A police officer sets up a speed trap at a school zone. Before long, the officer clocks someone transiting the zone nearly 25 mph over the posted limit. Pulling over the offender, the police officer discovers that the offender is another police officer from his own precinct. Thinking to extend a professional courtesy, the officer writes up the offense knowing that the usual practice within the precinct was to waive the ticket if the offending officer volunteers to work an extra shift for the citing officer’s team.
Unfortunately, the offending officer—a rookie—decides that the ticket was being unfairly given and starts to argue with the officer who caught him. The astonished senior officer pulls the rookie aside and explains “how things work around here. Either accept the ticket and work the extra shift or face an even stiffer punishment, including a possibility of a denied promotion, when the ticket actually enters the record.”
The rookie clearly violated the law. No matter which penalty he accepts, the rookie is facing negative consequences. Moreover the rookie learns “how things work around here” and chances are that if he survives long enough to become a senior officer, he too, will practice a deficit form of motivation for people in his organization.
Is it possible that a third path, a servant-leader’s path, might have provided a solution that had positive ramifications? For example, suppose the senior officer were to suggest that the ticket would be expunged if the rookie were to volunteer to do some community service by leading some workshops on the dangers of speeding in a school zone to other speed zone offenders. Now the offending rookie has a chance to redeem himself in a way that lifts up others and by offering himself as an example to the community of a truly accountable public servant. There’s an old axiom that suggests that “we teach that which we most need to know.” I would wager that the rookie, having now taught a few seminars on the importance of following the law, would be more likely to himself follow the laws he is sworn to uphold.