It starts simply, if nervously, but you have no idea what a fundamental impact the next ten minutes will have on the next two years.

Forget the facts, actually they are irrelevant. The country does not matter. The job role does not matter. The sector does not matter. What really matters is you have given your heart and soul to your organisation. You aren’t actually someone who turns up just for the pay. It’s been tough, you turned that approach down last month on 20% more – you just believe in the organisation. You feel an odd sense of loyalty. You don’t want to leave something that is good but could be great. You believe. You owe it to your colleagues, to your boss and to the company.

My boss walks in.

“Hi Mary”

“Hi Gavin”. Gavin does not normally make small talk, but it’s always nice to identify with colleagues, particularly your boss.

“Mary last month’s turnover it’s 20% below forecast.”

“Yes, I know, not great is it, we really need to make sure sales are on top of things this month”.
“Mm…. the Board are going to be furious, we need to do something about it.”

“I agree …. Shall I get the sales guys together in the next 24 hrs.”

“I think we need to do more.. can’t we hold the books open?”

“Sorry Gavin I don’t know what you mean, the month has ended” (I have that slightly queasy feeling, and try to play a mix of dumb and straight bat).

“We have that new order from Japan – we should be able to close that in the next week.”

“I know, that’s great, we can flag that in the board papers, I am sure they will understand.”

“No, I mean if we hold the numbers open we can include it.“

“Err .. I don’t know what you mean the month has ended.”

Thus started a battle. I was ready for lots of battles. Business was tough. The sector was tough. I felt we could get through. I was certainly up for working with the team to spend every waking minute to get us there. What I was not ready for was to manipulate the figures. “Holding the books open” meant treating the last month like it had 35 days. Taking sales from the first few days of May and parking them in April.

It was wrong on so many levels. If you reduced it to a purely functional model, it was crazy. 35 days in April meant 25 in May… so May would borrow from June, on an increased expectation… where would that end? A treadmill of deception…

It was wrong as a matter of principle – well it was taking principal and tossing it out of the window … let’s pocket short term bonuses and sod tomorrow.

It was also just fundamentally wrong as a human being … I would have traded my integrity for short term expediency.

The next 3 months were hell. My performance got reviewed … again and again. The exemplary reports turned to negative at every aspect … but those were the few times my boss spoke to me. Within 3 months I moved on. It gave me a chance to be candid with the owners. It gave me a chance for a new start.

Do I regret it? Six months of sleepless nights. How would I pay the rent? The gap in the CV. No, not really. Not for a moment. I stick my head on the pillow each night and know in that one moment I was given a choice. A choice which in a large degreed defined me. Had I said yes it was not five days – it was an acceptance of a principal – one that I felt to be pretty ugly. The next month it would have been eight days, then ten, then where?

But then I look back and think I was lucky, at the time I did not have a partner or children. I had no responsibility. I hope if I had, I would still have made the same decision, but I am not sure that is any more than a hope. And my former boss – on to the next business.

The person who submitted the above article has asked to remain anonymous. Names have been altered to protect identities.

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