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My Lesson from the Missionaries

By Dec 12,2016 Follow Me on Google+

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Summary
You cannot afford to be associated with positions in which people implant negative thoughts and ideas in your mind. Negative information, rumors, and so forth can spread like a cancer and destroy your life; positive energy is the exact opposite and works to improve everything. Be on the side that is growing and productive, not the side that is bringing you down; doing so will do much to smooth your career path.

Several years ago, I was working at a law firm and virtually from the moment I arrived a woman I’ll call “Linda” used to come into my office for a few hours a day to talk. Her topic? How bad things were at the law firm.

She would share one rumor after the other about how many bad things were going on at the law firm. I was treated to information about allegedly corrupt activities, affairs, who did not like who, incredible insights into who was about to be fired, what different people had said to her, and more. Most of these conversations would occur behind closed doors. After she left, I often wondered to myself what I was doing at such a horrible law firm.

Her visits would always leave me a little depressed. I wondered what I was doing with my life, associating with and being involved with such a horrible group of people. I had actually joined the law firm thinking it was a great place and in many respects, it was. I was able to push aside what Linda was talking about generally about 45 minutes after she left and continue to enthusiastically pursue my job the best I could.

When I would get back to work not more than an hour or two later the phone would ring and it was Linda.

“Guess what?” she would say. She would then proceed to relay to me another rumor of some sort.

What

 job title, keywords

Where

 city, state, zip



I even made pretty good friends with Linda, and these meetings eventually turned into conversations where she started telling me about men in the office she was interested in, the antidepressants she was taking, and who she had previously been involved with. On the weekends she would call me, and my fiancé at the time would hand me the phone as Linda relayed yet another rumor about the law firm she learned about over the weekend. I have no idea how Linda managed to get any work done at the law firm. I also had no idea why she had chosen to come to work there. She was literally spending every spare moment gossiping about how bad the law firm was.

Then Linda started going on interviews with various employers. She was very well-spoken, had gone to the #1 ranked law school in the country at the time, and was quite attractive. She very quickly got numerous job offers. She then gave notice at the law firm and if I recall correctly she “let the law firm have it” in terms of telling them everything she thought was wrong with them. Her “vent” was pretty epic and involved all sorts of observations as well as deep psychological-type analyses of her supervisors and others, which left the powers that be in the law firm stunned. After this incredible episode she still wanted me to pal around the law firm with her by sitting with her in the law firm library and walking past the offices of the same partners in the law firm she had bitterly put down when she resigned. This was all too much for me. She had really upset a lot of people.

“Linda,” I told her, “This place is not really that bad. I think you have just been making it bad by looking for all of the bad stuff. Everyone is really upset with you right now. I am trying to have a career here. I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t hang out with me all the time at work. I need to hold on to my job. I’m getting married soon and will have a wife to support, a mortgage to pay, and other responsibilities. I really cannot afford to be associated with this.”

I had reached this decision because I knew my association with Linda was really hurting me. I knew her attitude was casting a negative light on me to some extent. Looking around me at the law firm, I could see numerous people who had been there for decades. Could the place be so bad if there were people who had managed to work at the same place for so long? I knew the answer to this particular question was “no” and that much of what was being seen was simply through Linda’s eyes.

How do you think it makes you feel about your job if someone is coming in a couple of times a day and telling you how awful your workplace is? What if your phone were ringing off the hook with gossip about your co-workers? Even if these things were true, do you think this does you any good?

There are generally people in all organizations who seem dedicated to walking around spreading rumors of doom and gloom. I have witnessed it throughout my career–even in organizations that were doing well. I wonder how these people get any work done. It seems more like these people are involved in a soap opera than anything else. They are constantly doing everything within their power to spread fear among their co-workers. I certainly witnessed this sort of thing when I was working there. It is going on everywhere.

Several years later, I was attending a wedding in rural Utah about 90 minutes outside of Provo. My cousin was marrying a lovely woman from this area who had moved to New York City to become an on-air news anchor at a local television station. The videographer walked up to me and started talking to me.

