Millennial Rules: Self-Defense Ethics for Teams

A Little Background, Please

A generation is defined by its values and experiences as anchored by the music and ceremony of its formative years. It used to be practical to define a generation in terms of years.  Boomers, for example, were born between 1946 and 1964. Individuals born in those years had a lot in common in terms of their experience of the world. For most of those years there were only three television channels. If you didn’t like what was on ABC, NBC, or CBS you just turned the tube off.

If we are defined by our media you can see why it is difficult to define a new generation… there are simply too many choices to narrow a generational cohort. More choices for experiencing the world naturally lead to greatly fragmented social groups. 

But fewer dads involved with the raising of children seems to be a common denominator.  And that means trouble for business.

Over the past few months a growing number of our audience members have lamented the Millennial work ethic. The usual modifier is “entitled.”

The Boss as Parent: Why We Need Millennial Rules

In 1960 eleven percent of school age children lived in a house without a dad. By 2010 that number mushroomed to 29%... nearly one of every three school age children had no dad at home.  Today in the African-American community that number is an unbelievable 70%!

Single moms have always managed to feed their children but cut the number of adults available to nurture young minds and something has to give. What gets lost is the omni-present source of value-generating discipline and guidance known as mom and dad.

Today more young are entering the workforce without having completed “basic training.”
Such habits as cleaning up after yourself, taking out the trash without being told, using good manners everywhere, and a dozen other elements that combine to shape our work habits and work ethic are missing from the new hire’s skill-set.

NOYB: Morals & Ethics Defined

Just for the sake of clarity there are morals, things you do because someone of authority tells you they are the right thing to do and there are ethics, things you do because doing them makes the world work better.  And yes, morals are usually ethical.

In this politically correct world most people tend to shy away from discussing either morals or ethics.  But try to run a business where neither exists and you will quickly discover that modern life is impossible without at least one or the other.

Ethics require us to stop at a stop sign. Ethics require us to show up for work on time.  Morals??  We usually don’t talk about them on the job. They are, according to most, NOYB…none of your business. God forbid we find ourselves labeled “judgmental.”  Maybe you don’t want to risk being politically incorrect…fine. But keep in mind if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.

Here’s advice that may not completely solve the problem but will certainly start a movement in the right direction:
1.    Ethics come easiest to those with a good example. If you are the boss and want your team to acquire a better work ethic…. Start with yourself.
2.    Decide if you are willing to demand ethical behavior.  Would you be willing to terminate employment for even “minor” ethical lapses?
In an effort to avoid being preachy we offer the following list of aphorisms rather than a stone-tableted ten commandments. Would you be willing to adopt at least a few from our list as your own?

(If you think about it your mom and dad had a list of their own that you could count on them to use on a regular basis… "keep making that face and it will freeze in that look!"  See what I mean?)

Once you have your list, take it to work. Be relentless and perhaps a bit daring.  Remember that your team may not have had a mom or dad that loved them enough to care about basic training.  Some of your team members will think you are corny. Some will take your wisdom home to use on their kids. All of them will love you back for loving them first.

The Millennial Rules
You can’t win on a losing team.  There is no such thing as a winning relationship where one of the partners is a loser.  This is true for relationships of all kinds. The instant it becomes obvious that the relationship is going in the wrong direction the only smart thing to do is to run in the opposite direction.  We want to believe that our partners are good and just need another chance: they aren’t and they don’t. Digging a deeper hole only makes things worse. (A pretty baby won’t save an ugly marriage.)

Every deal is not a good deal.  In business as in marriage, don’t say yes just because you were asked.  Sometimes we forget that lust is not love. Sometimes our desire to believe over-rules our good judgment.  Stupidity has consequences…live with it. Shacking up is your decision but it should not become your children’s burden.  When children are involved you are held to a higher standard and keep in mind that every child deserves a daddy.

(I am 100% certain that I will take ton of flack for the previous paragraph.  My only defense is another Millennial Rule: If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.)

Money is the ruin of many partnerships both business and otherwise.  At the root is immaturity…the inability or unwillingness to delay immediate gratification. But compound interest can kill you.  For most things if you can’t afford to pay cash…you can’t afford it.

It’s an unavoidable part of being an adult: sometimes you get attacked for what seems like no good reason.  It is tempting to stand up and fight but most of the time it is better to keep this advice in mind: Never wrestle with a pig, you get dirty and the pig loves it.

Getting ahead in life takes work… and lots of it. And that’s good because... if it was easy everybody would be doing it.  And if everybody could and would do what you are trying to accomplish the reward would most likely be too small to be worth the effort.  As much as it seems good to strive to be the best in the end it is better to stand out than to be outstanding because getting seen and heard in a crowded market is often tougher than delivering a good product.

How good should you try to be? Better than average and better than simply “good enough,” because good enough seldom is.

On a personal  level it is admirable to stay true to your personal style.  Admirable…. But stupid.  If you are smart you will dress, speak, and act like the man who writes the checks.  When it is time to hand out promotion the fellow with offensive tats and face piercings can feel good about himself while the guy who got the promotion can only count his money. 

And speaking of appearance show your good judgment and avoid what can only be described as permanent reminders of temporary feelings whether we are talking about tattoos or babies.

No matter how smart you feel when you complete your education keep in mind that change can leave you stupid and your only defense is to be a lifelong learner and learn something new every day. 

It is normal, even desirable to want the most out of life. But wanting doesn’t bring you wealth...doing brings wealth. If you want more you must do more.  Just keep in mind it is the value you deliver that determines the value of your reward. There really is no free lunch.  Still, asking is smart...if you don’t ask it’s for certain that you won’t get.

In the end it is up to you, not fate.  In the end win or lose it is a choice…. Your choice.

And one favorite…Have fun and make the world a better place!