The boss had all he could take. He’d endured more than any CEO should have to, he decided. He’d had it up to here. He’d reached his saturation point. No more! he resolved, and he left his staff a two-and-a-half-page letter that began with this paragraph:
I am taking a leave of absence for a month. . . . I am not sure what I am going to do or where I am going, but I will not be here in the office.
He’s not the first executive who felt like turning his back on a mess and walking out. The fact of his frustration was not unique. But what prompted his frustration is worthy of note.
There has been a history around here of people not respecting each other and as of this moment, it’s over. It has gotten to the point where I am afraid to even leave the office for fear that people will begin to air their differences. I have been afraid to take even an extended vacation for myself.
Going forward, people are either going to treat each other with respect, dignity, and courtesy or else I will retire. I have worked too hard and too long to watch this company be torn down. I’ll get out (and cash out) before I allow that to happen.
YOU WILL treat one another respectfully or else I am leaving.
When I return, I will ask several people in the office whether or not they have been treated more respectfully in my absence. If they have, I will roll up my sleeves and get back to work in earnest. If nothing has changed, I will move on.
The frustrated boss went so far as to leave his organization specific assignments to fulfill during his thirty-day hiatus. Among them, “Simply say ‘Good morning.’ It’s not that hard.”
It wasn’t the economy that depleted his strength. The leader wasn’t exhausted from the hours at work or the competition in the marketplace. It was the toxic atmosphere of the office. His company was in the lumber business. Many of his employees interacted with transport units on the local docks. The macho world of longshoremen and boat captains had contaminated the culture of respect he sought to promote.
The boss kept his word. He didn’t return to the premises for a month. When he did, the atmosphere was different. Employees were learning the meaning of the word considerate. The gruff demeanor of the men had modified into a kinder, more thoughtful style of interaction. His ultimatum had its desired effect.1
Perhaps we need an ultimatum on society. Oh, the “rages” that rage through people: road rage, airline passenger rage, cell phone rage, checkout rage, social media rage, sideline rage, parking lot rage, car alarm rage, and even rage from drivers who honk at people on crutches.
Social media takes rage to a new level. The online banter blisters and bruises. Words we might never say to a person’s face, we feel safe to post on the internet. Rudeness has reached the point where we can all relate to the sign I saw in a medical lab: “If you are grouchy, rude, impatient, or inconsiderate, there will be a $10 charge just for putting up with you.”
Yes, a tariff on tackiness has its appeal. A more practical response might be the one suggested by the apostle Paul: “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16).
Paul gave identical instructions to other churches. Twice to the Corinthians: “Give each other a holy kiss when you meet” (1 Cor. 16:20 NCV), and “Greet each other with a holy kiss” (2 Cor. 13:12 NCV). Then to the Thessalonians: “Give each other a holy kiss when you meet” (1 Thess. 5:26 NCV).
Max Lucado, How Happiness Happens: Finding Lasting Joy in a World of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019).
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