By Yeoh Siew Hoon, The Transit Cafe

The telephone call came late Thursday afternoon. “Have you heard?” asked a hotelier friend. My journalist’s ears perked up.

He then sent me the link to the breaking news from London. “Hotel chief quits after lying on his CV,” said the headline.

My first response was shock. Then sadness. A young man with a promising career. A husband and a father of two small children. The cover boy of the hotel world in Asia.

A career in disarray. A reputation in ruins. A family in crisis. His team in shock, and grieving for the sudden loss of their leader.

The first email I received asked, “Why did he do it?” Asking that question is a bit like trying to close the gate after the horse has bolted.

No one but Patrick Imbardelli will know the answer to that question and even now, perhaps he too is grappling with that.

Another reaction was “how could he be so dumb”? He too is probably trying to answer that as well.

Living by the belief that you should never judge a man till you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, let me speculate.

We live in a world where corporations demand paper qualifications of those they employ. I was looking at an advertisement from the Singapore Tourism Board recently and every job level – junior or senior – required university degrees.

There are companies that will not promote you beyond a certain level if you do not have the right paperwork, even if you have worked for them for several years.

So imagine you’re a young, driven executive determined to get the trophy job. You know you are good, and confident enough to do it. So you tell a little white lie – okay, you didn’t graduate but you did attend classes.

Suddenly your career takes off. And you’re caught in a bind – even if you wanted to tell the truth now, could you? So you continue to work hard, and your career takes off even faster. There’s no turning back now.

The higher you rise, the harder the fall so you can but only hope for the best. After all, you think, who’s going to find out?

Well, they did, and they have. And now Imbardelli and his family are paying the price. He took a shortcut and his career has been shortcuited. If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s “there is no shortcut in life”.

The company he worked for, for the last seven years, and who hailed him a rising star is determined to move on. They have shown him the door and they have wished him well. He is a talented man and he will move on, they say.

Easier said than done, I’m sure.

There are some who think the company was overly harsh. But in today’s world of political correctness and corporate governance and where everyone has to be seen to be squeaky clean, it probably had no choice, “shareholders’ interests” being the magic word.

So who’s to blame? In truth, no one and everyone.

Could it be perhaps the system – the rules of the corporate jungle – that creates individuals like Patrick and situations like the one he got himself into?

I am not saying that as individuals, we shouldn’t be responsible for our actions especially if they could harm others but if the corporate world sets such high standards for its leaders, can everyone ever make the mark, without fudging a little thing or two?

It’s like our politicians – we want them to rule the world wisely like God but god forbid if he turns out to be a mere mortal.

It reminds me of the Tour de France performance-enhancing drug scandal when one former champion said something to this effect,“do people really expect us to be riding over such hills and distances without taking anything? Honestly …”

What Patrick is going through right now cannot be imagined. Let’s wish him well.

June 22, 2007

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