As for the women in my Uh-Oh file, they too might have benefited from a Yoda. Unable to find another position in a different division, the bank employee from San Francisco who felt compromised by her “extraordinarily political” boss eventually quit. She is running her own small consulting firm now, happy but still occasionally haunted by the unplanned way her corporate career ended. “I love being my own boss,” she wrote me recently. “Sometimes I think that leaving was the luckiest accident that ever happened to me. But sometimes, usually when I am at my computer still working at 10 at night, I wonder if I should have just stuck it out.” As for the operations manager from Detroit who was forced to conduct layoffs by seniority, she ceded to the company's lawyers. When I contacted her recently, she simply explained, “I'm used to it now. I need my job.” I asked if she still had an uh-oh feeling. She paused for a long time, then finally said, “When I'm driving home.”
Happy endings? Well, real ones. Ethical dilemmas rarely wrap themselves up, with loose ends neatly tied. Like life itself, they are usually messy and complex, and many of us muddle through until a messy and complex ending emerges from the ether. Sometimes, however, we can find better endings if we take charge instead of muddling through. With careful fact-finding, the thoughtful sorting of real agendas, and sound outside counsel, an ethical dilemma doesn't have to disrupt your career or linger in your gut.
That uh-oh feeling may sure feel like it is telling you to run or hide. You can answer it back by rising to the occasion.
Suzy Welch, a contributing editor at O, is the co-author of Winning (HarperBusiness).
From the November 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
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