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Especially in business, have you noticed how “no good deed goes unpunished”?Vacant Job Position

Clare Boothe Luce, the author of this famous quote, was noted for her quick wit, journalistic savvy, and strong opinions.   Her husband published Time, Fortune, and Life magazines and served in Congress.  Can you imagine what they talked about at their dinner table?  It’s no wonder she authored such an insightful and sad truism.

As I work with entrepreneurs, I often find myself thinking “no good deed goes unpunished” as I listen to their stories about how they find themselves on the wrong side of an employee for whom they went the extra mile,   or a vendor they previously bailed out of a mess.  This week was one of those times where this quote came to mind.

Over the past three or so years, while serving with other entrepreneurs on the Board of Directors of another business, the work we undertook became increasingly frustrating, tiresome, and futile.  Part of our job was to review the entity’s financials.  To that end, we developed a ‘list of documents’ we wanted to review in advance of our meetings in an attempt to be prepared and effective.

We reached out to all of the other stakeholders… the banker, the Private Equity Group, and the parent company’s CFO as we worked to obtain good data from the CEO.  We communicated our needs repetitively and were promised good information would be given to us.

But nothing.

Monthly meetings went by without a single financial statement, spreadsheet, or agenda to follow.   As we continued our written requests for financial information, the CEO resorted to cancelling meetings.  All of this came to a head when the Board decided collectively to inform the parent company’s executive management that the financial stalemate was unacceptable.

We needed an intervention.

As we gathered last week, instead of receiving the financial documentation we were promised, we were all relieved of our duties.  Isn’t that a nice way to say “you’re fired”?   You could have heard a pin drop in that room.  Frankly, I have never witnessed a more uncomfortable moment of silence in my life.   To make matters worse, we were told by the CEO that we were being relieved because we had all been around the business too long and served on the Board too long!   Did I mention we were all volunteers?   Yep, that’s when I recalled the quote “no good deed goes unpunished”.

Although it may appear that the Board members, who gave freely of their time and talent to assist another, have been punished, I knew better.

It’s been my experience that some of the finest people on earth sacrifice their time to serve others.  And this case was no different.

The opportunity to spend time working alongside this group of ‘givers’ was not time lost.   In this case each member gave without obligation or financial gain, demonstrated patience as they worked in less-than-ideal circumstances, and shared their expertise with all.

And besides, that’s one less dinner I will need to eat at 9:30 p.m.!

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