Have you ever been in a situation, where you had to make or say something unpopular? Something that could potentially lead to losing your job, reputation or friends? My friend has been. And this is a heroic story.
My friend’s working on a project where they’ve found themselves in a situation where they could get decent government funding. 6-digit figure. This would not only move the whole project forward by a milestone but also give them favorable conditions without major investors stepping in.
Everything seemed perfect. There was just one simple glitch on the way. They had to take money out of their own pockets for the government officials. Insignificant amount. A fraction of what they would receive.
“It’s what each one of your competitors does” — they said. “It’s how you do the business here” — they continued. “If you won’t get this money, then nobody else does and it will get lost in Brussels anyway.”
It all seemed reasonable. The team almost started to believe that they are doing social good by taking this dirty money and investing them in something with added value for society. They almost felt like a bunch of altruists.
But then it hit my friend. What are they doing? This was not the right way of thinking and he knew it. He stepped in.
He gave them a speech. He reminded the team about their values, the amorality of such actions. He said something about not being okay with it. He said if they do this, he might not be a part of the project anymore. It was not easy to risk everything. But it was necessary.
First, there was silence. Then the CEO supported him and the others slowly changed their mind. As a result, the team refused the offer and will try to get the money somewhere else. Nobody knows if they succeed. But they will have a clear conscience.
When you’re in the corner, it’s easy to lapse into doing something dishonest. But all it takes is one person. One hero, which is aware of the potential risks and does the right thing anyway.
We have those heroes among us every day. We walk around them on streets, in hospitals, in the army. They don’t require attention. Because in their mind, they’ve done what was natural. And I wish we could all learn from them.
Praise to all unnoticed heroes. Thanks for making the world a better place.