Working Wounded: These Are the Good Old Days

I know it's fashionable to say that the world is falling apart -- that these are the final days of the Republic. The world is more dangerous, it's harder to get anything done and it's foolish to ever trust anyone and blah, blah, blah…

I disagree. The good old days are a myth. There isn't another time that I'd rather be a part of than right now.

Take Terrell Owens (PLEASE!). He has transcended his sport to become more than a football player. How do I know? Because he's the only football player that my girlfriend has heard of. In fact, if you look up "publicity slut" in the dictionary, his picture has replaced Madonna -- something that I never thought I'd see in my lifetime.

His recent revelation that he spit in another player's face during a game aside, Owens had possibly the most entertaining moment during an interview for all of 2006.

Michael Irvin, former Cowboy wide receiver was interviewing Owens for ESPN. Irvin asked about the report that Owens was caught sleeping during a team meeting, which had made national headlines the week before the interview.

Owens turned to Irvin and asked, "Michael, did you ever sleep during a meeting?"

Irvin cracked up. I understand that "bad boys" can get nailed for behavior that everyone else does routinely. That said, I did think it was interesting that Owens was being held accountable for something that 90 percent of the football playing population had done. And if you include business meetings, 90 percent of us have done a time or two in the course of our career. I have. Haven't you?

Holding someone accountable for a "crime" that everyone else has committed -- it's probably more American than American Pie (the food, not the song or movie series).

Why does this matter? Because in the workplace we do it all the time. We long for the good old days -- when people really cared and could be depended upon -- a time when we didn't have to swim through tons of e-mail. But we conveniently forget that the good old days also included segregated bathrooms, manual typewriters, expensive airline tickets and we didn't have the option of dropping someone a quick e-mail, we actually had to talk to them.

But there is a bigger point here about the good old days. We weren't more moral. People lied, cheated and stole. There was fighting. Customers were ripped off. Work was a pain in the butt whether you had the corner cube or the corner office.

And that brings me back to, "Michael, did you ever sleep during a meeting?" Michael did sleep. And the rest of us are sleeping at the wheel whenever we complain about the young workers having no moral compass, no work ethic or no future. Because the same was said about us -- and every other generation.

I can hear what you are thinking -- corporate scandals, backdating stock options, the collapse of Enron, etc…Sure we've got "different" problems. But please remember, there are also people who do what they say they'll do, commit random acts of kindness, will cover your back without your needing to ask them to and, of course, spam filters.

These are the good old days -- deal with it.

Quote of the Week

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything." -- Alexander Hamilton

Book Excerpt of the Week

From: "Love It, Don't Leave It" by Kaye and Evans (Berrett Koehler, 2003)

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