As decades of dust permanently settle on my office shelves (just a slight metaphor for my life
), I realize that sitting in this same chair for all these years—while admittedly widening my lower half to great degree–has allowed me to ponder the professional environment around me.
Recently, a friend and I, both of us veteran media professionals, were having a random discussion about the inherent sense of entitlement and less-than-professional attitude of the younger generation. (My pal and I hover somewhere between 45 and death
.) It seems to be a conversation many of us are having about the “generation of discontent.” Now, while I would rather walk on nails than be considered old-fashioned, I often find myself longing for the days when courtesy and etiquette ruled the workplace. Not in a “Mad Men” sort of way, but in a “whatever happened to?” sort of way.
When it comes to common workplace courtesies, someone once told me to lower my expectations. Why should I
have to? Why should I not expect a “thank you” after a project I completed helped someone else make a sale? Why shouldn’t I expect someone I’ve never met to introduce herself to me before asking me to do something for her? As Harvey Fierstein
would bellow, “Is that so wrrroooooonnnngg??”
Is it me?? Am I standing on ceremony? Perhaps my soapbox, along with my waistline, is just getting too big. Why am I so vexed? Maybe it was my uncompromising Jewish mother (“Rule by fear. If that doesn’t work, there’s always guilt.”
), who hounded us to write “thank you” notes mere hours after receiving a gift. (For the record, I got married on a Sunday. My “thank you” notes were written on Monday. Sick. I know.
) Perhaps it was my beloved college professors, who hammered us with our mission: Get in the door and build your resume. Work experience is the priority. Back in the Dark Ages, before new technology changed the world and instant gratification became the norm, we were taught to take responsibility for our actions, to appreciate what we have, to work hard and to pay our dues.
Pay Your Dues.
Now there’s a concept. And, apparently, an archaic one at best. When you talk to a newbie about “paying your dues,” (cue eye-rolling and uncomfortable wincing
), it’s as if you’ve asked them to pay down our national debt. Sigh.
We started our careers with what I like to call “a fire in our bellies”–an unmitigated passion to pursue and succeed. We worked late. We came in at ungodly hours. We asked questions. We listened. We soaked up everything we could. And, yes, we actually had fun at work, too! Compensation was almost secondary to the experience. We had no expectations because we were ready, willing and able to start from the ground up. And we are where we are today because we earned it.
I don’t want to believe that we have raised a generation of selfish slackers and whiners. I know too many wonderfully talented, ambitious and altruistic young adults who never cease to amaze me. They balance the sagging weight of the entitled ones—the ones who race out of their college gates with unrealistic demands, a cavalier attitude and a mad dash for the door at 5:00pm. I’m pretty sure that their parents, many of whom are my contemporaries, did not work hard at their careers and send them to college just so they could bitch and moan about unmet expectations and the “unfairness of it all.”
Business is complicated
. And business is not always fair. But if it’s a business you love and a career path you’ve chosen, you have the ability to create opportunities and make it your own. And make it spectacular. Your livelihood depends on it. Your well-being depends on it. And your self-worth depends on it.
Hey, newbies…We are not the enemy.
We are on the same team. We are here to work with you, to teach you and to help you grow. In fact, some of us are here this long because we, a) actually like what we do, b) are grateful to have jobs doing what we like to do and, c) much to your great surprise, actually know what we’re doing. We are not here to dismiss you, deride you or belittle you—your success is our success. We really don’t want to see you end up behind a counter asking if we “want fries with that.”
The future of our business is in your hands…Use them to mold something incredible. Maximize the new technology you take for granted (and that confounds so many of us “veterans”) and revolutionize our industry–again. Despite what you may think, we are depending on YOU to carry on the legacies we leave behind. We have faith in you. Have some in yourselves.
And would it kill you to say “thank you” once in awhile? (Alas
…transition complete… I have become my mother