It was Saturday morning. Jake sat at his kitchen table with his thirty year old son, Arthur.
“Dad, what should I do?” Arthur said. “The report is due Monday morning.”
Jake heaved a sigh and pressed his lips. “Son, we live in two different worlds. I was never faced with quarterly evaluations, projections, power lunches, power ties, power presentations, or power anything. I got up went to work and came home.”
“You had to handle conflict in your day,” Arthur said. “I remember guys calling you from work or dropping by and asking for advice.”
“Like I said, son, it’s two different worlds. I worked in a factory. Things are different,” Jake said. “But I’ll hear you out anyway.”
“I received falsified reports,” Jake said. “If I include them as facts everything looks good. I’ve talked to the people who gave me the reports. They said it’s done all the time and projections indicate that the next quarter everything will be adjusted. They say that’s the way things have always been done. They say corporate heads know it’s that way.”
“Well if that’s the way things have always been done, then why the problem?” Jake said.
“I went back ten years ago,” Arthur said. “They weren’t done that way then. It’s only been within the last five years reports have been done that way.”
“Do you know the reason they changed?” Jake said.
“Yes,” Arthur said. “For no other reason than to keep corporate off their backs.”
“Well there’s a lot to be said for that,” Jake chuckled. “So what, in your mind, is the problem?”
“There will be a big confrontation if I report the truth and something tells me I should.” Arthur said. “Do you know what that could do to a well oiled corporate structure?”
“Well than the answer is obvious to me,” Jake said. “You file the report as it has been done the past five years and everybody’s happy. The boss is happy. The guys that gave you the reports are happy. You don‘t have to face a confrontation. Like you said the figures will adjust during the next quarter.”
Arthur smiled. “Dad, I knew you would give me good advice.”
“Not really,” Jake said. “I think you knew all along what you wanted to do. Confrontation doesn’t come easy. Remember in school you had that problem with a teacher who was changing a pretty girl’s grade. You thought it was wrong. You thought it should be reported. Do you remember what I told you?”
“Yeah,” Jake said. “That was big one. You said, ’What hill do you want to die on?’”
“That’s right,” Jake said. “We have to choose our battles wisely. A war is not won by the Army that wins the most battles or takes the most hills, only the important battles and important hills. You did the right thing back then. A teacher got fired. He was doing it with other girls. Who knows what problems you might have saved others?”
“Do you think this is an important hill?” Arthur said.
“Either way, you face a confrontation,” Jake said. “The confrontation of your conscience or the confrontation of men. Which will it be? Which can you live with?”
“Wow, Dad,” Jake said. “I’m worse now that I was when I came to you for advice.”
“Well I’m sorry about that, son,” Jake said. “Let me walk you to your car. I’m going out anyway.”
“What ya got planned for the day?” Arthur said.
“I got that old clunker in the garage,” Jake said. “I love that car, but I’m selling it.”
“What!” Arthur said.
“I’m selling it,” Jake said.
“You’ve always had that car,” Arthur said.
“That’s right and it’s time that it goes,” Jake said. “The transmission’s bad. It slips a little. That’s why I’m selling it. I’m going down to the automotive store. They have this additive I can put in it and it won’t slip anymore – at least for a while.”
“Dad!” Arthur said. “You’re passing the problem on to somebody else without telling them?”
“Sure,” Jake said. “As far as they’re concerned it’s a well oiled machine. And who knows they may sell it before it really goes bad or they may not drive it that much anyway.”
“Dad,” Arthur said. “This doesn’t sound at all like you.”
Jake smiled. “I got a hill in front of me, don’t I.”
“And I’m the one who really has the car with a bad transmission, right?“ Arthur said. “I can keep it going and pass the problem to somebody else or report it so it can get fixed, right?”
“See the problem is this,” Jake said. “I face reality now or have a guy come back in six weeks wanting his money back. Who do I want to confront the guy at the transmission shop or an angry buyer?”
“I suppose our greatest confrontation is our conscience and consequences of decisions we make and not people,” Arthur said.
“Something like that,” Jake said.
Jake walked Arthur to his car.
“Dad,” Arthur said. “You’re really not selling that old clunker are you?”
Jake smiled. “Write an honest report, son.”