“I’ve done only a few weddings for 12 year-old girls, about twice as many for 13 year-old girls,” he told me. “I’ve done many 14 year-old weddings. I just did one last week,” he told me gruffly and matter-of-factly. He was referring to the fact that older men were marrying women at that age. I would learn later in the evening that some of the men getting married to these 14 year-old girls not only had 5+ other wives, but also that many of them were in their 50s. Videotaping the weddings of young girls to older men was a very normal thing to him. I could not believe it. You hear about this sort of stuff on television and in the movies but I did not realize how prevalent this actually was. I was mesmerized by this particular conversation and others that led me to question if I was really in part of the United States. You can learn so much by talking to people, especially in rural Utah.

As the man and I continued to speak, he told me that he was very involved with the county and the workforce services part of the county. In fact, he was in charge of recruiting employers from out-of-state to come to his county to hire people. He explained to me many people chose to live in this part of the country because of their Mormon faith. He said many of them actually go away to schools like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) then come back because family is so important in their religion. He then explained there were incredibly talented people in the county who were interested in working for sophisticated companies. This was music to my ears. I really liked the people I was meeting because they were much more wholesome than the people I was accustomed to dealing with in Los Angeles.

I had also had an experience several years ago with some Mormon missionaries that made me decide I would do whatever I could to help Mormons in the future.

I had been living in Bay City, Michigan, working for a federal judge and one Saturday while I was watching a football game and immersed in a bowl of Doritos with a bunch of empty Diet Cokes in front of me, I heard the doorbell ring. I did not have a lot of friends in Bay City and was eager for any company I could get.

Into my apartment walked two of the nicest guys I had ever met. They had name tags on, white starched shirts, and little black bicycles. I let them in and they gave me a Bible and some literature. At the time, my fiancé was out of town, and I was pretty bored and enjoyed the company. They told me they would stop back in a couple of days to talk to me some more.

After a couple more visits, during which they related to me fascinating information about their religion, they gave me an ultimatum. I really liked these guys and Mormonism sounded great. I grew up Episcopalian and at the time I was not too happy with the religion. My uncle is actually a pretty famous Episcopal Priest and had agreed to officiate my wedding which was scheduled to happen in about six months. Then he’d told me he didn’t want to because he disliked my father. This was really a bit too much for me. I thought religions were supposed to be about peace and love. These Mormon guys were very likable. What I liked best about their religion was they promised me if I converted, after I died I would get my own planet with my wife and children. Listening to stuff like this really fascinated me. It was like playing Dungeons and Dragons–only it was real. I also liked their values, the structure, and felt it was an all-in-all great religion. I still like Mormonism to this day and feel a strong connection with it.

“We’d like to have you down to our church. However, before we can go any further with you we are going to have to ask you to have your fiancé move out of the house. You are living in sin and this is impeding your spiritual development.”

“Are you kidding?” I asked.

My fiancé and I had been together for years and she moved to Bay City with me from Charlottesville, Virginia, and we were engaged. There was no way this was happening. I looked at these guys and realized they were quite serious. A week previously they had requested I not eat or drink anything (even water!) for a day–I obliged. They were also hinting that I should never drink coffee or my beloved Diet Coke any longer. They also told me I should be prepared to give them 10% of all the money I made. Finally, they told me I should never drink alcohol. These guys were beginning to get annoying.

I told those nice 18 year-old guys I appreciated their spiritual lessons but did not think they should continue. There was no way I was asking my fiancé to move out.

About three months later the guys stopped by again. It was spring at this point, and I had brought out from storage a 550 gallon tanker I towed behind my Suburban that I filled with asphalt sealant each year. To the horror of my neighbors it was sitting directly in front of my apartment looking mean and ugly.

