When faced with confrontation, do you head for the hills or walk straight in? Was there ever a time you wished you’d had the opposite reaction?
The phone rang, interrupting me as I was figuring up the receipts and sales for the day.
“Hello,” I said, as I shuffled papers around on my desk.
“Yes, this is Mrs. Donaldson. I am with Super Wholesale and I am trying to reach a Mr. Thomas Agnew,” replied the lady on the other end.
“Yes, this is Mr. Agnew,” I responded, “how may I help you?”
“Good morning Mr. Agnew,” she offered, “I am calling in regards to a Luke Shutter who has applied for a job opening with our company.”
Oh Boy, went through my mind as soon as she said the name, Luke Shutter. Luke was a former employee of mine and had put me down as a character reference. A million things raced through my mind as she continued her speech about Super Wholesale’s hiring procedures and the rest.
I had employed Luke for a few months. He was one of those guys who would land a nice job and be gone in a few weeks or a couple of months. He landed several places, but never seemed to stick anywhere for very long.
I knew the questions she would soon be asking me concerning Luke and his character. I found myself debating my answers, even before the questions were posed.
Luke was a good worker and a likable fellow. However, he had some draw backs as an employee. He could be moody, often he was late to work, and we suspected him of stealing a few items from our business. We never caught him red-handed, but, like the old adage says, Where there is smoke, there is fire, and with Luke there was a whole lot of smoke.
Now, at this point, what I should say may seem fairly straight forward to you, a no-brainer. If he did steal things, obviously I should not give him a high and glowing recommendation. There is a catch, however. Luke was also a young father. He had two boys and a newborn daughter. He and his wife desperately needed for him to find and keep gainful employment. This muddied the waters, as it were.
What should I do? Should I tell the truth? Should I tell Mrs. Donaldson what my gut instinct said was true about Luke or should I give him a good recommendation so he could provide for his kids?
I liked Luke. I wanted him to find a job; and more importantly, keep a job. I wanted his kids to have the necessities provided for them. I wanted his wife to be able to be proud of her husband and respect him.
I’m all for second chances. The problem was that I had given Luke, not only a second chance, but third and fourth; well, you get the idea.
As these thoughts seized my attention, the moment of truth arrived. Mrs. Donaldson began with her questions.
“Do you know Luke Shutter,” she asked?
“Yes,” I said with something of a gulp, “I know Luke.”
“Good,” she replied, “Would you mind answering a couple of questions about him?”
I was hoping to find some excuse at this point. An important call coming in on the other line. A customer needing my undivided attention. A meteor smashing through the roof of the business. Anything to get me out of this spot.
I also wondered why Luke had put me down as a reference. He knew of my suspicions. He knew it got to the point I felt I had to let him go. Why in the world then would he put me down as a reference?
Did he think I was naive? Did he think I would just turn the other cheek? Did he think because I knew his wife and kids I would keep the truth to myself?
Perhaps he did. Maybe he was right. After all, here I sat debating what to say. Yet, I must admit, I felt a bit angry with Luke for putting me in this position.
“No, I don’t mind,” I finally forced out in reply.
“Okay, very good then,” Mrs. Donaldson said. “Can you tell me about Luke’s dependability as a worker?”
I was still wrestling with what to do. The jury was still in deliberation. I smugly thought to myself, Yes, I can, but will I is the real question.
I began my answer with some general, vague comments about how long I had known Luke and how he was a likable guy. I knew I couldn’t keep stalling forever. I had to make a decision.
So I did. I thought about how I was teaching my children to be honest. I thought about how I taught them to live in integrity.
In the end, I chose to tell the truth. I told Mrs. Donaldson about my suspicions of the stolen items. But, I also told her about Luke and his family, especially his children, and how much they needed for him to have a job.
I told her if there was any way she could take a chance on him, to do so.
She thanked me for my honesty. She also thanked me for sharing my personal feelings as well.
As someone who hires people myself, I would want someone to be honest with me and then if I decided to hire that person, at least then, I would know what I was getting into.
She thanked me again and said good-bye.
I still struggle with my decision. I have looked it over from every possible point of view. But, I keep coming back to the issue of honesty and integrity. All the things I told her about Luke were true. He would show up late quite regularly. We did suspect him of stealing on several occasions. He was a likable fellow and he did need a job for his family.
And I did truly want him to find a good job and be able to keep it.
I don’t know how it all turned out. I don’t know if he got the job or not . . . wait, the phone is ringing. I hope Luke hasn’t applied for another job!