolete, because it is a different world today then the one I lived in most of my life. My dad would say “don’t take anything you didn’t earn.” I took that to heart and am pretty comfortable with the result. He was an unskilled laborer with a grade school education, but he lived by his values and instilled them in his kids. But it’s not that way today it seems. I feel like I must have eaten the last cookie. Just sayin.