I will be the first to admit that this is not a workers’ compensation oriented post. Far from it. It is, however, directly related to employment and personal development on the job. It is about recognizing and appreciating those who took you under their wing and made a difference in your life and career. And it is about thanking them for that effort.
I first met Tom McCabe in the summer of 1984. I was fresh out of college, and had taken a position as an assistant manager for a large restaurant group (a far cry from where I am today, but that is a whole different topic!). Tom was hired a few months after I was, and was assigned to my restaurant. He was 8 years my senior, and had extensive management experience. He had clearly been hired as a fast track candidate, and within 6 months he was promoted to General Manager and transferred to his own store – a notoriously problematic one at that.
Tom and I had worked very well together, and had developed a friendship. He believed he saw a talent in me that had not been recognized by others in the company, and he began pushing hard to get me transferred to his store. Fortunately for me, he was successful. Tom was an interesting character. Brash and outspoken. Crusty exterior. Tremendous sense of humor. Heart of gold. He was knowledgeable, and willing to share that knowledge. Tom correctly believed that success came by surrounding yourself with good people, training them and letting them do their job. The time I spent working for and with him was a tremendous learning period for me. Our management team turned a troubled store around, and we started standing out in our region. After 16 months, I was promoted to General Manager and given my own restaurant. It is safe to say that there was absolutely no one prouder that Tom McCabe.
Eventually Tom joined another company and was transferred to Georgia. As with many friendships, we gradually lost track of each other. My last conversation with him was in the early 90’s, when he was based in Snellville, GA. Recently, thanks to the efficiency of the net, I have had the good fortune to track down some of my old workplace friends who have drifted away over the years. I decided one recent Saturday that I would make an earnest effort to locate Tom. Now, Tom did not take great care of himself. He was overweight, and a heavy smoker who could drink an amazing amount of beer in his off hours. Call it a morbid hunch, but I started my search with the Social Security Death Index. Unfortunately, that is also where my search ended.
I found a Thomas McCabe that fit his general age, and within an hour I found myself reading his obituary, which confirmed my fears. Air Force Veteran. Food Service Professional. Survived by wife Cindy and son Shawn. Thomas Matthew McCabe died at home in Auburn, Georgia on November 23, 1999. He was 47.
Despite my suspicions when I started my search, I was still surprised and saddened to know the truth. I was particularly surprised that he has been gone for 12 years. I have had a few days to think about this man, and the difference he made in my life. I wish I had taken the opportunity to let him know when I had the chance. I wish that I could thank him for what he did for me. The best I can do now is share this story, and hope that you will not make the same mistake with the man or woman who makes a difference in your career.
We all have at least one mentor. I have been extremely fortunate, because I can point to several dynamic individuals who have helped me and had tremendous impact on my life and career. One of them is gone now, and I can never personally thank him for his efforts. I will not make that mistake with the others. I would suggest you do the same. Reach out to the person or people who helped you along the path. Let them know how you feel. Then go find someone who needs your help and knowledge. The best thank you for any mentor is to pass the gesture on.
Editors Note: This article originally appeared in our old CompBlog! system in 2006, which is no longer available. The time frame has been updated to reflect the current period.