Saturday, November 23, 2013

Working With Thieves, Liars and Crooks

I hate working with people I don't like and people who are thieves, liars and crooks. Most people will say that they agree with me but the actual fact is that, unfortunately, most people who are thieves, liars and crooks don't think that they are. Or, perhaps, to give them the benefit of the doubt, they don't realize that they are.

If they did realize it, and the extent of it, they'd have difficulty looking in the mirror and sleeping at night.

Most people who lie and cheat do so to protect themselves. Their number 1 priority in life and their work is protection of their position. It is not the success of the project or the success of those around them. It is a narcissistic image of themselves that they feel they must protect. Even if it is a lie.

The largest group of these kinds of people are, in Japan, for example, middle management level executives (I'm sure the USA is the same). These are the kinds of people who will extol the troops to work hard and honestly and diligently and to be dedicated to their coworkers and company, yet, while not at work, they do things like run around and have affairs with other women or they lie about small details. 

It's a case of "Don't do what I do. Do what I say."

I hate working with people like that. I have no respect for them.

Some might say that the part of lying about small details is a minor problem and that everyone does it. It's probably true. But, on the other hand, consider this: If someone will tell lies about small insignificant things, you can bet that they will lie about important things too.

I want to be happy that's why I try to always tell the truth no matter how difficult it is. This makes for a situation, though, that is not conducive to having many friends. I've been complained to before at work by coworkers that my way of talking is too direct and some people don't like it... But I think beating around the bush and not saying things directly can often lead to a situation that leads to an untruth being spoken so I'd like to avoid that whenever possible.

I have at least two friends who I know who try to live the way I do. Of course, we are humans and so not perfect so every once in a while a lie might slip, but I know that I, and they too, make every effort to never tell a lie, even a tiny one. 

It sucks having a guilt complex that makes one worry and contemplate stupid fibs we've told to others... So much so that we worry about it overnight or for days on end.  

There's a famous book about this subject that I'd like to recommend to everyone. It's called "The Road Less Traveled" by F. Scott Peck. It is about this subject and how difficult living really is when you make every effort to tell the truth all the time and not say even the tiniest of white lies. It also is about how trying to live this way is a true way towards real happiness.

Here's an example that I like to use about what I call "Silly lies". Many people lie all the time. Say coworkers want you to go a party with them one night. But you don't want to go. So, instead of saying, "I don't want to go." You fib and say, "Oh? Sorry. I have to do some studying that evening." (or some other excuse). Later, on the party night, your friends are walking home and they bump into you by chance. You've obviously been out having a good time.

You've been caught in a fib. You are embarrassed. You've lost credibility and respect. They know you lied.

Come to think of it, why did you lie? Why didn't you say the truth? Why is it so difficult for us in this society to come right out and say, "Gee. Thanks for the offer. Please don't be offended, but I don't want to go." That sounds easy, but it's not and people do get offended.

But in our society, lying all the time is accepted. And, in spite of what we say, we teach our children to lie all the time too!

You are sitting at dinner with your wife and kids. The phone rings. It's the boss. Your wife covers the phone. You say, "Tell him I'm not here right now."

Why did you do that? It's just postponing the inevitable. And, you just taught your kids that it is OK to lie. Great work. You get the parenting award for the day.

Yes, you did! Don't deny it. You just showed your kids by your actions and your words that it is OK to lie. Thanks a lot. Now, who is to blame when they get in trouble at school for lying or, later, learn and practice the same lesson to you?

Many years ago, I worked at Prudential in the USA before coming to Japan. From that experience, I vowed that I would never work with liars and dishonest people again. That vow has been very hard to keep.

I sold, insurance, annuities, financial instruments, etc. I had several bosses and some of them were some of the most dishonest people I have ever met.

When joining a company like that one is taught that we are to help people with their finances and make sure they have money for retirement, emergencies and things like that. The fact of the matter is that 97% of those people work to churn people's accounts and generate commissions.

