I remember going home from work one day and reporting to my spouse that I had better begin looking for another job. My boss had demanded that I do something that, in good conscience, I could not do.
“I want you to fire John Bailey,” the new superintendent had said. “But what has he done?” I asked. “He is responsible for building this monstrosity that we call a Performing Arts Complex. How can we justify such an expenditure of funds when we need classrooms so badly?”
“But John Bailey is just a teacher,” I protested. “The former superintendent is the one who actually built the Performing Arts Centre, not John Bailey. John helped draw up the plans based on certain standards and he oversaw some of the details but he was never authorized to do more. He did only what your predecessor asked him to do. How can I fire him for that?”
“I want him gone!” came the reply.
I am not the only one ever to be placed in this kind of situation. It happens all the time. We are often called upon to make choices when there really isn’t a good option—or perhaps there isn’t a bad one.
I had an accountant friend who was told by his supervisor to back-date some purchase orders. His supervisor had ordered thousands of dollars worth of furniture without following the required procedures. Now that the furniture had been delivered, he was trying to cover his indiscretion. Payment could not be made without the right paperwork.
Fortunately, my friend refused, even on threat of being fired. The supervisor eventually faced criminal charges. Had my friend given in to his demands, he, too, might have become a defendant.
You’re away from home and have an opportunity to cheat on your spouse. The temptation is great. You think nobody will ever know. What do you do?
Texas A&M professors, Roemer Visser and Michael Shaub said, “If you don’t know who you are, powerful people can make you who they want you to be. So it’s worth the time to clearly define who you are and say, ‘This is where I stand. These are my principles.’”
(“Ethics 101”, @Mays, Spring 2010 pp. 20-23)
I am reminded of the story of two boys who came upon a pair of shoes by a field. One boy said, “Let’s fill them with rocks and see what the owner does.” The other boy said, “Let’s put a dollar in each shoe and see what happens.”
The man was watering his field and finally came back to get his shoes, which he put aside so carefully in order to save them. When he put his foot into his shoe, he pulled it out again quickly and found the dollar. Then he looked in the other shoe and found another dollar.
Tears came into his eyes, and he kneeled on the ground and thanked his Maker in a voice filled with emotion that now he could buy some food to take home to his hungry family. The two boys also went home thankful and happy. (Oscar A. Kirkham, “Say the Good Word,” pp. 19-21)
In my case, I confided my dilemma to one of my boss’s trusted colleagues. He was a consultant in personnel practices. He intervened with my boss and Mr. Bailey continued to be employed by the school district. So did I. It wasn’t long before Mr. Bailey and the new superintendent became fast friends. (By the way, the new superintendent built a new multi-million dollar sports complex.)
Frank Outlaw said, “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”