Friday, December 07, 2007

The "Me" Generation in the Boardroom

Well, I'm tired of us being on "Draft a Leader" repeatedly, so its time to switch topics and I'm hoping CH readers will weigh in.

Many have dubbed Generation X and Y and, I guess, Z some of the most selfish folks who have every entered the workforce. Reports are constantly popping up about new hires that want their weekends free, the key to the corner office and a starting salary of $80,000 - right out of university.

I have noticed a particular thread to this trend in my personal life and I'm not happy about it.

Firstly, I should say that I would consider myself fairly successful thus far. I get paid well, I have started one consulting practice from the ground up and now I'm helping to spearhead a greenfield operation for a US company and its going well. But this is no thanks to my friends and peers I have met through politics. Sure, there are a few who gave me a hand, but I've largely had to build my business completely on my own.

When I first got into the workforce, I thought that an important part of your success was helping out those who you can, and in turn, they would/should help you. I have always thought that if your friends are successful, that encourages your success, so you should do what you can to help them out. That way, everyone wins. But I have seen repeated instances where I seem to be the only one following that rule.

I'm proud to say I have helped numerous friends and colleagues find good jobs. I have been a reference where needed (even if that means exaggerating a bit to ensure they got the job).
I have referred work to my peers, even when they worked for a direct competitor, but we couldn't perform it for some reason. When the opportunity presents itself, I sub out work to friends. If I hear about an gig that one of my peeps could perform, I try and direct it their way.

Again, I do this not out of an expectation that I will get something in return, but that we all make money and are successful - I'm just doing my part. But I can't help feel disappointed when I'm not treated in the same fashion. I've had friends not turn phone calls or fluff me off to someone else. Some I have known specifically could help me out, but couldn't be bothered. Good friends that I scored work for never even said thank you.

Taking a lead from this book, which suggest concentrating solely on helping others and letting karma do the rest, I even tried to help others out by grabbing lunch and trying to explore ways to assist them any way I can. No takers.

What's up with that? Of course, I fully acknowledge it could be that I'm an ass. Fair enough. I am.

But I think it is more likely that most people just getting into the work force only think about themselves. What's in it for them? What do they stand to benefit? I try not to think like that. I try to do what I can when I can. Its hard to think about someone else's career and success when you're still trying to fully develop your own. But I do - why can't others?

I have a few business contacts that show what it should be like. One client, who has known me since I was friends with his son is public school, specifically calls me even though he deals with others in my company. Why? As he says: "I want to make sure YOU get the credit." How awesome is that? But sadly, its also cool because its so rare.

Why do you think the "old boys clubs" are so successful? Because they look out for each other and help each other succeed. If we as a generation ever want to replicate that success, we need to help each other, especially in business.

Its about loyalty. Looking out for others' interests. Group achievement.

But most of my friends and colleagues are only worried about themselves. That's detrimental thinking in the long run, because karma is a bitch. In fact, I've already been in a position to help others and I didn't, simply because they didn't help me. Bitter? Not really. I personally believe this is the way it is supposed to work, is it not?

I guess this is just the selfish nature of my generation, and I assume it will only get worse with the "I'm Special" generation that is following closely behind.

Maybe the atmosphere in offices/firms (and loyalty) is changing now that more women are entering the workforce like never before?

I have absolutely nothing against equal opportunity, but like a former boss once said to me on parliament hill, females tend to make a mountain out of a mole hill compared to their male counterparts. Is this true? Well, of the four MPs I worked for (two of them were women) and they fit that mold to a t. Although, it is politics after all.
There is a mentality out there that says "for me to succeed, others must fail."

It is also sad that there are others out there that are so worried about their own lives, they forget that we are all part of a larger community.

I certainly believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the more I can get people involved or generate business, it will come back tenfold.

However, I have seen first hand that which B-Double is talking about. Friends (I use the term loosely) who only call when they need something and never return calls when the shoe is on the other foot.

People who ask "What are you doing?" and then ignore the response rather than ask "How can I make you more successful?"

I think it is time to resurrect the old boys (and girls) club.

In the oil industry there's very little "for me to succeed, others must fail" attitude. It's a close-knit community, and jerks don't make it too far.

Even competitors are treated with a lot of respect. One reason is that things change quickly in the oil patch. This week's competitor might be next week's work associate, client, or boss.

In such a small community, you don't burn your bridges.

I imagine that in Toronto the oil patch is viewed as a ruthless, hyper-competitive, dog-eat-dog, back-stabbing, take-no-prisoners clone of "Dallas". In practise it's distinctly communal.
You're so right about the "All for me, and me for me!" attitude out there.

I'm all for the "old boys (and girls) network", I've been the recipient more than once... got my first hospital job through a referral, and was there for three years. And I'm more than happy to pass on referrals to friends... the ones I trust, and who I know are qualified and will do a good job.
A great topic for a blog and often overlooked. Problems I see in the business world: all the wrong people are promoted for all the wrong reasons. Lack of professional business training required for managment positions. The yuppie generation which is being to run everything is greedy, self centered, and vain. Lastly as mentioned the entrance of women and massive numbers of third world immigrants leads to a polyglot business world of lowered values, shifting beliefs, and treacherous alliances. (real conservative)
I have to be honest, I have not see this trend with females or with immigrants.

In fact, the folks I have seen these experiences with are fairly affluent, white males for the most part.

I truly beleive its a generational gap, where loyalty, hard work and respect take a backseat to the next promotion or raise.
Hello Conservative hipster

I'm going to keep my comments directed toward you. 1. Don't give up on helping people, I know it sucks when people dont' lookout for you the way you looked out for them.

I'm in the same boat, I'm a professional speaker and I have many associates who I offer help to and when it comes to a referral they acted weird or don't remember me.

So instead of getting upset, I
now I take on the Good Fellas, Soprano's, Amercian Gangster and Matrix attitude. I tell people the truth I can help them but they must know I may 1 day ask for a favor and they can not refuse me. Kind of like the GodFather.

Now I do brake their legs if they refuse me, but I use the symbolism of my words to express my loyality and the importance of relationships and keeping your word.

I let them know that connected people help one another in anyway they can in order to succeed.

That's why I am slowly developing my own inner circle of Gen X wise Guys and Gals who believe in loyality and success. Not every friend you have really believes in this concept of "loyality for before Success."
So I say try and find out what's in their heart first before you open you heart to help them.

You can see me at

Take care and keep helping people
Johnny Campbell
Codename: The Transition Man.
Thanks for the suggestion Johnny, but I have a better solution.

I will just include them in my "Canadian Douchebag Hall of Fame" ceremony I am planning for spring 2009.
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