Having Courage Means

The Hardest Post

Normally, I am not at a loss for words but today I am.   Last week I didn’t write because I was visiting a friend out of town.   We discussed the differences between leadership and management.   We started talking about work and the difficulties in dealing with people along with the challenges of tight budgets and schedules.    He started to describe his situation and the specific challenges he faces with his manager.   He described his manager as a micro-manager,  the manager wants to know where my friend is at all times and what he is working on task by task.  I mentioned that in some cases that behavior is fairly common and that my friend (let us call him “B”) should work on communication and building trust.

As his story continued,  I was faced with one of the most shocking and egregious  acts of a manager I have ever heard.   It left me stunned for a few days.   I struggled with writing about it as well.

The following story includes a video,  I am warning you that if you are highly sensitive to anything that has to do with the holocaust,  do not read on and do not watch the video.  

B was called into the office by his manager.   His manager started by discussing performance.    He told B that he has to meet the deadlines and quotas set and that there are consequences for failure to meet the timelines.   He pulled up this video on YouTube

B explained that it was hard for him to even listen to or pay attention to what his manager said next.  He couldn’t rationalize why he was shown this video and he has been haunted ever since he watched it.    B also explained that he had a co-worker who is Jewish that experienced the same thing with this manager.

Both B and is co-worker are still working for this manager and are afraid to report him.


Having Courage

I personally can’t shake it either.  I watched this movie when it was made back in 1993 and I had a story that went along with the movie myself.   I was still active duty Navy and one of my best friends was from a small town in California.  A few of us got an apartment out in town and we lived together on and off the ship.   One day, I was washing dishes and Jason (my friend) came up behind me and drew something on my neck with a magic marker.   We always would mess with each other in good fun but this time, it had an impact.  I yelled at him and ran over to the mirror only to find it was a swastika.  I felt as if the world stopped for a moment.  I had experienced people drawing swastikas on my sheets and putting on equipment in the navy but most of the people that did this were from small southern towns with no experience of knowing or being around Jews.    I am not defending them; they grew up thinking that the swastika is a symbol of “brotherly love” as I was told back then in 1992.    This was different.  He was one of my best friends and he came from California.  I couldn’t process how he could even think this was remotely funny.   The moment of silence came over both of us and he looked at me realizing that what he did had a serious impact.   I couldn’t get the damn think off of me and I couldn’t even see what the hell I was scrubbing.  I was flustered.    I didn’t know exactly what Schindler’s list was about specifically but I knew it had to do with the holocaust.   That night,  I asked him if I could take him to the movies.     Jason and I went to the theater and sat through the movie.   If you haven’t seen it, there are scenes with a little girl and a bit of color.  Jason was over whelmed with tears and emotion.  I can remember how that felt like it was yesterday.  He looked at me and said “I am so sorry,  I understand now.”    Jason was a shipmate and a brother that would put his life at risk for me and me for him.   It was ignorance and a clear lack of understanding that drove us to that place.

I hadn’t watched this movie or seen parts of it since.

I offered advice to B in the form of standing up and taking action.  I offered him ideas on presenting this situation to his leadership and Human Resources.   He is still in fear for his job and I don’t know if he will do anything about it.    His manager has a laundry list of things that I consider “bad behavior” but this was the worst.

It is easy to say to someone that they “should” have courage in the face of adversity.  It is easy to say for someone to stand up for your beliefs.   Having courage means that he would have to take that risk.    I sure hope he does because this world has enough hate in it.

What would you have offered as advice to B?

Thanks for reading..  I am out of words on this one…





Posted in KM.

3 thoughts on “Having Courage Means

  1. Howie you gave him very good advice. Exposing this manager’s ill will is not the same as a young lad that never understood the deep roots of hate until exposed to it. Anyone especially of authority is responsible for their actions and consequences of these actions towards their subordinates. Exposing the reality of this situation could cost the employee some grief from this manager and if this grief is backed by upper management it might be time to find another position. Hopefully this isn’t the case and a positive change will transpire in the work environment for B and others.


  2. Corporate America has a problem. The “Peter Principle” has been observed and understood for a long time, but in this age of fast-paced change, the corporate immune system doesn’t have the time to react or correct bad behaviors before they get out of control. As a result, we have strong individual contributors that are put into positions of leadership without ever being taught how to lead. Their peers and leaders are often in a similar situation of being promoted above their ability to manage, so there are no mentors or role models to turn to or to “right the ship” when things get out of hand. Instead, the corporation is so focused on getting results today at any cost, that a healthy culture and sustainability aren’t even on anyone’s radar. Unless there’s a potential lawsuit, these dysfunctional cultures will try to sweep bad behavior under the carpet or blame the victim.

    We need to get out of this cycle of considering leadership to be a natural career path. A talented technologist, sales person or PM isn’t necessarily going to be a talented manager (and statistically, they won’t be). They’re not the same skill sets. They certainly won’t be good leaders if they have no role models, training or oversight. Leaders should be promoted because they have leadership skills and the people skills required for the position, not because they’ve logged enough hours as a worker. They should be judged based on their ability to lead, the respect that they have from their team and the ability to get the best from their talent, not because they’ve been able to deflect blame, bully their staff and destroy morale.

    My advice would be to report the incident, watch for the response and use the response to assess whether it’s a culture that you want to continue working in. The best we can do is be true to ourselves, respect and expect respect in return. If we either aren’t respected or can’t respect those that we work with, then we owe it to ourselves to detach ourselves from that environment and refuse to accept it as “normal”.


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