I had joined the staff of a small research foundation in Tokyo just after completing my post-graduate studies at MIT. It was my first time living outside of the US, but the language barrier wasn't my biggest issue; it was more that I had to adjust to working life. And to life without all of the fancy toys I had at my disposal at MIT.Once I adjusted to working on an NEC PC instead of a Thinking Machines supercomputer (and learned a little Japanese), it was a great working experience. Like all great jobs, I had the fortune of having a great boss. He was a devout Buddhist equipped with all the requisite calmness attributed to that way of life; he always said a great deal with very few words and little expression on his face.
I came to him once with a complaint about a co-worker. I went into great detail about why my co-worker had to be fired. How he was a disservice to the entire staff. And so forth, and on and on. My boss glanced and nodded at me between breaths as a signal to continue. So I continued. On and on, until I ran out of things to say.
At this point, my boss half-smiled at me ... as if to gently thank me for my report. Then he said, in Japanese, sternly but compassionately, "Mr. Maeda, do you know how stupid you looked just now?"
My eyes widened; I felt stunned. Then I quickly realized that he was right.
He added, "I thought you were a person with greater character" – and then turned around and got back to the work on his desk.
I've returned to this story often; and now that I sit on the other side of that desk, I’ve found it useful in the times that might lead up to a similar confrontation, or during the quiet aftermath of one.
That error I made, exposing my littleness inside, also helps me continually ask myself how I can become a bigger person. Or, as put more succinctly by a wise friend, "When others go low, go high."
Originally Posted On: LinkedIn By: John Maeda
Meet the Team
WorldBridge Partners earned the Best of Staffing®Award for providing remarkable service quality. Fewer than 2% of all staffing agencies in the U.S. and Canada earned the 2015 Best of Staffing Award for service excellence. With satisfaction ratings more than three times higher than the industry average, the Best of Staffing winners truly stand out for exceeding expectations. This award identifies the staffing industry's elite leaders in service quality.