by Larry P. Johnson
Reprinted from “The San Antonio Express-News,” March 7, 2020
(Editor’s Note: Larry Johnson is an author and inspirational/motivational speaker. He is available for luncheons, small group programs or conferences. Contact him by email at email@example.com.)
I know today’s younger generation — millennials — don’t often read the newspaper. So, I’ll ask you, if you know any millennials, to sit them down and read this piece to them. If they just won’t sit still long enough to listen, at least give them a copy.
Person 1: “I’m bored with my job. I got too much free time.”
Person 2: “Whatcha complaining about? Play games on your phone, text a friend or just take a nap. Wish I had your job.”
A job is a contract — an agreement between employee and employer. The employee agrees to perform certain tasks — stuff envelopes, flip hamburgers, bag groceries or whatever — and the employer agrees to pay him or her a certain amount of money for doing it. The agreement can end any time if either party becomes unhappy with the arrangement.
If you’re bored with your job because you have a lot of free time, the employer may decide they don’t need you anymore. If you’re spending time texting your friends, playing computer games or napping, that’s not what you’re being paid to do, so expect to be given the boot.
Well, what does it take to be a good employee and hold on to a job? There are a lot of possible answers to this question. But, as a former human resources manager, I would suggest three important elements: initiative, indispensability and integrity.
If you have “down time” on the job, look for extra things to do. Let your boss know. Offer to help a co-worker. Don’t use the excuse “It’s not my job.” Initiative gives you the chance to learn other skills and build positive relationships.
Become indispensable. Let the boss know you can be counted upon to fill in for someone who may be out sick, calm down a customer who is upset or fix a problem no one else can fix. If you make yourself indispensable, your boss will pick someone else to let go first if he or she has to downsize.
The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles is how the dictionary defines integrity. Are you cheating your employer by goofing off and wasting time, doing sloppy work or using company materials for personal use? I can assure you, the higher you aspire to climb in an organization, the more important and valuable will become the quality of integrity. It is a fragile commodity. Once it is lost, it is very hard to restore.
Let me wrap up this little lecture to the millennials by sharing a story called “Whose Job Is It Anyway?” It’s a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
The story may be a bit confusing, but the message is clear: No one took responsibility, so nothing was accomplished. This is true whether we are talking about big problems like climate change or small ones like taking out the trash.
We all have jobs we can do, should do and need to do. And that’s how I see it.