A woman I had once helped to get a job, came up to me in a bar the other night, throwing her arms around me like a long lost friend.
Not out of the ordinary, right? As I pulled myself away from her, I wondered how I was going to handle the situation. This woman had put me in a vulnerable position by betraying my trust and stealing from the company that I helped to get her employment with, and in doing so raised credibility questions about me. And while 4 years had passed, I was no less angry with her than I had been at the time of the incident.
I am all for helping people if I can. I had met this woman through a mutual friend, and since she was just getting out of school, she needed an entry level position in marketing. She was smart, ambitious and and seemed like the kind of person any organization would be happy to have on their team. Through my network, I was able to get her placed in a entry level position with full benefits and endless possibilities. And that's when the trouble began.
I got a call from my contact with allegations that this woman was charging personal items to her company credit card. A fast way to end employment with any company. I asked if she had been warned (after all- this was her first position, maybe she just didn't know what the protocol was, I naively thought) and she had. So I thought the matter was over. This was not a stupid woman. Surely she would stop.
And then the next month, the same thing happened. My friend didn't want to fire her without letting me know, so I got a call I never thought I'd get. A person I had recommended for a position was dishonest in her business practices. And then I got an even more unexpected call- from the woman I had placed telling me all it was a big misunderstanding and asking if I could help her get another job. Really? She wanted my help again? I couldn't decide if she was stupid or just plain ballsy. But I didn't return her countless calls and emails to find out. I subscribe to the old adage of "Fool me once . . . ."
Misunderstanding or not- to lose your job over stealing from a company is pure stupidity. And not only did it affect her job- it could have indirectly affected mine as well, as I was the person who recommended her for the position. I was disappointed that I had been so duped, angry that she thought she could once again come to me for help, and for a brief moment mad at myself for sticking my neck out to help someone.
In that moment, I was reminded why so many people don't help others as "no good deed goes unpunished" or so the saying goes; why people scurry by with their heads down, when folks in need ask for something; why just doing what you have to do is better than doing what you should do. There's no risk involved in any of those scenarios.
But as I extracted myself from this woman the other night, I was reminded once again about how it feels to help others. And while standing in front of me was an example of why not to help people, dozens of images of people I have helped and who have prospered through the years ran through my mind like an old silent film.
I stood up and left the bar. But not without a backward glance at this woman who reminded me that there are takers and givers out there in the world. I'm just happy to be on the giving side.