Once, there were four men, all working for the same company. All four began with good intentions, and a desire to serve their boss. Each had distinctly different histories.
The first worker grew up in terrible conditions and suffered from addictions. Once those pieces of the past were overcome, he became a diligent worker, staying in the same job for more than a quarter of a century.
The second worker grew up with a passion for knowledge and attended an ivy league school. His dedication to his work and consistency in furthering his knowledge base allowed him to be placed on assignment by his boss, away from the company, but still beholden to it, charged with overseeing the training of new workers.
Worker number three grew up simply, without much conflict, and enjoyed pleasing those around him, maintaining a sense of peace. His co-workers liked him so much, they voted him into a position of authority over them; the boss approved.
The fourth worker was called to work for the company at a young age, but decided to pursue another career for a time. Eventually, the company called again and he committed himself to the new task at hand.
As a new employee, the fourth worker provided the company with his past experience, which was extensive. In his first interview with the boss and the board, they told him that most new employees have to undergo many years of study before taking on the full responsibilities of the job. But, they also told him, with his education and experience, he would receive the full responsibilities of an employee in two years. This was reiterated to him by his mentor, worker number one, who was charged with taking him under his wing in the local branch office.
Time progressed and worker number four completed all that was asked of him. His mentor asked him to begin leading others, as leadership was to be a part of his education. The worker knew he had completed what was required, and sent correspondence to the second worker, the man overseeing his training. Unfortunately, the man was often too busy to respond, leaving worker number four in confusion as to his position and future with the company.
More time passed. Too much time. Four years, to be exact. When worker number four complained to his mentor that he was receiving no response from worker number two, he was told by his mentor to be patient. Worker number four reminded his mentor of the two-year-plan, but was given no answer for the delay.
The mentor began to notice how well worker number four was doing in his duties. He had a strong vision for the future, yet the vision confused him. Worker number four said he saw his future with the company as one in a supporting role. More of a vice president than a CEO. The mentor didn’t understand the concept of someone not wanting to be the man in charge.
Besides that, worker number four was up on all of the latest technology. While worker number four used his iPad for presentations, worker number one still used note cards. Once, when worker number one was called away unexpectedly, worker number four had to give a presentation on a moment’s notice in his mentor’s place. As people exited the presentation, their praise of the words, the method, and the spirit in which the presentation was given did not go unnoticed by worker number one’s closest advisors.
The advisors of worker number one held their position in the company as tightly as a drowning man to a life-preserver. Gossiping, threatening, and bullying were their most effective tactics. Worker number four had previously brought the divisive methods of the advisors to his mentor’s attention, yet his concern was swept away with the wave of a hand.
Worker number one began to resent the accolades given to worker number four, so he wrote a letter to workers two and three. Together, they agreed to word a statement that was vague enough to allow them to look good, yet strong enough to make worker number four look bad. The first three workers effectively removed worker four from his leadership role. Their letter said that worker four lacked the wisdom and maturity necessary to lead in the company. They even sent a copy of the letter to the boss.
Worker number four was stunned. Only months earlier he was presented in front of the board of the company and granted a license to give presentations. He had even been told by his mentor, “I trust you. You don’t have to ask my permission to do things around this branch office.” Stranger still, he had been awaiting his certificate which granted him permission to make the presentations since May. It arrived in his mail six months later, the day after the letter from the other three workers telling him he was no longer allowed to give presentations. To top it all off, he was told in the letter, “If you have any further questions, please speak to your mentor.” He had no recourse, and was not allowed to appeal to a higher authority.
He had no hearing. He had no opportunity to refute what was said against him. His fate had been decided by three men, friends for decades, based upon the complaints of worker number one. And worker number four had no idea what those complaints were.
Until the following week.
A four-page letter arrived in the mail from worker number one. Cloaked in the guise of concern and caring, yet dripping with vitriol and lies, the words of worker number one caused worker number four to question the sanity of the man he once called ‘mentor.‘
Worker number four now fully understood the intentions of his mentor were not to assist him in his journey, but to destroy his reputation and character in front of anyone who would have any say in his company standing.
Worker number four wrote his own letter responding to each charge leveled against him. He sent copies to workers one, two, and three, as well as to the boss, to everyone on the company board, and everyone on the local board. He walked out the front door of the local branch office and never looked back.
It seemed as though worker number one and his advisors had won. They had deeply damaged worker number four’s trust and respect for anyone from the company. His parting words in his response letter began to arrive on the desks of the other workers and the boss. Suddenly, those who were always too busy to respond to his questions over the past years wanted to talk to him. They began to backtrack, attempting to smooth things over. After all, worker number four was a really good worker and they didn’t want to lose him.
“We didn’t mean it as a punishment,” they said.
“You removal from making presentations had nothing to do with worker number one’s letter,” they said.
“We had always planned on giving you a new mentor at this stage,” they said.
Sadly, there was no contact whatsoever from the boss of the company.
Worker number four took in their words with the proverbial grain of salt and reserved judgement. “Okay, I’m listening. Where do we go from here?”
Worker number two became worker number four’s new mentor. He asked worker number four to read a couple of books, do a couple of reports, and meet with him. Worker number two spoke of the angry letters he’d received from worker number one’s closest advisors, all hateful toward worker number four. He said he was between a rock and a hard place.