Even though I was the youngster in a district of 60 some guys selling these instruments, I was always a top 5 salesman and made a lot of money. I bought a big house and had three cars. I was a top salesman because I always tried to do what was best for the clients.

Some of my bosses wouldn't have that. One guy even said to me once, "Yeah. That's great that you worry about the customer, Mike. But what about the health of the company?" (I think he is a executive at Prudential now).

What a fool. Doesn't this guy realize that doing what is best for the people and the clients and making them all happy and satisfied customers automatically protects the health of the company? I guess not. Profits were #1. The people be damned. I started getting real disillusioned around 1982.


The last straw was a wonderful lady named Mrs. Lopez (not her real name). Mrs. Lopez was 44-years-old at the time. She didn't drink nor smoke cigarettes. She had a handsome husband and a beautiful 10-year-old son.

She was my client and I had never sold her anything. She didn't need anything. The Lopez family weren't rich, but they weren't poor. The Lopez family had all their life and health insurance. They had a paid for house. Her husband had a great job and they had savings and some investments. 

They also had a cat. The cat had kittens. We became such good friends that I even took one of the babies.

One day, at the young age of 44, Mrs. Lopez has a stoke. Everyone was shocked. After leaving the hospital, her entire left side of her body was paralyzed. I went to see her.

I could tell that she was devastated too. She was sitting when I arrived and seemed embarrassed when she had to use her right arm to lift her left arm up and rest it on the table. Poor woman. I will never forget that moment. She seemed ashamed of herself when she meekly shot a glance into my eyes as she raised her arm. Oh, the tears she must have silently cried. 

She didn't need to feel ashamed. She was still a wonderful human being and a great mom.

Under the rules of her insurance policies, some sort of disability like that automatically made the insurance policies paid up for life. That meant she didn't need to pay for anything and they were worth thousands and thousands of dollars tax-free. I went to her house and explained that to her and her husband. They were relieved.

I was shocked. How could this vibrant and wonderful woman who didn't drink or smoke have to suffer such a terrible fate in the prime of her life?

When I returned to work the next day, I reported to my bosses what had occurred and the advice that I gave those good people (the correct advice). My boss was upset because he thought I missed the good chance to make a sale and generate commissions. He insisted that we go back the next night. We did.

There he lied and broke the law by doing what is called, "twisting." He bent the facts to make it look like it was a good idea for her to cancel all her old insurance contracts, and buy a new one. Get it? These contracts are worth thousands of tax-free dollars and this crook tricks them into cashing them in and buying a new one so that he can collect a 55% commission on the first year's premium payment!? 

What an a*shole!

He was at least 25 years older than me and psychologically dominated the conversation over me. I couldn't say a word. I walked out of that house shell-shocked.

I went home and spent the next three days crying and getting drunk. After the first night I decided that I wasn't going to do this anymore and I was going to quit my job. When I told my parents, they thought I was nuts. It was 1982. I was 24-years-old and I was making more than $96,000 a year and I was going to quit.

But, before I quit, I was going to make damned sure that Mrs. Lopez didn't get ripped off. I sobered up and went to see her.

I told her that, under California law, when a new policy is issued, the insurance company had 14 days within that they must deliver the policy otherwise it becomes null and void. I told her that, if she was afraid to talk to this guy (understandable) then to ignore him. No matter what, "DO NOT MEET HIM NOR ACCEPT THIS DOCUMENT WITHIN THE FIRST 14 DAYS!"

I fully explained the law to Mrs. Lopez and her husband. They were, of course, noticeably upset. I told them that I was resigning because of this and that this case wasn't the first time that something like that had happened but that this was the most blatant breaking of the law that I had ever seen so far. They understood and the policy was never delivered and so it was cancelled.

A few weeks later, my boss found out (or figured out) what I had done. I was called into the district office manager's office and there, with alcohol on my breath, I quit just as they began to reprimand me. I stated my disgust for their dishonest way of doing business and walked out.