I had been doing asphalt work since the age of 18 and was excited to get back in business during the weekends while working for the judge. The thing about this tank is that you can never get all of the sealer out of it at the end of the season. Because it snows in Michigan you cannot apply the sealer to asphalt then. The asphalt sealer in the tank hardens up and turns into a clay-like material. You have to climb inside the tank and scrape all of the material out. There are agitators and other things inside the tank that do no work unless you do this. It typically took me about15 hours to do this each year.

“Is there anything we can do for you?” they asked after we exchanged some pleasantries.

“Yeah, you can scrape that stuff out of the tank sitting there,” I told them. “Other than that I do not have any problems I am concerned about at the moment.” I was kidding of course.

The next day I came home and apparently all the missionaries from miles around had come and climbed in the tank and cleaned it out. They did not leave me a note or anything. I never saw the missionaries again. I promised myself from that day onwards if I ever had a chance to do anything for Mormons in my life I would. This was an incredible gesture of kindness and I appreciated it. They had done this expecting nothing in return.

As the videographer at the party talked, I told him I was in a position to hire people. I remembered the kindness the missionaries had shown me and wanted to give back. The videographer told me how high the unemployment rate was, and I told him I would do everything I could to hire people in the town. A few weeks later, I showed up with several of my managers and made arrangements to come to the unemployment office and start interviewing people. We found office space and made preparations to shift a substantial majority of our operations to this rural Utah area.

A few weeks later, we proceeded to hire at least 10-15 people from the unemployment office. We rented a truck and went to Sam’s Club in Provo and purchased computers, desks, chairs and tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment for our new office. All of the new employees helped us set up the office. Metaphorically, it was almost as if my experience with these wonderfully nice people years ago had caused this religion to create this office sitting there.

A few weeks into the process, I started realizing there were problems. Most of the people whom we had hired had been unemployed for months, and in some cases years, before they were hired. The small staff I had hired on a mission of goodwill started talking like they should be unionized. An incredible number of destructive rumors started going around the office that made it back to our headquarters in Pasadena, California. The people we had hired often started disappearing for hours during the day. Absenteeism was extremely high. Errors were high. The office was sitting in the shadow of one of the largest and most significant temples in the Mormon religion. In fact, with the exception of one employee in the office, the work was the worst I have ever seen. There were other issues there going on as well. We even had an issue where a married couple was sexually harassing a young employee in our call center because they wanted her to be part of a polygamous relationship with them. When I heard about this, it was the last straw. The fact that such people were producing negative news and negative energy in addition to the sexual harassment stories was too much to handle.

I sent a couple of trucks from Pasadena and some managers to Utah and packed up everything in the office and closed the office down. The same day I decided there was one good employee there who was actually exceptional and kept her. She is still working here to this day and has risen to become one of the most exceptional managers in the company. She rebuilt the office there and it has been very, very successful. It is one of the best things I have ever done for our business.

What I learned from this, however, is that there are people who should not be hired. The people from the unemployment office were unemployed for a reason: they were cancerous to their organizations. People who spread negative energy and news are like cancers to companies and to their co-workers. One of the best hires I ever made was almost brought down by this cancer. You need to be very careful about cancerous people because they can hurt you. Stay away and keep your job. This was an important lesson I learned in Utah. Today, we have a great operation there and it is filled with great people who have good attitudes. The company has learned it’s important to keep only happy and enthusiastic people around.

Most of us are put in positions where people are planting negative thoughts and ideas in our minds. You cannot afford to be associated with this at work. Negative information, rumors, and so forth are like a cancer. They will spread to you and take you down as well. Positive energy is the opposite. Positive energy creates good and makes things better. The positive energy of the Mormon missionaries created the office we currently have in Utah. The spirit of giving they emphasized is something that has created millions of dollars in payroll for a community that is probably 99% Mormon. This would not have happened without their positive energy. The negative energy of the chronically unemployed I hired almost took all of that away. The rumors, innuendo, and scheming could have seriously damaged the company. While good always wins out in the end, you want to be on the side that is growing and productive–not on the side that is bringing things down. If you follow this advice, you will have fewer bumps in your career.

