Principles: A Luxury or a Necessity?
Can we afford to have principles? I’ve been debating this with myself. The time was drawing near when the Supreme Court was to hand down its final judgement over whether the Labour Court was right to rule in our favour three years previously. Long term readers of my column may remember that a contractor of ours had been caught stealing our IP and trashing me on company email. We let him go; he got angry and sued us in the Labour Court. A year or more later, he lost, then he appealed to the Supreme Court. All this consumed a considerable amount of time, money and energy, as you may imagine – which got me thinking: are principles a luxury or a necessity?
The thought has gone through my mind over the years that it was pointless: if we had just paid him off he would have gone away. But that didn’t sit right with me; he took our IP without permission, said awful things about me on email, and then spun the most fantastical story in court – embellishing it with gratuitous details about my management style, my personal style and generally making me out as a monster. That didn’t feel right to me either: he could say these things and I simply had no right of redress? I was the defendant and just had to take the abuse. That didn’t feel right either. Even though we had made a settlement offer in front of the judge, I wondered if we should have offered more.
Many sleepless nights and countless hours of worry about it took its toll. Business development was neglected to an extent; the sheer volume of administration around it that had to be done took up a considerable amount of time. In addition, he seemed to take particular pleasure in stirring up trouble for us: regular calls from the tax department, government audits and the like. When was it going to stop? I wondered if I should climb down off my high horse and make another offer. That still didn’t feel right.
In the end, I decided I had to see it through. Justice would prevail because we were in the right – or I would learn a very expensive lesson: that we can’t afford principles, they are a luxury denied to us in this part of the world. I didn’t want to be a martyr, but I was certainly considering how I was going to deal with an unfavourable outcome – and it wasn’t going to be easy at all. But for me, without principles we are nothing, so I stuck to my position.
The Supreme Court agreed. We won.