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Totally Missed The Point

, , , , , , , | Working | June 20, 2022

It’s the 1990s, and I am running a small team in a financial services company. We have a morning process to manage, with a number of defined tasks. [Coworker #1] is young and has been in the job for only a few months. One day, he calls in sick, with a croaky voice.

Coworker #1: “Maaaate, I’m dying. I’ve got some kind of ‘lurgy. I’m not going to make it in today.”

Me: “Okay, thanks for letting me know. Get well, and I will see you when you’re better.”

A few hours later, I realise I need some data that he only he has access to, so I call his landline.

[Coworker #1] answers in a surprisingly boisterous, chipper voice.

Coworker #1: “Hi, everything’s ready. We’re just waiting for—”

Me: “[Coworker #1], it’s [My Name]. I need access to the [necessary data].”

Coworker #1: “Oh. Ohhhhhhh… Ummmm…” *Croaky voice* “Yeah, it’s in the shared folder. I put a password on it: [password].”

The following day, he returns to work sunburned and hungover.

Me: “[Coworker #1], look, it was fairly obvious from our calls yesterday that you weren’t being completely straight with me. I need to know that I can rely on you. Next time, just be straight with me.”

A few days later, [Coworker #2], an old hand who has been with the company for years and is amazing at his job, calls me early.

Coworker #2: “Mate, I’m sorry, but I’ve been out all night, just got through the door. I am still drunk and there’s no way I am coming in today.”

Me: “Right, no problem. Thanks for letting me know. I’ve got you covered.”

[Coworker #1] gets wind of the conversation and complains.

Coworker #1: “Wait, you gave me grief for pulling a sickie, but when [Coworker #2] tells you he’s too drunk to work, you give him a pass. That’s not fair?”

Me: “The difference is that he has proven himself time and again, and he was completely straight with me about his reasons. He didn’t try to mislead me, and that means that I know I can trust him with other things. It’s vital that, in our team, we have complete trust but manage what we disclose with everybody else to ensure that there’s no blowback and we can continue to operate as we see fit.”

He mulls that for a while and seems to accept it.

A few months later, I go on holiday and my boss fills in for me managing my team. When I get back, the boss calls me into a meeting.

Boss: “I am sorry, but I had to let [Coworker #1] go while you were on holiday.”

Me: “What? Why?”

Boss: “Well, he called me out of the blue and said he wasn’t coming to work because he’d been drinking all night and, when I told him that that wasn’t acceptable, he said you let [Coworker #2] do it all the time.”

I tried to straighten it out and get [Coworker #1] his job back but, after I explained, [Boss] insisted that he was too stupid to be employed.

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