THE LESSON

You cannot afford to be associated with people who implant negative thoughts and ideas in your mind. Negative information, rumors, and so forth can spread like a cancer and destroy your life. Positive energy is the exact opposite and works to improve everything. Be on the side that is growing and productive, not the side that is bringing you down. Doing so will do much to smooth your career path.

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You May Also Enjoy These Posts By Harrison Barnes

  • I’m a Mormon

    Mormons cannot have more than one wife at a time. We pledge to honor the law of the land. Those people with many wives are EX COMMUNICATED! They are not welcome by the LDS church.
    Before the law was passed, Mormons could have more wives. They did this because the mobs Murdered hundreds of husbands and left families without a husband or father.
    It was necessary to marry these widows to provide for them. I wish Utah had declared itself to be it’s own nation instead of joining the union.
    I would have defended it to the death.
    There is bad apples in every church or town. It is unfair to label everything as the responsibility of the church.
    What church does bill clinton belong to?
    How many kids have STD’s since the president declared that oral sex was not sex? What is the meaning of IS is?
    The whole entire world caught him lying!
    What is the name of his church?

    Mormons provided many MILLIONS of Dollars in food, clothes and labor to Katrina victims in New Orleans.

    What did you give?

    We give humanitarian Aid all over the world and we bring Jesus Christ to millions.

    What did you give?

    I live in Oregon, every day I pass out dollars to the homeless out of my own pocket, 3 weeks ago I gave a woman in San Diego (I’m visiting family) $30 to fix her car, no strings attached. I live off my SS Disability. My heart is full of charity.

    I joined the LDS church when I was 27. Before then I knew nothing about them. That 10% tithing? Well, let me tell you, in 1979, while living the single life in Las Vegas, I gave them $3700 cash that I saved to buy a new car. It was a leap of faith.

    That was the best thing I had ever DONE, FOR MYSELF!!!
    I have been rewarded much more than ten fold in return.
    I’m very happy to give!

    What have you done? You could have told your story without all the negative stuff about people being who and what they are without labeling them “Mormon”.
    Just how is the church liable for their free will?

    At judgment day, what will your excuse be?

    .

  • phiulips7

    I live in Oregon, every day I pass out dollars to the homeless out of my own pocket, 3 weeks ago I gave a woman in San Diego (I’m visiting family) $30 to fix her car,stuff about people being who and what they are without labeling them “Mormon”.

  • shoumen

    Harrison also writes daily articles to inspire and motivate job seekers that he publishes each week for Harrison Barnes.com. Harrison believes that the best stories typically revolve around the employee being very motivated to do a good job and continually wanting to improve in his or her employment.

  • Interesting story. H.Ross Perot always said his best workers were Mormon dairy farmers from Idaho.

  • Angela Tyson

    Dear Mr. Barnes:

    Thank you for writing the article about negative cancerous people in the workplace. I hope you will consider offering seminars for other CEOs and managers assisting them in how to identify and remove that sort of element in their companies.

    I will definitely take your advicee on how to handle this when I start my next job.

  • Rachael

    Did you ever notice how glad you are to see some people arrive, and how relieved you are to see some people leave? When people focus on problems all the time, they burn up time and energy. I try to avoid exposing myself to this when I can, but when I find myself in their company, I like to agree that they have identified a problem, then, put it in their control, by asking “So, what do you think should be done to fix it?” If they are just wanting attention and liking to complain, they will quit unloading after one or two times of this. If they are really just feeling overwhelmed and helpless, this helps to empower them so they can become productive. If they aren’t capable of problem solving, instead of just throwing out the question, I may ask a few directed questions like “Have you thought of…” or “What would happing if…?”

    In the words of one of my wisest mentors, “I don’t have time for gossip, I’m too busy living my life. People who gossip just don’t have a life of their own.” If you don’t enjoy it, just don’t participate.

