Perspectives

A different look at every day issues.

Integrity's Irony

The pace of the rush hour traffic slowed to a crawl and then to a dead stop. Horns began playing their usual obnoxious symphony and nerves strained to stay contained. Jockeying for lanes quickly became a test of nerves and courtesy as the morning’s complement of type A’s made their presence felt.

One such Type A honked at a middle-aged man trying to merge right. Then, he made an
obscene gesture reinforced with unnecessary profanity. The man could only watch as the younger man inserted himself into the spot. Fortunately, the driver right behind the young man slowed, letting him merge.

Ten minutes later, the older gentleman entered the parking garage, found his designated spot, and approached the elevator. As the doors opened, he was surprised to see the elevator nearly full. Suddenly, from behind him, the
same young man pushed past him and took the remaining spot. As the doors closed, he thought, “That is the young man who flipped me off this morning.” He smiled silently to himself and hoped the irony would play out to his favor.

Once inside his office, his secretary handed him a folder and said, “A young man is here to
interview for the opening." After pouring himself a fresh cup of hot coffee and taking his place behind his desk, the secretary ushered the young man into his office. You guessed it—the rude young man from the traffic jam and elevator. The interview began with an introduction and a handshake. He motioned for the young man to sit in the chair in front of his large wooden desk. He smiled to himself as he watched the young man shift nervously in his seat.

He asked the young man several questions—all of which were answered to his satisfaction. He had
graduated in the top three of his class, had impeccable credentials, seemed to be bright—but still had not been able to land a job nearly a year after school.

Finally, the man looked at the young applicant and asked, “Why do you want a job here? With your credentials and grades, I would have thought you’d apply at a larger firm.”

The younger man
sat silently for a brief moment and then said, “It’s been much more difficult than I had suspected it would be. Most of my friends—even those who graduated below me—now have jobs they enjoy. But, I . . .” His eyes fell to the floor and his demeanor conveyed the impression that he had endured many disappointing interviews—with nothing to show for his efforts. He continued, “But I seem to always make the short list and then . . .”

“And then you don’t get hired, right?” He paused
to let his words sink in and then pressed his point. “This morning in traffic, I was the person in the blue car you flipped off. Do you remember? Then again at the elevator in the garage, you pushed past me—even after I had already been waiting.” His words fell hard and the young man knew this would be one time he would not even make the short list. “That’s not the kind of person I want to represent my company.”

After a long moment, the young man lifted his eyes and looked directly into the man’s face. “You are right. . . I’m sorry. . . I thought I was going to be late. I let the traffic get to me . . . I sincerely apologize,” he said as he reached down to retrieve his case. “I won’t take any more of your time. Thank you for taking the time to see me.” He
stood to leave, but the man said, “The interview is not over until I say it’s over. Please sit,” he said, motioning to the chair.

As the young man took his seat, the older man said, “I have more to say.” As the two sat for a moment, he began, “You were rude and arrogant. That might be prerequisites for some jobs, but I stress
building relationships with clients by living and working with integrity—putting the needs of others before my own—and giving an honest effort to making my little corner of the world a better place. I am interested in someone working here who represents the interests of this company and conducts himself in a manner that engenders my trust. Above all else, he must possess the integrity that demonstrates his desire to grow into a productive and useful part of this team”

The words seemed almost canned, except that the young man’s attention was riveted to each word.
Why is he taking this time with me? Didn’t I already kill this deal in traffic?

Sensing he had made his point, the man leaned forward and said, “Young man, do you believe you
have it in you to do that?”

Stunned at the sudden shift in the older man’s composure, he now sensed something he had not sensed before, but he couldn’t put his finger on just what it was. “Do you?” the older man pressed.

A
glimmer of hope appeared out of nowhere as the man awaited his answer. “Sir, I don’t know if I possess those qualities right now, but I’d like the opportunity to work under someone who does—if that makes sense . . I feel I have a lot to learn, and . . . I also feel I have a lot to offer,” he said as his voice trailed off.

“Young man, thank you for your honesty. See, you
do have the makings of the kind of person I’m looking for. You could have given me the answer I wanted to hear, but instead, you were truthful, you showed integrity,” he said as he rose from his seat and extended his hand.

Thinking the interview was over and that he had just sealed his own fate, the young man rose and took the extended hand. The two shook hands and then the younger turned to leave.

“Oh, I have one more question for you,” he said as the young man neared the office’s door. “Can you start on Monday?”


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