I sat with the Malawi businessman as we reviewed the job performance of a large number of employees. Though they were his employees a number of them worked closely with our teams, so we both needed the input of the other in order to have a full view of each of the employees.
As we went down the list we came to an employee who had been recommended by a friend of mine. Though I did not know this person, I did know the friend, and I trusted him to know the character of people he recommended. Months earlier when I had brought up the name of this possible employee the businessman immediately hired him, no questions asked.
Now we were looking at this man’s record over the previous few months. It was not good. Not good at all. When asked the problem with this guy who had come highly recommended, the businessman looked across the desk and immediately said, “He is a scoundrel. He has always been that way. I have known him for a long time. We must watch him closely, or he will cheat us.”
I was amazed, and I looked at him for several seconds before reacting to his charges against the new hire.
“If he was such a bad guy,” I asked, “why did you hire him?”
“I hired him because a friend of yours recommended him,” he responded.
“But I did not mean for you to hire a bad guy, just because I recommended him. I didn’t know. You should have said something,” I spoke in my defense.
“But I would never do anything to offend a friend of yours,” he countered.
“Even hire a bad guy,” I asked?
“Of course,” he said.
It made me realize just how careful I have to be in this culture. There is such a desire to please the visitor that a person, in this case, an employer, will hire a bad guy rather than offend.