    When an entire organization becomes a negative environment with a culture of gossip, it is easy to blame the employees, but they are only one of the ingredients. The person who interviews and selects them in the first place, and the management also contribute. Why are they gossiping? Do the employees feel valued? Do they have too much free time on their hands? Is management setting up unhealthy competitive situations? Does management set the example first? After all, as the saying goes, “Attitudes are contagious – is your’s worth catching?”

  • shoumen

    Harrison Barnes did not gain this reputation overnight. He has worked for it tirelessly for years. In the process he has also benefited himself and tens of thousands of job seekers spread all across the globe. This website is giving the people advice.

  • This was a great article, but I had a few problems with the Mormon portrayals. I just wanted to point out as the first comment, those who marry more than one wife are not the same as the mainstream Mormons who would have knocked on your door. It is true that early Mormons did live polygamy for religious purposes. However, more than 100 years ago that practice stopped and anyone living that life (especially under-age) will be excommunicated from the mainstream religion. That and they will be breaking the law.

    As for the comment “. . . their religion was they promised me if I converted, after I died I would get my own planet with my wife and children,” is simply not true. As a former missionary and during Church this was never taught. I will agree it might have been implied if the religious teachings are interpreted a particular way, but it isn’t more than speculative. The teachings are that a man and woman can marry for eternity and have an eternal family. Another teaching is that those who follow the Commandments with faith in Jesus Christ may become like God. Taken together I can see where the interpretation comes from, but it is an open debate in the Church what exactly these mean or how far the interpretation can be taken.

    I just wanted to clear those things up in an otherwise good article.

  • Charles Martin

    H. Ross Perot always said, his best people were Mormom dairy farmers from Idaho.

  • From a Latter-day Saint, aka a Mormon

    Enjoyed the article – as I do every article. Thank you Harrison.

    A couple of things – just wanted to point out that “Mormons” can’t have more than one wife – or they are excommunicated – it is strictly against our doctrine. In the past there were a few Mormons who were polygamists (same with Moses, Abraham, Jacob, etc.), but that practice was discontinued in the church more than 100 years ago. Today, anyone claiming to be mormon and polygamist is not. I think the article leaves that distinction out.

    The second point is that “Mormon” is a nickname. It comes from the Book of Mormon, which is a book of sacred scripture written by prophets who lived in the American continents thousands of years ago. (Mormon was the name of one of the prophets). It isn’t a bible, but it does corroborate the Bible, strengthening the Bible’s message. The Bible is a record of God’s dealings with His children and Christ’s ministry in the Old World. The Book of Mormon was written at the same time as the Bible, but about Christ and God’s dealings with the people in the New World. We believe wholeheartedly in both books of scripture (and we believe God is still talking to prophets on earth. . . http://www.lds.org ) The actual name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon is a nickname.

    Sidenote: Somebody asked me the other day how people inside the “Mormon” church refer to themselves. While “Mormon” is common, church members often refer to themselves as “Latter-day Saints”. (A Saint in New Testament times was someone who had been baptized. Acts 9:32, 41; Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.) Latter-days means the time after the New Testament times (and prior to the second coming of Christ).

    Anyway – inspiring article as always.

  • Michel Tine

    Good morning Sir!

    Yes! The lesson is important and right. I have learned more about the different problems you have related in your article. It would be best if everyone was going the right way and did not focus on rumors, problems or many other issues…The advice I can add is that we should work and be strong. If we do this we will always find solutions to each problem that emerge at the office or at home…I retain this from you:

    THE LESSON

    You cannot afford to be associated with positions in which people implant negative thoughts and ideas in your mind. Negative information, rumors, and so forth can spread like a cancer and destroy your life; positive energy is the exact opposite and works to improve everything. Be on the side that is growing and productive, not the side that is bringing you down; doing so will do much to smooth your career path.

    I wish you and your family a good weekend.

    Friendly greetings,
    Michael Tine

  • Your comments about older men marrying younger women were a non sequitor.

  • Rachel Burton

    There should be a distinction made between Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and the “Mormons” who practice polygamy. In this article, they are lumped together, which is defaming to the Latter-Day Saint people. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not condone polygamy, or marriage of girls so young.

