I’m going to go on a tiny little bit of a rant. It isn’t something I plan to do frequently in this “column,” but it is something that has been on my mind for a while. So, bear with me… I’ll try not to type too loudly.
I have been witnessing a trend for the last decade or so of people who see the acquisition of gainful employment as the finish line of their entry into the rat race. The people desperately putting themselves out there on the job market consider the welcoming job offer as the ultimate goal of their efforts.
This is possibly the most inaccurate attitude prevalent in the workforce of today. Over and over, I have seen people who put on their best face, clothes, and most professional behavior for the interview process, drop it like it’s hot when they are accepted into a position. The job that they worked so very hard to obtain loses the “shiny” once employment is achieved. The job that the employee was so excited to take on becomes unworthy of the effort to retain. Sadly, this attitude seems to mirror the thread of ingratitude prevalent in other parts of society today. The broad sense of entitlement is virulent in the hearts and minds of too many individuals trying to earn a living. People who were so grateful to have a job too soon lose any sense of believing that opportunity could just as easily gone to someone else… and still might.
It is not necessarily a matter of carelessness, incompetence, or even laziness. Most of the time the individuals in question will absolutely put in the amount of effort to do their job… but just that amount. And that is pretty much it. That is the extent of what they are willing to do, the bare minimum of job requirements. “Above and beyond” is not really part of the vocabulary. Again, this isn’t a matter of laziness, but these folks do not have any passion for their job, nor do they have any attachment to the organization for whom they work. As an employer, I see these as gypsy vagabonds… just passing through. They are not getting anything formative from the job, and they probably are not going to provide anything earth-shattering to any program, department, or company. No ill will harbored. This is just the nature of the individual. They are there until they are met with the first obstacle or any other offer comes along that might provide them sufficient reward. Lather, rinse, repeat. They move from gig to gig with no real sense of anything more than “Meh, it’s a job.”
Sadly, there are degrees of this type of worker. At the mildest level, they do no harm, but they do no amazing good either. They are going to put in their 40 per week and are working for the weekends. They are passing through life, and work provides the funds to pursue their other activities and interests. They are not looking for promotion. They aren’t necessarily looking to move on. They are not looking towards the future, and certainly not planning for any sort of retirement. They will likely not stand out in the crowd around the water cooler. They live to make the fewest ripples. They live from paycheck to paycheck. It really doesn’t sound so bad, right?
There are others, however, who seem to be unable to exist without making waves. They fail to grasp the fact that just because you managed to get the position, doesn’t mean that you can stop working to keep the job. These people are your complainers, pot-stirrers, or drama induction specialists. They frequently request (or demand) special treatment, and they generally do not make any effort to get along with their coworkers. Sometimes, they deliberately sew the seeds of discord within the office to divide and provide a hotbed of drama on which they feed (but this usually requires more effort than they are willing to expend). Occasionally, this can go so far as to be reflected in a disrespect for the workplace culture, regulations, and even employers. They are quick to perceive slights. They are doing an extraordinary favor to employers and coworkers by merely showing up. Most of the time, these people are not deliberately malicious, just incapable of seeing past the tight circle of their own perception. It is more a lack of empathy. It is a perceptual myopathy that prevents them from understanding how anyone else might be impacted by their attitude or behavior. They simply cannot see things from outside their own perspective. Every action is formulated on the premise of “What will this get me?”
Sadly, these individuals seem to go through life with the attitude of “I was looking for a job when I found this one.” That isn’t a bad approach to avoid spiraling into a despair if a job ends. However, it also reflects a lack of appreciation for the job at hand. The end result for many individuals with this attitude towards their job is a remarkably checkered job history with a lack of any longevity or stability. While that might not seem so bad so long as there are no particular breaks in the employment history, many employers will see the lack of any duration as a less than stellar recommendation for employment. Most employers are looking for reliable workers who will contribute in a positive way to the work environment. Contrary to some misbelief out there, most employers are actually looking to benefit the company, organization, and the many that are dependent on the success thereof, rather than providing sole benefit and comfort to one individual.
I am the last person to suggest that anyone should put up with mistreatment at work. Bullies in the workplace do exist. Harassment is intolerable. People should never have to work in a toxic environment, but there is a difference between taking productive actions to improve your situation and defuse intolerable work conditions and merely adding to the negativity by complaining and badmouthing to others in the office.
There is an extremely fine line between confidence and arrogance. However, despite the arrogance and entitlement that leads people to believe that obtaining the job was the last challenge they will face in the pursuit of wage, sometimes a little effort put into keeping a job is of greater benefit. Every job has challenges, and everyone (no matter how much they love their job) will have days they just do not want to go to work. It happens. It is normal. Hopefully, it is an exception rather than a constant. Truth is that while there are some very rewarding occupations in the world, every single job has some aspect that may not be fun. In the world of occupation, it is my hope that you all can find something that is rewarding and provide you the opportunity to grow, learn new skills (or at least perfect skills you have), and provide the resources to support your way of life. It isn’t always the case. Sometimes, things are going to be difficult. Sometimes things may be unpleasant. There are tasks and jobs that are not pleasant, but they still have to be done. The job you have may not be the best job in the world or even a job that you are thrilled to hold for extended amounts of time. Coworkers may not be that pleasant, and the boss may be a complete jackass; but, in truth, is a bad attitude or lackadaisical approach to your job duties going to improve relationship with coworkers or employers? Will negative, complaining behavior make the job less tedious or less unpleasant? The point is that our attitudes make up well more than half of our own job satisfaction. Having a positive attitude can actually improve your job experience.
If all jobs were a constant party of social, leisure, and entertainment activity, it would not require payment. It wouldn’t be work. Getting a job is not the end goal. It is just the beginning. Any job accepted is worth some effort to keep. There are other people in the market who may value that job more and could easily fill the position. And who knows? Approaching the job with a positive attitude and good work ethic might make the job itself less of a chore.