Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Aspire For Mediocrity

Is mediocrity the new norm? There are many days (and it feels like they occur with increasing frequency) when it certainly feels that way. I repeatedly hear in the media that America is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to our students excelling in the math and sciences; the skills of our workforce aren't keeping pace with the skills that are actually needed to be competitive, and for the first time in modern history, the quality of life for my generation is not going to surpass that of my parent's generation. My initial reaction is to protest that this simply isn't true but then I look around and find myself agreeing. I look around and see so many people simply going through the motions of doing their jobs yet not really trying to do them well. Meeting the baseline of expectations and getting the job done seems to be an adequate performance level. Its a sad state of affairs. So when did good enough become, well.......good enough?

Its almost ironic that in a society where so many people are drive their kids to be the best-- the best soccer player on the field, score the highest on their SATs and the one to gain admission to the most prestigious college, mediocrity in adulthood is suddenly acceptable. Is the good enough mentality actually a rebellion against the helicopter parents of one's childhood? But then again I'm not sure this is entirely a generational trend since mediocre behavior seems to transcend generations in the workplace. I often hear people brag about longevity in a position but rarely do they boast of doing their job well. (And as I know all too well, just because you have been a chair warmer in an office for decades doesn't mean you do your job well). Take customer service for example. Call me naive but my understanding of a customer service position is that the person serving in that role is supposed to actually help customers. If you don't like people, find another job. If you are in the position actually offer assistance or at a minimum answer any questions the said customer may have. Don't act put out when approached by a potential customer or irritated because they are causing you to have to work. Its your job, so do it. (Somehow it is these same people who provide horrible customer service who in turn get bent out of shape when they themselves are on the receiving end of poor quality service). But what about people who simply come to work and do what is required of them? I suppose this is better than not doing one's job but is it deserving of special recognition or a promotion? Many people seem to think so. When I was a supervisor I regularly heard from my employees who thought they were deserving of recognition awards for simply doing their job. Or on their annual evaluations they would state that they regularly came to work on time and were therefore exceptional employees. Really? I mean, when did meeting one's baseline requirements become exceptional behavior? But it is not just individuals that act this way. When companies, institutions, and even governments condone and reward this ho-hum behavior, they are only perpetuating the cycle of mediocrity.

So here's to being a mediocre society. We can either accept it or are we can to do something about it. The choice is ours.........

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