I’m Only Human

October 18, 2010

What happened to accountability? In the old days, we knew that we were responsible for our actions and that every action had a consequence. Have the times changed so much that this is no longer true? And more important, why are we accepting a standard of mediocrity instead of a standard of excellence?

Wherever I go, I hear people saying, “I’m only human” as an excuse for doing something that they know they shouldn’t have done or for not doing something that they said they would do. In the business world this can be deadly. If a team member drops the ball his team may not reach its goals and the company may not survive these economic hard times.

I have been watching one of the major airlines for the last several years. Their customer service has been atrocious; no one has taken accountability for their actions and one of the employees at the executive level even made the comment, “I’m doing the best I can but I’m only human.” Interestingly enough, this airline, which used to be ranked as one of the best, is now in such deep financial trouble that the only way they can survive is if they merge with a more profitable airline.

Businesses are having problems with the mediocrity of many of their employees who don’t feel compelled to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Many of them take advantage of their employers by spending their days texting and e-mailing their friends during regular business hours, or posting their personal comments on social networking sites. And many of these posters have been fired from their jobs because of it. One such employee posted his picture with his friends at a bar and bragged that he had just called in sick to his office. His employer saw the picture and comments and when this man came to work the next day, he was fired.

We seem to be fostering a nation of self-indulgent people who feel they are entitled to the best of everything while working as little as possible. Employees used to be proud of their work; now they need bigger and better bonuses and rewards systems to do the job they were hired to do. We have become so inured to mediocrity that when an employee does his job, we shower him with gratitude.

We all have busy workloads but if we commit to doing something, we should just do it, even if we have to work round the clock to get it done. It’s not acceptable to shrug our shoulder and say, “Sorry. I had so much to do that I couldn’t get to it; I’m only human.”

How do you feel when you are expecting a call and it doesn’t come or you have an appointment with someone who neither shows up nor calls you with an explanation? Or worse, still… when they take a cavalier attitude and give you some lame excuse and then say in their defense, “I’m only human.” These words have become so pervasive, that it has become the rallying cry of the self-indulgent members of society.

I once read a complaint by an employee who felt it was unfair of her employer to fire her for being late for work every day. She said that after numerous latenesses and being written up by her supervisor for many months on end, her employer had given her one last chance to redeem herself. If she came to work on time every day for the next six months, she could keep her job and the documentation concerning her tardiness would be expunged.

A few weeks later her babysitter got sick and couldn’t come to her house. She called her office to say she would be coming in late but that she would be there as soon as she got another sitter. When she showed up two hours later, she was fired on the spot. Her employer told her that she showed a lack of good judgment: if she had just taken the day off as one of her personal days or one of her sick days, she could have kept her job. She could even have kept her job if she showed up for work on time with her child and left it up to her supervisor to either let her child stay there for the day or let her go home and find another babysitter before coming back. The employee’s contention was that when she called to say that she would be late, she should have been told what the consequences would be. She signed her complaint “I’m only human.”

There are many times when it is appropriate to say, “I’m only human” but those occasions are limited to when you have tried to do everything within your power to accomplish something and it still remains beyond your reach. A perfectionist might need to learn how to say, “I’m only human” when things are beyond his control, but it’s sad to hear people uttering these words when they haven’t made much of an effort to fulfill a commitment, to change their behavior, or to accomplish their goal.

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