I watched with disgust as an employee blatantly, and with no reserve, insulted the boss, to his face, at a meeting table. I was baffled, struck with anger at his disrespect and ready to take the boss' defense, until I took a moment to stare at the boss' reaction. To my dismay, he held his temper, displayed a poker face, and continued as though nothing has happened.
I raged into his office after the meeting. 'I would have fired him right away', I said still appalled by what had happened, and completely baffled by the reaction. He just smiled and calmly replied still unmoved 'you have to think about the other employees reaction'. That was my first lesson in leadership.
I couldn't understand back then. How could letting an employee insult you to your face be thoughtful to other employees? If anything, it would teach them that they could do the same and not face any consequences, I thought.
Further down the road, as things unfolded, I realized that not taking his own defense made other employees, just like me, ready to reprimand the insulter. I learned that the boss, by not reacting, had the sympathy of his staff. 'Turning the other cheek' as against our nature as it can be, is a valuable lesson. Everyone sympathizes with the victim, and sometimes taking the defensive might be just as bad as an offensive in people's perceptions and only aggravates the issue.
I strongly believe that evil breeds evil unless countered with good, as hard to implement as it might be.