A Lesson in Integrity, Professionalism and Earned Respect

16 September 2014

In one of the companies I work with, there is a man whom I look up to for three attributes that I have always aspired to achieve in my professional life, they are: integrity, professionalism and earned respect. I am sure you are wondering: who is this man and what does he do for that company?

His name is not relevant to the story, but his job is. His official role is “Messenger”, but the role entails, in addition to collecting “things” from one office and delivering them to other offices throughout the building, the primary task of making tea and coffee, etc., to staff and guests on the two executive floors.

So, how can a man who basically performs a relatively simple task with limited responsibility demonstrate so much integrity, professionalism ‒‒ and earn respect at the same time? I am glad you asked me this question!

He is largely silent; only speaks when necessary. He listens to you intently, answers your questions fully without elaboration or embellishment. His face has a hint of a smile without breaking into a big and insincere grin. He never, ever over-steps his boundaries or becomes too familiar with you.

He will take on multiple orders without complaining. He is occasionally confronted with frustrating orders and contradictory instructions, but he somehow always manages to find his way through this confusion without asking for clarification or expressing frustration.

For executives who work on the two top floors, none of them has ever had to shout at him, admonish him, or express anything other than full satisfaction with his service. As far as anyone can recall, he has been with the company for twenty-five years. No one has ever complained about him, and just as importantly, he has never complained about anyone.

For executives and visitors, occasional and frequent, you only need to tell him your preference for drinks once: coffee, black with one sugar; tea with milk and no sugar; green tea with honey and so on. Once he hears it from you for the first time, it stays in his memory bank forever, even if you visit only every two years! I am one of the difficult ones who sometimes asks for coffee with milk and sugar and sometimes for Darjeeling tea without milk or sugar. He knows just from the look on my face which of the two I have in mind!

The most remarkable thing about this amazing man is that he walks into a room with over twenty people in it, moves around silently, making eye contact with each person or coming close by from the right-hand side and with a minimum of words, he takes everyone’s orders and delivers them without disrupting the meeting or even making his presence felt. While he is doing all of this, he will deliver slips of notes from PAs to their bosses, take pieces of paper and make copies, collect printouts from photocopiers and hand them to the persons in question; all done in almost total silence.

If all of the above does not demonstrate these three qualities of integrity, professionalism and earned respect, I don’t know what does!

Hand on heart; would you say your last twenty-five years could be described in the same way as my friend and hero above? Personally, I would not.

I have always said: when I grow up, if I grow up, I would like to be like him. I am serious!

Mufid Sukkar
September 2014