On Topic: Who do you think you are?

Michael Chevy Castranova
Published: January 6 2013 | 9:00 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 9:38 am in

It’s a fair question.

A few years ago, around the time of some well-publicized reshuffling at a place where I was working, I’d gone to a movie at a theater run by a friend of mine.

As I walked in, he grabbed me to ask, as he was short-staffed, if I’d stand in the lobby to take tickets for just a few minutes while he changed a reel.

It was while I was tearing tickets that a writer I knew came in. Writers can be imaginative types, so as she passed me her ticket, she laid her hand on my arm and whispered, “I am so sorry.”

Now, as I recall, I didn’t tell I wasn’t actually employed at the movie house. After all, it’s not every day young women put their hands on my arm and murmur anything remotely sympathetic.

Instead, I just nodded and, eyes downcast, mumbled something about how grateful I was for the free popcorn ….

Now, I don’t mean to suggest there’s a single thing wrong with that line of work. But I was surprised by how easily she’d seen me as a movie theater ticket taker.

I’ve long followed the management notion that every person views herself or himself as the hero of the novel. And that she or he expects to be treated that way.

Lately, though, I’ve begun to wonder what sort of novel some folk think they’re in.

Hostess Brands received approval last month to fork over to its chief executives $1.8 million or more in bonuses for attaining budget goals during liquidation.

This despite the fact that the company failed under their watch, a organization that has produced some of the most famous brands on this planet.

This despite the fact that some 18,000 employees are losing their jobs.

We can see this curious self-perception at the other end of the corporate spectrum, too. I’ve sat in on more than a few interviews in recent years with job candidates who arrived late, offered no explanation or apology, and dressed as if they’d just come from a leisurely stroll through the mall.

They seemed to miss the point that this was their principal opportunity to act and dress the part in a novel in which the scene is already set and, just maybe, they aren’t yet perceived as the key protagonist.

Who do they think they are?

And there’s this: Some 70 percent of employers who responded to the HireRight 2012 Employment Background Screening Benchmarking Report contended they’d “uncovered a falsehood on an applicant’s resume.”

These fabrications, I imagine, ranged from slight sins of omission/confusion (oh, yeah, I forgot I was at that last job for only six months, not a full year) to wholesale concoctions (an unearned degree, say, from a school visited once for a football game — and then, if you must know, just for the tailgating and a few beers afterward).

In a good company and good book, everyone has a significant part to play. Manages just need to want to figure what that is. And all of us have to take some personal responsibility.

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