This past week, I’ve had two colleagues share stories they’ve experienced directly or observed first-hand. Each tale provides insight into the decline in the quality of our workforce. Each involves a villain (i.e., actually the villains are really unwitting perpetrators, but they’re causing devastation), a direct victim, and an unintended victim.
Last week, Karen called me. Karen is a well-respected director of a non-profit who is now dealing with legal and media issues because of a former employee, Rita. Rita is a 30-something with a marketing degree. Rita was hired to support the non-profit team as an administrative assistant for 15 hours a week. Rita’s performance was good. It wasn’t great. It was good. Throughout her first 30 days Rita was provided regular guidance. Some she heeded; some she didn’t. When it came time for her official 30-day review, Rita was stunned, outraged, and insulted that her performance wasn’t deemed “Exceptional.” She demanded that she be compensated more appropriately for her skills and for her degree. Rita believed it time she receive a substantial pay increase and also work 30 hours a week. (Besides, she was now pregnant so additional income was needed.) When Karen reminded Rita she had accepted the job knowing it was a part-time, 15-hour a week position, Rita resigned in a fit of indignation. In retaliation for this perceived insult, Rita sent emails and social media blasts to the local newspapers and other media outlets claiming discrimination and unfair employment practices. Luckily Karen’s reputation is well-cemented and most outlets ditched the emails, but the problem remains. Karen has to clean up the aftermath of Rita’s rebellion.
In the second story, one of my team members was drinking tea in a fast-food restaurant between meetings. In the booth behind her, the restaurant manager was interviewing a teen seeking her first job. The teen’s mom had accompanied her. Each time the manager asked the teen a question, Mom answered. Mom didn’t miss the chance to advocate for her daughter by telling the manager, “She has to earn a minimum of $15 an hour or it’s just not worth her time.” The manager replied, “That’s not in our pay scale. We start our employees at $8 an hour.” The interview continued with the manager addressing the teen and Mom providing the answers. My team member apparently almost fell out of her booth when Mom clarified for the manager, “Now I want you to understand, I won’t be able to stay here with her during her shifts, but I will drop her off and pick her up whenever she’s scheduled to work!” (Yes, this really happened, and yes, the manager hired the teen anyway!)
So who is the cast of characters?
In each scenario, the characters are basically the same: The villains are parents; over-protective parents; parents who believe they are doing right by their children but they’re doing just the opposite. The victims are their children. These children range in age from high-schoolers to young 30-somethings, and the unintended victims are the businesses and organizations in dire need of talented team members. The villains (i.e., the overly-protective parents) believe they’re simply advocating for their children’s well-being, but in reality, they are stunting the development of life skills in their children. The parents are also unrealistically skewing their children’s perception of their abilities and their true market value. As a result, these children have limited to no marketable skills so their ability to compete in the marketplace is nil. Because of the parents’ “career coaching,” their children have an inflated and unrealistic view of their marketable worth. And, because of their parent’s “advocating” for them constantly, these children have no ability to objectively hear and accept feedback to develop skills and improve. These children are caught in a catch-22. They have no skills. They’ve never been allowed or trained to accept feedback, so when they do receive feedback intended to help them develop skills, they rebel. As a result, the children don’t learn, grow, and gain real-world, life or work skills. Then we have the unintended victims. These are the businesses and organizations competing in the war for talent. Businesses and organizations are hunting and competing for employees equipped with the basic skills needed for the jobs they’re being hired to do. That’s hard to come by in and of itself. Yet when organizations do find employees with the basic skills, they’re often lacking the ability and willingness to accept feedback, think, learn, debate, negotiate, fail, succeed, and grow. When organizations do hire and invest in these employees to try to develop the missing skills, they’re met with rebellion and indignation. The companies and new hires lose again.
The well-intentioned, but misguided advocacy and life-skills training of far too many parents is continuing to feed a population of unskilled, resistant young adults who should be soaking up information as they experience their first or evolving workplace experiences. Instead, they’ve been trained not to want to learn. They’ve been trained not to be challenged. They’ve been trained to not be responsible for their own continual development and growth so they can become and remain marketable and competitive. They’ve been trained to just be, and that mentality is ruining our workforce.
Copyright MMXVI Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
Liz and her team work with leaders to create focused plans for their organizations' future. Then they teach leaders how to make their plans a reality.