Deciding between truth versus loyalty to a longtime friend is indeed a difficult place to be.
A few months passed and worker number four was brought, once again, before the company board. Ever the peacemaker and wanting to clear the air, worker number three asked worker number four if the whole messy business of the letters and his former mentor were put behind him, water under the bridge. Worker number four agreed that is was over. Done. He expressed intentions to move forward with the company in a new branch office and with the new mentor.
Worker number three asked, “Then why are there still angry letters being sent? I’ve been told one was recently sent.”
Worker number four was dumbfounded. He had not written any angry letters. Neither had anyone in his family. His final correspondence with anyone had taken place in his response to worker number one’s accusations many months earlier.
“Well, you’ll have to take that up with your wife,” said worker number three. “Let’s adjourn for lunch.”
Worker number four was astounded. “You just made an accusation, sir. You’d better back it up with evidence.”
“No, take it up with your wife, young man. Meeting adjourned.”
Worker number four indeed asked his wife if she knew of any angry letters since his resignation from the local branch five months earlier. Shocked at the accusation, she honestly told him that, no, she had not sent anything. November, the date of his resignation, was the last correspondence she had had with anyone regarding the company.
Worker number four e-mailed worker number two, asking for evidence of the accusations made in front of the company board. More than a week passed as they waited for a response. The response, which was sent from worker number two, contained an apology from worker number three. The ‘angry letter’ in question was actually old news, being dated eight months prior. Worker number one and one of his advisors had unearthed what they hoped would be seen as damning evidence against worker number four. In reality, the letter was nothing more than friendly correspondence, expressing some concerns, but still positive toward the company and it’s leadership. Worker number three apologized for smearing the names of worker number four and his wife. Part of his e-mail read,
“Someone had come forward with old news, I understood it was new news until I was given a copy and realized the error in the timing. It reminds me of the tendency this kind of thing has to take on a life of it’s own, the damage it does long after the controversy is no longer an issue. The hard work required on the part of everyone to put these things away, especially when the ghosts of the past keep coming up. There is no way to avoid continuing to deal with it for a person who wants to be clean. I will need to move more thoughtfully in the future, I’m sorry for the oversight. We learn more in our failures than we ever do in our successes.”
So, worker number three’s accusation was based solely on the word of another; he had not seen the evidence prior to bringing it up in the meeting.
Worker number four requested that this apology also be sent to everyone who had been present at the meeting when worker number three brought up the accusation. Doing so, he reasoned, was the only way to completely clear the air, not to mention the reputations of himself and his wife.
He received no response to his request. Falling back to his previous mode of operation, worker number two got caught up in his work and did not respond to worker number four’s request that the apology be forwarded to others. After all, it didn’t really affect his character. In fact, to make sure the apology was forwarded would make his best friend–worker number one–look pretty bad. He’d shelve the request for the time being.
Three months later, after the third request, a response finally arrived in worker number four’s inbox. Worker number two wrote, “I think some of those clarifications were not communicated to the entire board simply because we got caught up in our work. We’ll try to be sure all info is shared at the next board meeting.”
They’ll try. The next board meeting was five months away. Eight months will have passed since worker number four’s name, and his wife’s name, were dragged through the mud by men who are supposed to be upstanding, honest leaders–examples of integrity. It would seem they are more concerned with maintaining the status quo than following the rule of the company founder, who is the reason their corporation exists.
What is that rule?
“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” This is also known as “The Golden Rule” and it’s found in Matthew 7:12.
In this particular situation, only the man who created the corporation has the final say.
But I ask you this: With which of these four men would you want to associate? Which of them would you hire? Which of them would you want in a position of leadership? The worker who deliberately tried to destroy another worker’s job and reputation? The worker who found difficulty in choosing honor and integrity over friendship? The worker who jumped to conclusions and made accusations before seeing any evidence? Or the worker who stayed the course even though his mentors and leaders failed him in every sense, especially in their poor example of leadership, those who were lacking in the wisdom and maturity necessary to lead?
I say to you, I would choose worker number four.
This is based upon a true story. I’m of the suspicion that because we live in a fallen world, this story can be seen as having taken place in the lives of many. If you see yourself as worker number four, as much and as often as is necessary, forgive. Over and over. I’ve had to. I’ve had to release my disappointment in leadership over and over in prayer. But in the words of worker number three in his apology to worker number four, “It reminds me of the tendency this kind of thing has to take on a life of it’s own, the damage it does long after the controversy is no longer an issue. The hard work required on the part of everyone to put these things away, especially when the ghosts of the past keep coming up. There is no way to avoid continuing to deal with it for a person who wants to be clean.”
I dare say that had worker number three immediately passed on his apology and clarification of events to the members of the board, then he would have made the work of putting things away, of keeping the ghosts in their graves a far easier task. Instead, he chose to stifle his own apology, hoping the waters would calm on their own.
I don’t think the company’s founder is pleased when issues are swept under the carpet instead of being dealt with in a timely manner.
That worker number four is still a part of the company is a testament to his dedication to the work, to the company founder, and to the golden rule. He is determined to treat others better than he has been treated.
Someday, when he meets the company founder, his reward will be great, and the founder will indeed say, “Well done, good and faithful worker.”