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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No Small Responsibilities

The phrase “small responsibilities” is an oxymoron.  There are no small responsibilities as the nursery rhyme indicates:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

If all the facts were known, no doubt the recent Gulf oil well disaster could be the subject of a similar lyric.  There is great mischief in viewing some responsibilities as larger than others.  When we discount the bad effects if we don’t do our jobs well (whatever those jobs are) we demean the jobs and ourselves and raise the prospect of dire consequences.  If you ask, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do my job well?” the answer is never obvious, for a sloppy practice not only affects the product and the consequent negative ripple effect, it affects your habits of moral discipline as well.  This line of thought can’t avoid raising the matter of justice—why should a king make more than a blacksmith if there are no small responsibilities? If getting things wrong at any level can have dire consequences (especially in this litigious age), how do you justify paying the hourly waged food handler less than the salaried restaurant manager?  The quick answer is of course that the manager has larger responsibilities.  But ill handled food could cost millions in law suits.  Since there are in fact no small responsibilities, at the very least it behooves the self-important with large titles to appreciate deeply those doing smaller jobs with big responsibilities.

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