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Here is the scene:  A prospective employer is sitting behind his desk looking over the top of a candidate’s resume at the applicant sitting across the desk.

In a style typical of cartoonist Randy Glasbergen, the creator of Salt & Pepper, the employer says :  

“I remember you from high school.  The problem is that I remember you from high school.”

As an applicant prepares to enter a conference room for the final interview for a cool job he really wants, he is heartened to learn that he knows several people in the room from a previous employer.  What he doesn’t know is that they recognize him as well.  To a person they remember him as a suck-up jerk.  

How we treat people that we work with, how we interact with peers and subordinates as we climb the corporate ladder, counts.  A great deal.  

It is amazing how many times callous or boorish behavior with colleagues comes back to haunt the offending executive at the least opportune time. The behavior gods just seem to have a way of divinely exacting their pound of payback when it is least expected.  

It  is equally astonishing how little thought/awareness we give to our conversations and conflicts with our colleagues as we elbow our way to getting exactly what we want at work.  Being more aware, being more purposeful in how we treat others, will save some embarrassing and quite possibly career limiting encounters as we plow through our careers.

Similarly, be cautious about that success for which you claim credit at work. 

Here his my own personal example:  I was very, very lucky to have served as the first Director of Life Flight at what is now called Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center in Houston. On August 1, 1976 we made our first flight to pick up two burn patients on the city’s north side.  No one on the Life Flight team that day had any idea how successful that program would become, one of the biggest and most active in the nation.  Life Flight put Hermann Hospital on the national map.

In the interest of disclosure and transparency, Life Flight was not my idea.  In fact, when I was appointed to lead the implementation team, I was not even sure it would work in Houston. But it did, fabulously. 

Today you might be surprised how many people, from the lowest managers to the highest level of executives, claim that they were the first director, or that if it hadn’t been for their savvy leadership the program would never have gotten off the ground.  

The lesson here is this:  if you are going to brag about being that person, or take credit for any accomplishment large or small, make certain you are not talking to the person who knows better.