Missed Opportunities

As Bobby and Aaron began to tour the grounds, Aaron quietly took copious notes and asked relevant questions, which opened Bobby’s mind to some possibilities he had never considered before. Within 2 hours, Bobby decided he liked this kid. True, Aaron was a little quirky, but he was confident in what he believed and how he expressed himself. They returned to the office, and Bob suggested they go inside for a cup of coffee. As the two men were sharing a laugh, the crew members entered for their break.

A Coffee Break And Cracking Jokes

The members looked at Aaron then looked at Bobby, who took a deep breath and introduced the new employee with unfamiliar enthusiasm. Rethinking his position, Bobby decided to come out strong for the kid at the beginning in order to gain some rapport, but the guys had already decided the new member of the group had to go–after all, look at his car. Immediately, some crew members turned their backs while others erupted in laughter. Bob knew he was in trouble. He tried to laugh things off, but one look at Aaron revealed the new guy was visibly upset. In a shaky voice, Aaron said, “Bob, if you don’t mind, I’ll just take the truck and look at a few of those areas you showed me this morning.” “Yeah,” Bob replied, happily latching on to anything to break the tension.

Closing the door, Aaron heard a roar of laughter from within. He felt awful. Inside the office, Bob was trying to figure out what to do. He said nothing, looked at the guys, rolled his eyes, and followed Aaron. Riding in the truck for the next hour with Aaron, Bob found himself really empathizing. He told the kid the guys would straighten out eventually once they understood what an asset Aaron could be for the parks. He must have been convincing because when Aaron got in his hybrid to leave for the day, he seemed willing to give the job  a try the next day. That night, over dinner, Bob told his wife that he was fond of this new fellow, and felt maybe the guy could really help out the park system. Managing him would be a challenge, but one Bob thought he could grow from.

Smarter Than The Boss

The next day, as morning orders were given, the staff members seemed to be on their best behavior, giving Aaron tight-lipped smiles but acknowledging it was nothing more than a gesture. Every now and then one of the guys would glance at Bobby, and he would wink, suggesting, “C’mon, guys, play along. My hands are tied, and I don’t like this any more than you do.” Aaron saw all of this clearly.

Even though Bobby knew that, as a manager, he was to support his new worker and champion his right to be different, he could not muster the necessary strength. Aaron could tell Bob had taken a liking to him, but if there were any conflict, Bob would be taking the side of the crew over his assistant—that was clear. So, as the crew dispersed for their morning assignments, Aaron asked Bob if he could have a few hours off to take care of a personal matter. He then went to the main office and officially requested a transfer, telling the administrators that his new assignment was simply “not a good fit.” While they would work on getting him reassigned, he was to continue working for Bob.

Aaron returned to the field office and finished the week without getting in anyone’s way. The look of satisfaction on the crew’s faces was the most difficult part. They had won and they knew it. On the next Monday, Aaron called in sick. Hours later, the main office notified him that they had found an equivalent assignment for him. Over the next few years, Aaron developed a successful career, filled with creative ideas and solutions. When he ran into Bobby and the old crew at company picnics and other functions, the guys remained courteous yet unfriendly.

Sad But True

With a little help from Bob, Aaron probably could have thrived in that earlier position in the park system. His presence may have helped Bob obtain more management training and improve his abilities. Bob would later retire from the parks, with his loyal crew retiring one at a time over the years.

Long after retirement, the haunting memory of what Bob did or didn’t do with Aaron remained. Being half-committed was the same as being uncommitted. Sometimes an opportunity is missed, and that error is never fixed. And, significantly, the person most hurt is the one who failed at the opportunity. Bob will remember that he could have accomplished so much more if he had been always  committed to doing the right thing, not just the easiest thing.

Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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