5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

MTV Real World

Entitlements, that is what MTV, and various other bad girl/boy shows, message to everyone is. You are entitled to sit on your ass all day and party all night in a luxurious house with all amenities paid for. Feel free to go out and get drunk, act bad, and come home to have sex freely and with whomever you want, no consequences since it is always party time.

Is it any wonder that when the “real” real world collides with the MTV Real World that people find out that life is a little more complicated? That in the real world you must take responsibility for your actions and only you can change the course of your life. That no one owes you a job, a house on the beach of your choice, or that going to Clubs 24/7 is a god given right.

It is sad that we have made what people see on the worst of these reality TV shows as something to aspire to. Audition to be on the Real World, Big Brother, The Batchelor, Bad Girls Club, Pregnant at 16, or any number of “reality” shows to demonstrate just how really more dysfunctional you can be. This is what we have come to – let’s all compete to show how desperate and ill-mannered we can be!!! Hey, count me in on this lifestyle – where do I sign up?

What is even worse is the effect it has on the business world. I am not so sure, however, which came first – our knee jerk reaction to preserve individual rights or the reality shows. Terminating an employee nowadays is a major undertaking which many times puts managers in the same place as someone who has been raped.

The insinuation is almost always that the manager doing the firing either 1.) did something wrong during the termination process or 2.)was incorrect in their assessment of the employee being terminated. The manager is put into a position of having to defend their actions no matter how well the process is handled. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Much like the person being raped being put on trial versus the rapist.

Why is this the case? One reason is because entitlement makes it OK for an employee to underperform. Why should they be any different from the miscreants they see on TV who are able to get by on minimal effort and still vacation in Cabo San Lucas for what appears to be 365 days a year. It is a sad reflection on current societal trends that work is seen as an entitlement, something which you have a right to even though you don’t perform.

I can count on less than two hands the number of employees I have had to terminate for cause. Without exception every one of those employees deserved to be terminated and for every one of them the spotlight was on me as the terminating manager. Every step and decision was analyzed and critiqued to the point of questioning the final decision. These were slam dunk cases – sleeping on the job, inability to perform job requirements, near assault and battery on another employee, and dishonesty in the hiring process. Yet, the entire process was not one of supporting the decision to terminate but one of questioning the grounds for termination. How many times do you need to find an employee asleep at their desk before it is safe to fire them??

The safeguards we have in place to protect employees has swung so far the other way that to say a job is an entitlement is not an overstatement. Every employee I have terminated truly believed they were entitled to the job and, therefore, saw no reason to change their behavior. They all had a history of being terminated from other positions, which points up another effect of this entitlement attitude. That being, if you don’t recognize you have a problem you are unlikely to change how you behave. Guess what – that means you get terminated over and over again.

We send ambiguous signals to employees being terminated much like breaking up a relationship – hey, it is not you it is me that is the problem. They move on and repeat the same mistakes because they never acknowledge they are the problem. Are we really doing them a favor by muting the responsiblity they bear for their actions?? I don’t think so.

Lesson learned: “Reality Show” is a poor definition for what airs on television these days. “Alternate Reality for a Short Period of Time Show” would be more apropos.

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