The Court of Public Opinion

accept responsibility challenge clear expectations common workplace challenges earning leadership feedback leadership culture leadership responsibility participation trophy psychology personal responsibility Jun 01, 2022
Participation Trophy Psychology

I maintain that I’ve never seen anyone truly value something they didn’t earn… I can’t think of classmates through high school who had some of the fanciest clothing, cars, or whatever but treated those things with very little respect. I remember watching numerous folks party their way through college while I was working multiple jobs to make rent. I can also point to more than a few subsidized housing developments that are outright dangerous, largely because there’s no real pride in ownership. And none of that even touches on how I’ve seen being given something without earning it impact the individual’s self-image, and ultimately their work ethic…

I’ll say it again, this has nothing to do with a specific generation or demographic. I can’t point to a single person that I’ve ever met who doesn’t want to feel like they’re making a difference for someone in some way! Giving them that proverbial trophy for merely participating, and for even less than that in many cases today, takes away their opportunity to find that sense of purpose from making a difference.

If we tie this back to the organizations we’re a part of and how we lead our teams, it truly falls on our shoulders to set (and communicate) clear expectations about the specific results that need to be achieved and we need to provide ongoing feedback to each team member about their performance. As leaders, we do indeed owe them that!

After reading a few of the articles I found prior to sharing the last post, I realize I may be one of the only folks willing to maintain that rewarding mediocrity - from anyone in any generation - absolutely contributes to the challenges we’re facing in the workplace today. So be it! This is one I’m willing to dig my heels in on and argue until I’m blue in the face. Removing the hard questions from a test may result in some sort of immediate gratification but that will definitely be short lived when tried in the court of public opinion…

Every single customer our businesses serves judges us on the value they receive through the transaction, whether it’s a physical product, a specific service, or a combination of the two. And as employees, at least in the private sector, the owners or managers we report to are judging us on those same things. If value isn’t provided, the chances of repeat business (or ongoing employment) become slim.

Don’t miss my point, this isn’t just a rant. As leaders, regardless of our position or title within our organization, we play a huge role in addressing - and potentially eliminating - one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen so many workplaces deal with in recent years. It ties back to setting the right expectations and providing the specific feedback I mentioned earlier, and we’ll look at a simple approach to doing just that next time!