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Machine Shop Tips The Professional Consequences of a Lack of Integrity

I attended a trade show in Portland, Oregon a number of years ago. The show was three days long and by the third day, I was exhausted. Standing on that cushionless black trade show carpet for 8 – 10 hours a day is a bit painful. Your feet feel like you just walked over a hot grill. It gets worse when the show slows down at times during the day. Minutes turn into an eternity. I remember this show quite distinctly not because of my sore feet, but because of a comment said to me by a competitor’s sales rep. The comment was, “I wish we would do that!” 

You would think that the person making the comment was envious of something, but really he was just expressing a feeling of shame. It happened during one of those slow periods at the trade show where you become so bored you will talk to anybody around, including your competition so as to make the time pass more quickly. This particular salesperson wandered over to our booth to engage in conversation. We started with the usual questions and topics such as, “How’s business?” and talked about the latest industry rumours. These conversations can go on for quite some time and usually nothing is really learned.

I perked up when this sales rep mentioned that one of our former Quality Control personnel had joined his company. It was because of this person that the sales rep came over to speak with me. “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” he asked. I answered that he could ask, but that I reserved the right not to answer if I thought it would reveal things that would be of detriment to my company. He seemed fine with that and continued, “Your former quality control person said that if your company made a mistake in manufacturing a part, you throw it away. Is that true?”

I thought for a moment and then replied. “That is true! If we know a manufactured part is wrong, then we either fix it or replace it.” A large frown came over the sales rep’s face. He let out a sigh and shook his head, replying, “I wish we would do that!”

I was stunned as the implication of his statement sunk in. He wandered off before I could ask any further questions. I stood there, still stunned, for awhile. The consequences of what he said were so far-reaching that my mind raced to get ahead. What he really said to me is that his company ships parts they know are not manufactured properly, or not made to the right specification. I know mistakes are made by everybody, but consciously sending a poorly manufactured part is what I would consider to be a major compromise of personal and professional integrity, both for the employees and the company.

I still think of this story today. I don’t really know why people and companies compromise their integrity in this way, but I have certainly noticed a lot of it over the years. I believe it is not only wrong to do, it also gives customers a really bad taste for the entire industry. It reminds me of why people hate going to buy a used car. What is the dealer or sales rep trying to hide? It crosses all our minds as the typical stereotype of that industry.

This type of behaviour taints all companies, even those of the highest integrity, because the dishonest behaviour affects the entire industry and makes buyers wary. It’s very unfortunate.

I remember a saying from when I was young, “We only do things one way, the right way!” Remember that. Hold onto your integrity, for yourself and your colleagues.