  • Khalid Alnasir

    Life is about Variety. Unlike what we think about them, people like Linda are very useful and important and we should listen to them. They keep an eye on the ‘Wrong’ and criticise it. For them it damages thier health, but for the company it’s good. They are like ‘Don Kehote’, keep chasing the Evil. In some cases, the source for what Linda does come from ‘Depression’, but then again ‘Dawn is the son of Darkness’.

  • Edward P. Sager

    Hmmm…if persons in Utah are practicing polygamy, they are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (often referred to as “the Mormons”). Also, unless the author’s experience in Utah was 30 years ago (maybe it was 130 years ago?), the minimum age for marriage in Utah is 16. For a long time (30 years ago), it was 14. Getting married to 12 and 13 year old children (at one point the author referred to these young children as women) is illegal and a very serious crime in Utah.

    This article makes members of the LDS Church (often referred to as “the Mormons”) look like a bunch of crazy people waiting for some spaceship to transport them to some paradise planet. The LDS religion is odd (as are pretty much all Christian sects and other religious beliefs and organizations), but the doctrine taught in the LDS religion is not as odd as this article describes, or rather, implies.

    Many people in the LDS religion choose to not drink caffeinated beverages. If anyone from the LDS Church is stating that it is LDS doctrine that LDS members must not drink caffeinated drinks, then they do not understand their own doctrine.

    Male LDS missionaries are usually between the ages of 19-21, but can be older. Missionaries do not usually give out Bibles; rather, they give out “The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” The 10% of income (tithing) does not go to the missionaries, as was implied, but goes to helping run the LDS Church and the many international relief efforts in which it engages. Polygamy is NOT a part of the LDS Church, and not only is it true that polygamists are excommunicated, but also if the local clergy (which such clergy are unpaid) does not report to the police things such as marrying 12-14 year old children, that local clergy member will not be a clergy member for long.

    I liked the lesson from the article, but the vehicle used to convey the message really misrepresented the LDS Church and its doctrines. By the way, one of the most consistent recruiters at BYU (in Provo) is the FBI because of the personal standards, language skills, and the fact that LDS Church members are usually very hard workers. In every large organization (as the author stated), there are duds, but they do not represent the whole.

    Furthermore, why would anyone hire people (as was implied) who engage in behaviors antithetical to their claimed religion, not to mention engaging in illegal activities?

    Please research a little more about what you imply.

  • Bruce Nelson

    I am stunned at the inaccuracies within this blog by Mr. Barnes. Among the many, the polygamists he references are not “Mormons” (a nickname referring to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). “Mormons” have no association or affiliation with those groups. What is shameful is Mr. Barnes has full knowledge of this fact, along with the other misrepresentations within his posting which were intentionally included to deceive all who happen to read it. As such, I will immediately terminate any association with his firm for obvious reasons, dishonesty being paramount. Shameful.

  • Wow, this article was… Intreasting! I understand the shock of what goes on in America, and even the views on the negative effects of gossip. Still, I can’t help but get the feeling that this letter was sorta gossip too and over all not too possitive. Non the less I liked it thanx.

  • Dawn Dziuba

    Most religion is just a story — in other words — it is all made up. I have learned to humor people of many different religions and that is why I have been able to move in and out of so many groups. I don’t have to agree with any of it; I am just in character as a journalist. I know that some government agencies are very confused about me and I have had to clarify that I was trained in immersion techniques as an investigator. I have been very successful at understanding and profiling different groups this way.

  • Dawn Dziuba

    Religion is a fiction that people tell themselves to feel better. As long as you realize religion is fiction, it can be interesting just as any other culture. I do NOT believe in any religious authority. I do not practice any one religion with exclusivity nor do I think any one religion can claim any kind of authority. Having said this, I can still be open to looking for some beneficial aspects of religion while rejecting the negative/harmful aspects. Like fables, or even stories, you can find meaning wherever you look.

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