During the early 1990s, I worked as an employee liaison at a family owned manufacturing business outside of Detroit. One year the company decided to hold a coloring contest for employee’s children. The categories were divisions were age-related, so that 3 years old would be as competitive as 10 or 12 year olds, ensuring that all of the children would have an equal chance. The owner of the company…father to all the executive and founder of the business…was the judge. My role was to pulicize the event and announce the winners.
We taped the cute pictures to a wall along the main corridor of the large shop area without names being visible. After the display was up for a couple days, the owner and I went out one mid-afternoon and he reviewed the artwork. Three of them were far, far better with extras added such as glitter, feathers and the like. The contest judge picked the first two of these for the oldest and next oldest age groups and when I check my records for the children’s name, we learned that they were siblings. In light of that information, when it came to the youngest age group, he turned to me and said, “This is the best one here, but I’m not going to pick it because all the prizes would go to the same family.”
It didn’t matter that this picture was the best.
It didn’t matter than this child was, in fact, more talented than her siblings were because she was equally skilled at a younger age.
It didn’t matter that someone would have to explain to this young girl why her older siblings won and she didn’t even though her art was just as deserving.
What did matter was completely outside the rules of the contest and something that the contest participants could not control or influence.
My boss would not be dissuaded from putting politics first, and in addition as his employee, I was ordered to not discuss his decision making process with other employees.