Beverly worked as a Delta airlines flight attendant for 15 years. She loved her job, but decided to pursue early retirement to be home full time with her children. 

Last year, tragedy struck: Beverly's 19-year-old son suddenly passed away.

After taking some time to mourn, Beverly decided she was ready to re-enter the workforce, and pursued the same job at Delta she had left years ago. She began interviewing with a third-party hiring agency but was quickly eliminated, despite having 15 years of training and experience in the position she was interviewing for.

Talk about feeling that you've been kicked when you're down.

I learned about Beverly's story when she wrote a comment on an article I shared on LinkedIn. The article was praising Delta Airlines and its CEO Ed Bastian, for the way the company treats its people. 

Beverly didn't disparage Delta, nor did she ask me to do anything about her situation. She didn't even tag me in her comment. She simply shared her heartbreaking experience:

I was a Delta Flight Attendant for fifteen years. I retired early to be home full time to be with my children. I lost my son last year. I just interviewed with Delta through [redacted]. It was a no. I don't understand it. I loved my career with Delta.

Beverly's comment hit me hard. It wasn't the first time I had heard of a potentially ideal candidate, specifically one who has valuable training--and invaluable experience--getting weeded out by recruitment management systems or third-party companies. Of course, there were tons of possible extenuating circumstances, including the fact that Beverly hadn't held this position for years. But I couldn't shake the feeling that I wanted to help.

So I reached out to Beverly to share my condolences and wish her strength. I also let her know that I had an idea.

After speaking with Beverly, I wrote a  message to my 100,000 followers on LinkedIn, sharing her story and tagging Delta airlines. It concluded with a simple request:

Can you pls like or comment on this post? Hopefully, together we can get Delta's attention. And just maybe give Beverly a chance at getting her job back.

I wasn't sure how many people would even see the post, never mind engage with it. I warned Beverly the attempt could fail miserably. 

The post slowly gained traction. Twenty likes. Then, a hundred. It eventually grew to several hundred. Tons of LinkedIn members also shared comments, many of which offered to help Beverly in some way.

It was heartwarming to see the response. Beverly was touched. At this point I still hadn't heard anything from Delta, but I was comforted with the thought that at least we provided Beverly some encouragement.

Then, a few days later, a new comment. 

It was from Delta's CEO, Ed Bastian:

Justin, thanks for flagging this. Losing a loved one, let alone a child, is incomprehensible. As a dad of four, my heart and prayers are with you, Beverly.

We take great pride in the integrity of our selection process since our team is involved in all steps of hiring. Allison Ausband, please see Justin's note about Beverly's recent experience.

Ausband, who serves as senior vice president of in-flight service at Delta, immediately responded and promised to reach out to Beverly directly, which she did. And I'm happy to say that Beverly was given a second chance to interview. (The interview process is currently ongoing.)

I've been working to help companies and individuals to build emotional intelligence for years, but this has to be one of my all-time favorite experiences. It's a real-life case study to show that in a world full of bad news, emotional intelligence can be used for good.

What's emotional intelligence got to do with it?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. It includes hallmark qualities like compassion and empathy, and can be used to build stronger relationships, both at home and in the workplace.

As CEO, Bastian didn't have to take any action on my LinkedIn post. Considering that Delta currently has over 80,000 employees, and Beverly was only one of over 180,000 applicants for the position of flight attendant last year alone, Bastian could have completely ignored any attention it received. And he certainly didn't have to deliver a personal response.

But with his response, Bastian taught an important lesson. 

For business leaders, it's important to be able to see beyond the numbers. Beverly's experience was more than just a random tragedy. It was the experience of one of Bastian's people, a former Delta employee. 

And while Bastian's kind words showed evidence of empathy, it was his action to reopen the interview process that spoke much louder than words. 

Still, as much as I applaud Bastian's classy move, there's an even greater lesson in this story:

Even small acts of kindness can go a long way. 

It didn't take much for each individual to engage with that post. Maybe a few minutes out of their day, max. 

But every like, every share, every encouraging comment helped uplift a stranger who had endured tragedy. They helped give Beverly hope. They encouraged her to stay the course.

Viewed on their own merits, each of those kind acts may not have seemed like much. But together they formed something special--like the countless number of delicate brushstrokes that make up a beautiful painting. 

And together, they helped us all see the importance of keeping the human element to the way we run our businesses.

That's the power of using emotional intelligence for good.

Published on: Feb 26, 2020
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