George Schultz was the Secretary of State in the Regan administration. During those years, in the 1980s, I had just become the assistant superintendent of Building Services at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. This was my first exposure to management and I was 29 years old. I watched Secretary Schultz, in a television interview, state that he would never accept a job that he was not willing to walk away from, if he were asked to compromise his integrity.
Secretary Schultz’s words were a lodestone for me and a compass. During my 25 years in management/administration…I encountered numerous occasions that I had to choose my sense of right and wrong rather than the expediency of what the boss wanted me to do.
I watched as others chose to compromise their values or to ignore their conscience…many times due to being afraid of loosing their employment. There is, indeed a dynamic of doing what the boss wants done…often when it is ethical…and sliding into continuing to do what the boss wants done….When it is not ethical.
The most egregious violation of integrity or an ethical compass is the abuse of people. This comes in many forms which includes; listening to staff’s concerns but not addressing them, assuring staff that you will assist them and subsequently failing to do so, toying with people or moving them about…as if on a chessboard…with no clear managerial need.
Dishonesty or lying to members of your staff are some of the most devastating of lapses in doing what is right. I have walked out of numerous management meetings where others disparaged and demeaned those that they perceived were beneath us!
For years I worked for a leader who felt that the best way to demonstrate that our organization needed more help…was to stage a slow-down of the housekeeping that we produced. I refused to do so! It was my belief then…and to this day that it was our job to clean the campus as well as we possibly could.
Former chancellor Argersinger was terminated in less than a year on the job. Jo Ann was not only a breath of fresh air but an inspiration to the university community. I stood up for her, as did many of my colleagues, but it was scary! I not only had my job threatened but the jobs of my colleagues in Building Services!
It occurs to me that it sounds like that I am bragging on myself…but on the contray…I often felt like the ‘skunk at the garden party!’ I wondered if I was not only a bit to altruistic…or a simple minded oaf…or lacking in understanding on how to get ahead!
Mind you, I was not the only one, but rather I worked with hundreds of stelar colleagues that were examples to me in the art of, ‘To thine own self be true!’
So, you may find yourself in a position that, to your dismay, you are misplaced in! Perhaps your best efforts are misunderstood and met with retaliation or disdain. I have lived my 62 years being a believer that if your efforts are not appreciated…find somewhere that they will be.