Working Wounded Blog: Rewarding Freaks

News Flash: The "Runaway Bride," Jennifer Wilbanks, signed a $500,000 book deal.

Duluth, Ga., officials were not pleased when they heard that Wilbanks had signed a half million-dollar deal to tell her "story" of running away just before her lavish wedding. Especially after Wilbanks surfaced on the other side of the country and compounded her troubles by lying to authorities and claiming she'd been kidnapped. If you missed the story of the Runaway Bride, you don't read newspapers, you don't watch cable news or you're just lucky.

The mayor of Duluth, Shirley Lasseter, said, "I think it's a shame that anybody could profit from this," according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lasseter has a good reason for being upset about Wilbanks' cashing in on her story. Duluth spent $43,000 on the Runaway Bride's search and has yet to see a penny for its troubles. The city's chances of a book deal can be summed up as nonexistent.

This humble blogger is not interested in robbing anyone of their 15 minutes of fame. And as far as her cashing in, I adopt a simple rule: If someone was willing to pay the ex-Runaway Bride six figures, then she isn't overpaid. The market established her price and she got it.

I am, however, concerned about the rest of us and what this says about people who punch the clock each day. Call me a sentimental fool, but I really do believe that work can be a noble undertaking and that the Runaway Brides of the world somehow diminish it for everyone else. People like the supermarket cashier in Oakland who collects recipes to give to shoppers who don't know how to prepare a meal using the food they just purchased. The bus driver in Seattle who serenades passengers on his bus route. The boss, who someone wrote me an e-mail about, who gave an employee the day off to be with her sick dog.

I know you are thinking that I'm naïve, but I do believe that every person who works an honest living can only scratch their head when someone breaks the law, lies about it and is rewarded with a big paycheck. It's tough to not wonder why you should follow the rules when big rewards appear to come from taking shortcuts.

If life were fair, a certain supermarket cashier, bus driver and boss (and yes, some bosses do actually deserve our respect) would get their 15 minutes of fame and big rewards for their service above and beyond the call of duty.

So what lies ahead? More Runaway Brides and fingers in the chili at Wendy's, I fear. The more we pay attention to and reward a freak show, the more freaks we'll have to get used to.

But there is something that each of us can do to recognize and reward the excellent performers that you see every day at work; give 'em a big thank you and pat on the back. Remember, this is the kind of behavior that we want to encourage.

Quote of the week:
"Suffer fools gladly. They may be right." -- Holbrook Jackson

Weekly book excerpt:
From "The Boss's Survival Guide" by Rosner, Halcrow & Lavin (McGraw Hill, 2001)

"Until the 1980s, employee loyalty meant punching the same time clock from diploma to grave. Whether a boss was a kindly father or an antacid-swilling S.O.B. didn't matter. People shrugged it off and kept plugging away until they earned that nifty gold watch. No more! Today's employees have attention spans the length of an MTV video. They don't want your gold watch. They're Swatch employees; watches and jobs are out of the moment, not for a lifetime. No wonder the average job tenure is now 3.5 years and shrinking."

Working Wounded Mailbag:.

"My worst job interview was with a state agency. I had applied for the job almost three months before they began to interview candidates. When I arrived for the interview, one of the interviewers called me Mary (my name is Kay). He continued to call me Mary and he handed me a copy of the resume furnished to him by the HR department. It was for Mary, someone with the same last name as mine. He complimented me on all the state jobs I had held. I explained that this wasn't my resume. He insisted that it was. Then he explained that the requirements for the job had changed from the original posting and that if I were the successful candidate, I would be required to move to a remote city in the state in about a year -- after I had been trained for the position. At that point, I told the panel that I wasn't interested in continuing the interview. The lead interviewer said, 'Have we done something to offend you?' I said no, and got up and left the room. Later, I heard from a secretary that the interviewer finally realized his error and exclaimed, well, she should have told me I had the wrong resume. I left the state's employment shortly after that."

Blog Ballot Results

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ online ballot:
How do you feel about CEOs being convicted?

       Great, they deserve whatever they get, 90.1 percent
       Bad, they are doing what anyone would do in their position, 3.2 percent
       I don't care, 6.5 percent

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.