AKRON (Oct. 10, 2005) — Tire dealers and service shop operators readily agree that finding employees with a solid work ethic has become more and more difficult. What they don't readily do is look in the mirror for the source of this trend.
Simply put, our work force is our lifeblood. Our fortunes rise or fall with the technicians, tire busters, service writers, sales persons and clerical staff who populate our dealerships and shops. Their zeal, ethics and productivity define the business' reputation and image in the marketplace. The most clever advertising and promotions in the world can't sustain a business that lacks high-quality workers.
In my last column, I discussed a reader's frustration with lazy workers and agreed with his assessment that finding people who want to work is tougher than ever before. I wholeheartedly agree that complaints about weak work ethic have burgeoned during the time I have been covering the automotive repair industry.
As always, simply griping about the condition doesn't solve anything. I'm a “baby boomer” and I was taught that the first step to solving a problem successfully is to understand the root cause of that problem. Some readers may recall a history teacher or two admonishing the class that those who ignore history's lessons are likely to repeat its mistakes.
I was always intrigued by the legacy of President John F. Kennedy and read many books about him—especially those most critical of him. Everyone who knew Mr. Kennedy described him as a voracious reader. In particular, U.S. Navy pals and shipmates chided him for lugging books along with him to every duty assignment. But young Mr. Kennedy read a lot of history, cautioning fellow sailors that if they didn't understand what brought the world to war, they were really in trouble!
I meet owners and managers in their 40s and 50s all the time, but precious few of them ever discuss how the work force got into the state it's in today. Their interest in “history” probably extends no further than last week's events. And these bosses never claim any responsibility for those people out there who just don't want to work any more.
Teachers literally spend more time with our children during the kids' formative years than we do. I urge readers, in turn, to spend time with the most respected and most experienced teachers in the area. Whether these teachers are in their 30s, 40s or 50s, they repeatedly emphasize to me that children come to school with greater and greater expectations. In other words, they arrive with a stronger and stronger sense of entitlement—the world owes me because I say it owes me.
I'm not aware of any reputable school that teaches or espouses entitlement. To the contrary, the experienced teachers I respect the most flatly state that this sense of entitlement is a major obstacle to getting kids to perform to their potential.
Hmmmm…getting people to perform to their potential? Does that sound anything like getting people to show up for work, let alone show up on time? Does that sound anything like getting workers to finish something correctly, even if the task takes them past quitting time?
No, readers, kids learn this sense of entitlement at home. From everything I see, hear and read, this attitude is learned at home and is constantly reinforced at home. It is an unintended consequence of parents who wanted nothing more than for their children to have a better standard of living than they had. Brave, noble parents have made countless sacrifices so their kids would be better off and have an easier life than they had.
Another great adage from my baby-boomer childhood was effort equals results, results equal effort. All too often, it seems, parents have failed to communicate—or communicate convincingly—the effort part of the equation. That is, it takes consistent hard work (effort) to achieve the standard of living one seeks (results). Overall, when the effort is lacking, it seems to have been much easier to make excuses than simply to cite laziness and indifference.
Many owners and managers aren't eager to look in the mirror very often. That's because they know that more than anyone else, parents have the greatest obligation as well as opportunity to teach the lesson that effort equals results. These bosses would rather not reflect on how well they themselves taught this lesson.