November 30, 2008

Good day, team,

I read this remarkable story in The Oregonian on Nov. 28. Take a look:

“A 17-year-old supermarket employee who found a bag containing $10,000 at his work’s bathroom returned the money, much to the owner’s delight.

“The Tacoma News Tribune reports the bag of cash found at the Top Food & Drug supermarket in Federal Way two weeks ago had been left behind by a man from Vancouver, Wash.

“Police say the $10,000 were Fred W. Smith’s life savings, and he was carrying the bag because he was moving.

“Moisei Baraniuc—a Ukrainian immigrant who bags groceries for minimum wage at the store—says he was in the supermarket’s bathroom when he saw the bag. He peeked in and saw a ‘pretty thick stack’ of cash.

“Baraniuc says the first thing he thought about was keeping the money, but he then remembered his father’s lectures about working hard for yourself. He turned in the bag to the store’s manager, who then called police.

“Police returned the money to Smith last week after verifying the cash belonged to the Vancouver man. Smith thanked Baraniuc on Wednesday for turning in the bag.”

I thought about what I would do in this situation. No doubt it would be very tempting to keep the money. I mean, who would know? When an old guy came back into the store asking, “Did anyone find a bag full of a lot of money?” everyone in the store would think he was kind of cuckoo and tell him no.  Meanwhile, think of all the things I could buy during this year’s great holiday sales!

Ah, but what if I heard my father’s voice in my head saying, “You have to earn it yourself by working hard.” How would I feel then?

This story made me think about a similar situation in the workplace. Isn’t taking credit for someone else’s work the same as taking their money? You know what I’m talking about. You work really hard on a project and finally make a breakthrough. You get it all finished and are proud that you’ve done such a good job. Then you’re in a meeting to present the results, and your boss takes the credit. Or maybe a co-worker—whom you asked repeatedly for help and who avoided you—is suddenly talking about how much work he or she put into this project and how hard it was to accomplish. How about the people who claim that they worked really hard with you as part of the team, even though they sat through all the meetings checking their Blackberrys and never contributing a thing?

It seems to me that we can learn a good lesson from Moisei Baraniuc: He didn’t take the money because he hadn’t earned it. Your challenge this week is to do the same. Try not to take credit for someone else’s hard work. If necessary,  ensure also that no one on your team takes credit for another person’s work. Sometimes it’s hard to know who has done what, and in our constant desire to get things done, we overlook who actually did the work and who also contributed. Your challenge is to pay more attention to those working the hardest for you so that you can give them the credit they’re due.

Some circumstances invariably demotivate and dishearten a team, and one of them is watching somebody get the credit for someone’s else’s work and no one standing up for the person who worked the hardest. None of us likes to be in that position; as a leader, you need to protect the team’s camaraderie, which comes from all team members holding up their end of the load and giving credit where credit is due.

Fred Smith is a lucky man. An honest young guy returned his life savings and saved his life. If there is such a thing as good karma, I think that young Moisei Baraniuc just earned enough credit to make a huge deposit into his karmic life savings as well.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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