One of my service engineers and I were scheduled to meet at our office at 9.00 am one morning and proceed to a customer’s factory to meet the customer at 10.00 am. I reached our office at 8.55 am, but the service engineer reached at 9.10 am. He apologised for being late, but I was terribly upset and gave him a stern lecture on punctuality as we drove towards the customer’s factory.
Since I had kept a buffer of 15 minutes, we managed to reach just in time for our meeting, only to find that the customer himself had not arrived. When he came in at 10.30 am, he apologised, explaining that there was unusually heavy traffic that morning. Both my service engineer and I knew this was not true because the customer had used the same road that we had. Obviously, he had started late from home. Instead of pointing this out, I told the customer it was OK.
I realised that I was using different yardsticks for my service engineer and for my customer. In fact, I realised that my behaviour in most similar situations depended on who the other person was. Whenever a supplier or service provider, say an electrician or a plumber, would be late for any appointment, I would give the person a severe dressing down. However, I often tolerated the unpunctuality of my customers, bank officials and others because offending them could affect my business interests.
On the way back to office after our meeting, I explained to my service engineer that ‘practical considerations’ had prevented me from reacting to the customer’s unpunctuality in the same way that I had reacted to his latecoming. I’m not sure if he accepted my explanation, but from that day, I have consciously tried not to speak harshly to juniors, suppliers and service providers when they are unpunctual. I believe that if I cannot speak out against the unpunctuality of my customers, bank officials and other ‘important’ persons’, I have no moral right to be harsh to other ‘not-so-important’ persons in the same situation.
Don’t we all have ‘different strokes for different folks’?
Late for a meeting? The ‘not-so-important’ person is unpunctual. The ‘important’ person is normally punctual, but she/he got delayed due to factors beyond her/his control.
Doesn’t work hard enough? The ‘not-so-important’ person is a lazy bum who has no initiative. The ‘important’ person is ‘not in the rat race’.
Didn’t achieve the desired result? The ‘not-so-important’ person didn’t put in enough effort. The ‘important’ person was unlucky.
Tipsy? The ‘not-so-important’ person is drunk. The ‘important’ person is mildly intoxicated.
Eats too much? The ‘not-so-important’ person is a glutton. The ‘important’ person is a gourmet.
Drinks too much? The ‘not-so-important’ person is a drunkard. The ‘important’ person is fond of drinks.
The ‘not-so-important’ person is corrupt. The ‘important’ person is ‘street smart’.
The ‘not-so-important’ person is finicky. The ‘important’ person is methodical.
Don’t we consciously or unconsciously believe that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”?
Shouldn’t we all believe and practise that “All animals are equal”? It’s not easy, but let’s try.