The U.S. Army defines leadership as the “activity of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization” (13). As the adage goes “manage thing and lead people,” regardless of the work-place, managers face the arduous task of bringing out the best in their subordinates to meet organizational goals. I have about 24 years of experience in the job force; I worked for four entities from age 16 through the present—39: the City of Newark, a supermarket, a factory, and the Army. I worked or served with people of varying work ethic and surmised that neither age, generation, nor social status are determining factors on an individual’s job performance or commitment.
As a teenager, I worked with the people Sheehy studied and people that were the opposite of Sheehy’s experience. I consider myself a Generation X kid, so I think I have strong work ethic and I hope my coworkers feel the same way. I think my work ethic has to do with my upbringing, I was born in Ecuador and raised in the US since I wa nine. As an immigrant, I always felt I had to work harder than native born Americans. Nothing memorable about my high school jobs. For the past 21 years I have worked in the Army, I think I worked with a lot of people in different generational cohorts—Boomers, X, Y/Millennials, and Z. Surprisingly, also worked with people of different social classes: mostly lower and middle.
As a young Soldier, serving alongside mostly Gen Xers, both as supervisors and peers, their typical attitudes about work were all over the place. We had the shammers, Army slang for lazy Soldiers; these “Soldiers” were exactly like Sheehy’s coworkers at the restaurant. Per Case 4.4, the employees are described having “…contempt for customers, indifference to quality and service, unrealistic expectations about the world of work, and a get-away-with-what-you-can attitude” (Shaw and Barry 181). The age of the shammers ranged 18-30 and all walks of life. Conversely, hard workers ranged from 18-30 and different social classes.
In 2001, I became a Sergeant—noncommissioned officer (NCO)—the first level of leadership and responsibility in the Army. Sergeants serve as first-line supervisors, I was responsible for 3-5 Soldiers depending on the day. As a supervisor, I observed my Soldiers—ages 18-25—try to get by with doing the least amount of work. Also, experienced young Soldiers work hard and continually strive for excellence regardless of the task. Furthermore, I witnessed the same work ethic from my peers and superiors: some hits, some misses, and some leaders did the bear minimum. My peers’ and superiors’ generational cohorts encompassed X and Y generations. Some of the hardest working people I have served with are Millennials and Gen Zs. Lastly, several of the laziest people I have served with were Boomers and Gen Xs.
Yes, it is reasonable to expect workers to be more devoted to their jobs and more concerned with quality and customer service than Sheehy’s coworkers. Ismail explains Schwartz’s Theory of Cultural Values as self-direction, stimulation, hedonism, achievement, power, security, conformity, tradition, benevolence, and universalism (3). The company has the responsibility to build a culture that nurtures devotion, respect, and discipline. I feel the employees reflect the company’s attitude and failed the employees by neglecting to provide the necessary motivation that inspires greatness. Nevertheless, the employees were derelict in their duties and displayed poor moral judgement and character that will be their detriment in their endeavors. Additionally, the employees have a distorted and unrealistic view of a typical work environment and they will be shocked by the reality of corporate life.
In conclusion, I have experiences similar attitudes from coworkers and superiors that Sheehy encountered in his research. I have not encountered a generational cohort or age-group that monopolized laziness or subpar work ethic. Moreover, I feel that entities—private and public—owe it to their employees to set the conditions that bring out the best in everyone. Lastly, attitude reflects leadership, a par business culture is manifested in the actions of their employees.