I turned the corner in the hallway to the point where I could see into my office. Greg was sitting in one of the chairs at the small table near my desk.
My first reaction when I see someone in my office is to think about what I may have left on my desk. Any notes or emails that might be private or confidential. Anything related to upcoming schedule changes or annual benefits changes. But for some reason Greg didn’t raise that concern. I had absolute faith in his respect for knowing only what he needed to know. Besides, if I left something out, that’s my problem, not his.
It was late in the afternoon, and I knew his shift had ended. “Hey Greg, how’s everything?” I asked as I walked into the office. I set my things on the desk and went right to the table.
“Okay, I guess,” he replied. He thought just a second more and said “No, not really okay. I want to ask you to reconsider your position on Steve. I talked to him last night, and I know he learned his lesson this time. It won’t ever happen again.”
I should have realized it as soon as I saw him in my office. Steve and Greg were hired at the same time, went through all their training together and worked pretty closely together for the last year. Only Steve had a bad habit of compromising his personal safety by reaching into operating equipment. A clear violation of our safety standard. He’d been counseled twice and even in those discussions he insisted that his knowledge of the equipment made this particular practice safe. “Besides,” he would say, “it saves us time and we are able to be more productive because of how I start up the machine.”
“I’m sorry Greg, but as you know, we gave Steve two warnings, spoke extensively with him about his actions, and yet he still took an unsafe action. When an employee does that, he puts more than his safety in jeopardy. He puts his team and really the whole plant at risk in a totally unnecessary way. No production goal is worth that compromise, and Steve is unwilling to change. I’d rather go to his unemployment hearing than his funeral.”
“I admire your compassion and your concern over your friend, Greg. I really do. But you have to realize that with every safety violation, he was disrespecting all of us.”
Greg stood up and headed to the door. He had done what he came for, but he also knew that the result was not going to change.
“I could never do your job,” he said. “It shouldn’t be hard to do the right thing, but you did the right thing.”