That may sound a little odd but I will explain. From an early age, I always had a sense of what was right and wrong. I expected people to follow “the rules.” I remember being in first grade. Ms. Kennedy, our first grade teacher told us that if we read the sentences on our paper out loud, we would get a cookie. Jonathan Anderson who sat behind me refused to read his sentences. Ms. Kennedy skipped around the room calling on all of the other children in class who loudly and proudly read their sentences. I was so excited to get called on, I read extra sentences in the hopes that I would get extra cookies.
At the end of the reading lab, Ms. Kennedy walked around the room, laid a napkin on the desk of the children who participated. She went into the supply closet and brought out a large tin filled with homemade oatmeal cookies. She walked around the classroom, placed a cookie on the napkin of each child who read their sentences. I watched her face light up each time she put a cookie in front of someone. She would bend down and whisper a few words and the child she spoke to would mirror the excitement and joy on her face.
This scene was repeated thirty times. Ms. Kennedy was two desks in front of me handing Lisa Davis a cookie. I was sad because I knew that Jonathan would not get a cookie. He didn’t follow the rules and shouldn’t get one. I turned to Jonathan and whispered to him “Please read your sentences so you can get a cookie too.” Jonathan looked at me with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen and said, I don’t know this word, so I don’t want to read. I will look dumb.”
I got out of my seat, bent down next to him, and whispered the word in his ear. I quickly got back into my seat. Ms. Kennedy came to my seat and placed the cookie on my napkin. When she bent down I whispered to her “Ms. Kennedy, Jonathan is ready to read his sentences.” Ms. Kennedy looked back at me and stated firmly, “It’s too late. He didn’t read his sentence when I asked him to and now he won’t get a cookie.” She placed the cookie on my napkin, stood up, and walked back towards the front of the room.
I quickly penned a note on my notebook paper, ran up to the front of the class, handed it to Ms. Kennedy and walked back to my seat. After a few moments, Ms. Kennedy called out to Jonathan. “Jonathan, I understand you would like to read your sentences. Please go ahead.” After Jonathan read his sentences, Ms. Kennedy walked back to his desk, placed a napkin on the desk, and gently laid two oatmeal raisin cookies on the napkin. She bent down, smiled, and whispered in his ear.
I turned and watched Jonathan’s eyes fill with tears. You see I knew that Jonathan’s mom was in the hospital and his dad spent the night with her all night. Jonathan was so upset he didn’t eat breakfast with me and my family that morning. He didn’t eat lunch in the cafeteria and if he didn’t get anything to eat soon, he would probably pass out.
Ms. Kennedy couldn’t break the rules she set for the class else the other children wouldn’t listen and would be out of control. I gave her a note that spelled out what was really going on and gave her the opportunity to fix what was wrong with her employee while saving face with the others. I also helped solve Jonathan’s dilemma. I helped him figure out the word, gave him a way to right the wrong he’d done, and have the opportunity for a second chance.
Like I said, I’ve always been a human resources professional. I’ve always tried to mediate disagreements, help people see the error of their ways, try to offer assistance in achieving their goals, and help the people in charge be fair and to show them every side of each story. Has it always worked? Truthfully no, but not for lack of trying. If I found that I was constantly arguing on the side of truth, equity, and integrity but no one was listening, I would get frustrated. Either they are going to change or I would have to self-select and move on to another company.