Keep it to yourself

Kim, Project Engineer for Moore Excavation Group, one of the largest excavation and heavy civil contractors in the Portland Area, told Session 2 of the Leadership Development Lab:

“In 2001, I was 19 years old and working as a Customer Service Representative at an auto glass wholesaler in Wilsonville, OR. I was taking phone orders from our commercial customers. Learning how to talk to our customers while looking up the correct parts was challenging. I was shy, but I spoke to the same people day in and out, so it didn’t take long to develop good relationships.

“Melissa, the manager of one of our biggest clients in Clackamas called in orders multiple times a day. We both lived in the Milwaukie area; were close in age and had young toddlers. She was one of my favorites. Occasionally, we would send out a “hot shot.” Melissa’s company had more “hot shots” because they were our top customer.

“One day Melissa called in a ‘hot shot.’ I called out to the warehouse but there weren’t any drivers available, so my manager told me to take it. I had never gotten to meet any of our customers. I was excited to meet Melissa and put a face to her name.

“When I got back to the office, I spoke my immature mind to a few of my co-workers. I told them Melissa was cute and nice, except she had eyes to close together. They looked weird!

“The very next day when Melissa called in she said, “So, you think my eyes are too close together, huh?” I thought I would literally die; I was so embarrassed. I stammered, my heart was in my chest, I felt so guilty, and ashamed. I apologized, tried to make up some excuse to save face. I have no idea who told her what I said, and it doesn’t matter. I should never have said anything.

“I worked there for another four years. Melissa and I talked daily. Luckily, she was a forgiving person, we never had issues. But it could have been ugly!

“The lesson I learned from this experience of being a bully by talking behind someone’s back, condemning them, making fun of a physical trait a person has no control over is childish and immature. If it’s not a comment I would want to hear about myself, keep it to myself.

“The action I call you to take is to be professional, don’t criticize or condemn others. Think before you speak.

“The benefit you’ll gain from thinking before you speak and never criticizing or condemning is a clear conscience and professional appearance. You will be admired and looked up to.”

Stop talking behind people’s back –
you can’t take it back.