It was then and there that I decided that I would never work with dishonest people like that ever again....

Unfortunately, it is a very difficult promise to keep. So far I have been pretty successful, but have found myself in times when new people came in and realized that they were, well, untruthful; they were living a lie.

I tried to get out of those situations as soon as I could. I still try.

There's a lot of bad people out there who lie and cheat and steal. Our duty to our kids and ourselves is to not become one of them. It is a very hard thing to do.

Telling the truth and trying to live a good life is not like flipping on a switch... It is like climbing a high mountain and, what really matters, is not so much always telling the truth, but being conscious of the effort to do so always, everyday, every second.

The truth is a very high mountain to climb. It is a very long, steep road. Even with telling the truth everyday, you will still never reach the top before you die. The point is to make the effort to tell the truth everyday...   

Oh, and try to avoid working with thieves, liars and crooks... Their disease is infectious.   


Andrew Joseph said...

Hey Mike... how can you tell when a salesman is lying? His lips move. Classic joke, but man, is it true.
Money isn't everything. Self-respect is. If you don't respect yourself, who the heck will.
Insurance companies are out to maximize their profits and hate it when they aren't making as much money as they should be. They hate it when there are natural disasters... hey... any word on what Japan's insurance companies are doing following all that happened this year? Are they all bankrupt, morally and financially? I'd love to know! excellent blog. I, too, do my best not to lie. I tell it like it is, and is probably why I make less now than I did 15 years ago when I was single and living at home. Sometimes not being a liar sucks. It sucks being poor, but at least I can look at myself in the mirror. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

That was an excellent blog posting.

I was impressed.

"25-years-old ... $96,000 a year and I was going to quit."

Very impressive.

The no-lying, no-sugar-coating road is not easy.

Also, your way of talking direct is often: efficient, cost effective and profitable,... avoids errors, saves time, saves face and helps to avoid mistakes. Imho.

Some People appreciate it, I imagine if a Person isn't being appreciated for it where they're at, they might want to look elsewhere? Seek those who reward such? Eh, but that's part of the point of the blog posting, isn't it.

- clark

Zanchito said...

That's what's wrong with modern society, it's all about the money and glory, fuck the people.

Thank you for the piece, Mike, it's very inspirational (and a little horrifying).

Unknown said...

Wow, what you did on Mrs. Lopez case was really a brave act! Not all people have the courage to let go gold opportunity like you had, after all human is a greedy being. I wonder, didn't your bosses at least feel a little empathy or sympathy for people like Mrs. Lopez? How could those people have the heart to still think about making profits out of someone's misfortune? That's just sad.
Living a lie can never be a good thing. Unfortunately, even people in my age start to make an excuse like "White lies is okay", in which I don't think is okay at all. A lie is a lie, no matter what type it is. Small lie leads to bigger one, and in no time it surely becomes a habit. That's why, honest people are hard to find nowadays.
Although stand by honesty is never a popular choice, I really try my best to live my life in that sense, so I won't be ashamed of myself when I get old, and it's really a good feeling to wake up and know you live your life righteously. It maybe hard, but it's not impossible! Cheers for the inspiring story :)

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks Little Miss. It wasn't a brave act. I was running away from them. I knew that if I stayed there, I would become old and fat and tired like them. I didn't want that. I wanted to live! I wanted to travel! I wanted to have excitement!
My ex-wife came from a fairly wealthy family and, in my confusion, I thought I could depend on them. I also believed, as many young people do, that I was invincible and could do anything. I thought I could make a lot of money no matter where I went. I really believed that.
It wasn't brave. I did that in order to save my own life.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

PS: If it were a question of bravery, I would have complained or put my foot down several months, a year, beforehand when I saw others bad things going on.

Anonymous said...

"I really believed that.
It wasn't brave."

Well, it was something.
When you went back and told the woman the score,... that was something.
If it wasn't bravery,it was very close.

- clark

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