This might be an unpopular opinion, but it’s one I’ve held for a long time, and something that I’ve seen become increasingly relevant in the modern workplace over the past few years. SO it’s time to have a chat.
If you finish reading this and feel a little uncomfortable or offended, GOOD. I want you to. Sometimes we all need a little tough love to set us straight and move us forward. And while I’m much better at the warm and fuzzy love, I’m a fan of this kind too.
I want to start by making an important distinction.
I believe people ARE entitled to basic human rights, starting with food, shelter, and healthcare—and extending to non-prejudicial workplaces and government bodies. In the core of my soul, I find human suffering absolutely intolerable, especially in a country with massive amounts of wealth. The number of times I’ve gotten in my car and just cried after seeing the homeless population at Newark Penn Station is off the charts. It’s sickening and downright heartbreaking to see how some people have to live. THAT doesn’t apply to the title of this article. That’s not about getting a trophy, that’s about being able to play the damn game to start.
I’m specifically referring to the entitlement in the professional realm and ‘real world’ that smacks twenty-somethings right in the face at the ripe age of 22 years old.
I’m talking about the all-too-commonly-held belief that just because your parents paid for you to drink cheap beer at a liberal arts college for four years, you are OWED a successful career.
Or, just because you show up at 9am and provide a relatively meidiocre amount of effort towards your job for a certain period of time, you deserve promotions, raises, etc.
This belief has run rampant, and I’ve seen it a lot the past five years. While I sympathize with frustration in the workplace in terms of advancement, and I KNOW how tumultuous the job market can be…come on.
Maybe it’s my small town, middle-class upbringing. Maybe it’s because I’m a first-generation college student. Maybe it’s because none of the life I’m living now was ever something I expected.
Whatever the reason might be, I can’t stand unmerited entitlement. More so, I think it’s absolutely detrimental to your professional life. It will sink your ship, time and time again.
Because in the workplace, everyone really doesn’t get a trophy.
You don’t get rewarded for just showing up. You don’t get buckets of accolades for just doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s your job.
I realize that’s a little harsh. But I’m trying to help, really. I’ve watched multiple people lose their jobs over this.
I’ve seen it time and time again. Peers and colleagues, particularly those of the ‘millennial’ variety, expecting a lot for doing quite
Instead of, you know, constructively addressing the situation.
Fingers are pointed all over the place. But you know what they say, when you start pointing the finger, you have three more pointing back at yourself.
Because we’ve all been there. Sometimes you DO deserve credit and rewards and you aren’t getting them. Sometimes you’re not on the same page as your boss in terms of what they expect from you for advancement. And while that DOES suck, you have to take a deep breath, turn back around and fight for yourself.
Be an advocate, not a whiner.
I too have been overlooked or pushed aside when I felt I deserved
I scheduled time with my boss and displayed a full-on, data-driven presentation where I demonstrated all the evidence that supported how my skills mapped to the next level and the position I wanted. I had comments from my superiors, freaking statistics, the whole next level job description aligning with my current responsibilities. I laid it out, professionally and positively.
And guess what? It worked. I got the promotion.
But even more so, I encourage and practice the proactive approach.
You should be constantly, regularly having conversations with your boss and
And this might also be a little tough to hear, but sometimes, you don’t totally rock. Sometimes you’re pretty crappy at your job.
This can be for two reasons: First, you’re not putting in enough effort.
In the grownup world, crying to your boss when they say you have to step it up in order to advance is the equivalent of crying to your coach or having your mom call (I threw up a little in my mouth typing that) when you aren’t getting enough playing time, even though you are lazy.
YOU GOTTA PUT IN THE WORK, SON.
In sports, you run extra laps at practice so you’re in better shape. You get home and shoot baskets until it’s too dark to see the hoop. You dribble the soccer ball around the house over and over. You smack the tennis ball against the garage until your fingers blister.
In adult world, you work long hours, present new ideas and have conversations with your boss about constant improvement. You take online courses. You watch tutorial videos. You make coffee dates with people you can learn from. You practice. You work when you get home. You do what you have to do to level-up.
And then, usually, you get the playing time, the trophy, etc., that you earned.
BUT sometimes you still don’t. Because this brings me to Reason #2 you could be crappy at your job. Maybe it’s just not for you.
Being good at your current job of choice is ALSO not a given. Sometimes you choose a job you’re just not any good at, even if you give 110% and try very hard
Back to the sports metaphor. Sometimes even the kids that try the absolute hardest, that show up every day to practice and give that shit their ALL, are
And while it’s disappointing and disheartening to be bad at something you really want to succeed in, that’s life. We can’t all be good at everything.
I find this a lot when it comes to writing. I’ve edited hundreds (not a hyperbole, literally hundreds) of articles and essays from young writers. And I can tell, immediately, if they have it or if they don’t. Obviously, practice helps and skills can be fine-tuned, but everyone in every field knows there’s a certain element of having “it” that some people are just never going to have and others always will.
Just because you write, doesn’t make you a good writer. Just because you paint, doesn’t make you a good painter. Just because you studied business management, doesn’t make you a good boss or leader. Just because you have played soccer for years, doesn’t mean you’ll be a good soccer player.
And you shouldn’t get a trophy if you’re not good at something. Because that’s serving you an injustice in the long run.
That’s lying. That’s telling you that natural talent, skill
This is a competitive world, and you can’t find what it is about YOU that gives you an edge if everyone holds your hand and tells you that you’re the best at everything.
So this bit of advice isn’t just for the employees, but also for the bosses, managers
Leaders, you also have to adopt the “not everyone gets a trophy” approach. H
elpthose you manage find their strengths by being honest and straight-forward about their weaknesses.
Constructive feedback is the best thing you can give to anyone. Even if they are a natural talent at something, that’s how you make them better. You still don’t give them the proverbial trophy.
I remember the first teacher that ever ripped apart one of my essays. I’d glided through writing courses my entire life. I was well above most of my peers, so every teacher easily and happily gave me near perfect scores. Until this dude gave me a C and painted my paper with red ink.
When I asked him about it, he said the paper was good, but it could be a lot better. Then he laid out my weaknesses very matter-of-factly and walked away to let that all sink in. After I nursed my entitled wounds, I asked him if I could come after class for help, and he said of course. So, a couple days a week, I was there. And both my writing skills and entire comprehension of sophisticated literature improved in a way they NEVER would have if he’d just given me the A.
And when I DID get the A, you best believe I cherished that. I still have that paper ten years later.
Because that’s how you teach and how you lead. You make everyone level-up, even if their level is different than others. You make them earn the trophy YOU know they’re capable of.
Because we are all capable of getting a trophy. They’re different trophies and they may not even be what you’re working for at this exact moment.
But you have to find
And you can. I believe in you. I believe in you as a creator, a professional and a leader. I believe every person has a unique contribution to this world.
But you can’t find it without putting on your grown-up pants and realizing that anything worth having in this life is NOT easy to obtain. It’s not a given. You’re not entitled to it. And sometimes, it’s really freaking hard to get there.
You have to get your hands dirty. You have to swallow up your pride. You have to work your ass off.
Then, and only then, will life give you a big, shiny trophy.
And then, and only then, will it mean something.
Because it will be real. And that’s the only kind of trophy I want anyway.