Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tea Bags

A few months ago a former colleague decided to take intellectual property from a client of mine. When asked to stop he denied what he was doing and smoke screened his actions in an attempt to cover his tracks. What was pathetic about this was that he had many honorable options available which would have solved the situation he had put himself; options that my client would have gladly helped him with.

Sadly, a few weeks later he proceeded with a similar attempt elsewhere, again with respect to my client’s intellectual property. By this time my client (now rightfully upset) had researched and gathered information from various sources and confronted him with possible legal action. Only then did my old colleague back off. Yet even in his backing off he decided to twist the truth and plead ignorance regarding intellectual property rights. My first reaction was disgust, because he knows that my client knows (as do I) that for almost twenty years he has been privy to the rules governing this. But after a while I had a different and more calming reaction, which was to laugh and say, “This really is comical!” Why comical? Because he was like a kid being caught with his hand in a cookie jar saying, “Gee, look at that - a cookie jar surrounding my hand. Now how that jar got itself positioned like that? Amazing! Give me a minute so I can wipe these crumbs off my mouth (where ever did they came from?), and then maybe we can all figure out what happened. In the mean time, does this mean I can’t eat here anymore?”

A Fortune Magazine article by Irwin Ross (Dec 1, 1980 “How Lawless Are Big Companies?”) related, “Corrupt practices are certainly not endemic to business, but they do seem endemic to certain situations and certain industries. A persuasive explanation for many violations is economic pressure – the ‘bottom-line philosophy.’”

As the research of my old colleague’s misguided action unfolded over the past two months it appeared that financial pressures brought his nature to the forefront.

Does the end justify the means? For some folks, I guess that the answer is yes. Unfortunately, “the end” usually isn’t (the end), rather it’s just some midpoint along the path of a lifetime. I am reminded that the man I once worked for, used to say, “The mind can justify anything. Tell a lie long enough and you’ll begin to think it’s the truth.” And with that, I’m reminded of another old adage he proposed that went something like this: “People are like tea bags. You don’t know what they’re made of until they get themselves into hot water. When they do (get themselves into hot water) you can see the brown stuff seeping out.”

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