Every fellow is really two men—what he is and what he might be; and you’re never absolutely sure which you’re going to bury till he’s dead. But a man in your position can do a whole lot toward furnishing the officiating clergyman with beautiful examples, instead of horrible warnings. The great secret of good management is to be more alert to prevent a man’s going wrong than eager to punish him for it. That’s why I centre authority and distribute checks upon it. That’s why I’ve never had any Honest Old Toms, or Good Old Dicks, or Faithful Old Harrys handling my good money week-days and presiding over the Sabbath-school Sundays for twenty years, and leaving the old man short a hundred thousand, and the little ones short a superintendent, during the twenty-first year.
It’s right to punish these fellows, but a suit for damages ought to lie against their employers. Criminal carelessness is a bad thing, but the carelessness that makes criminals is worse. The chances are that, to start with, Tom and Dick were honest and good at the office and sincere at the Sunday-school, and that, given the right circumstances, they would have stayed so. It was their employers’ business to see that they were surrounded by the right circumstances at the office and to find out whether they surrounded themselves with them at home.
A man who’s fundamentally honest is relieved instead of aggrieved by having proper checks on his handling of funds. And the bigger the man’s position and the amount that he handles, the more important this is. A minor employee can take only minor sums, and the principal harm done is to himself; but when a big fellow gets into you, it’s for something big, and more is hurt than his morals and your feelings.
I dwell a little on these matters, because I want to fix it firmly in your mind that the man who pays the wages must put more in the weekly envelope than money, if he wants to get his full money’s worth. I’ve said a good deal about the importance of little things to a boss; don’t forget their importance to your men. A thousand-dollar clerk doesn’t think with a ten-thousand-dollar head; a fellow whose view is shut in by a set of ledgers can’t see very far, and so stampedes easier than one whose range is the whole shop; a brain that can’t originate big things can’t forget trifles so quick as one in which the new ideas keep crowding out the old annoyances. Ten thousand a year will sweeten a multitude of things that don’t taste pleasant, but there’s not so much sugar in a thousand to help them down. The sting of some little word or action that wouldn’t get under your skin at all, is apt to swell up one of these fellows’ bump of self-esteem as big as an egg-plant, and make it sore all over.
It’s always been my policy to give a little extra courtesy and consideration to the men who hold the places that don’t draw the extra good salaries. It’s just as important to the house that they should feel happy and satisfied as the big fellows. And no man who’s doing his work well is too small for a friendly word and a pat on the back, and no fellow who’s doing his work poorly is too big for a jolt that will knock the nonsense out of him.