At the most recent salon of my Millennial Advisory Board (MAB) – which meets monthly – I started off by wondering aloud to the group why 2022 has not produced a definitive “summer song,” as in past years.
I was quickly corrected by a couple of MABers, who pointed to Bad Bunny, the wildly popular rapper from Puerto Rico. Turns out Mr. Bunny’s song “Ojitos Lindos” was added to President Obama’s summer 2022 playlist, which counts as something special, I guess, so I stand corrected.
Along with millions of others, I look forward to hearing more from Bad Bunny, but that’s not what this month’s blog is about. It’s about a the kind of bad that is annoying instead of entertaining. I’m talking about Bad Behavior.
Part of the core mission of the Millennial Advisory Board is Mutual Mentoring. As the two books I’ve written state, “I teach them business. They teach me life.” (Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer is available now and Get A Life: A Roadmap to Rule Your World will be published in the near future. Both are published by Forbes Books.)
I also asked the MAB members another, much more serious question … What in their own world or in the outside world concerns them these days?
If I had to summarize the consensus in a single word, “people” might be as good a word as any to describe their responses. To clarify it a bit more, let’s use two words and call their concern “people’s behavior.”
MAB member Dezz Nunes told us about a recent experience she had on a Jet Blue flight. The flight attendant made the horrible mistake of running out of cheese boxes! One passenger, as Dezz told us, wasn’t going to accept such a hardship and proceeded to flip out on the flight attendant.
“People have no patience any more,” Dezz told us. That’s an understatement. In today’s overheated social climate of intolerance and impatience, it’s a wonder that cheesy passenger didn’t insist that Jet Blue turn the plane around to re-stock their supply of cheese! After all, her hankering for cheese is what matters most, not causing an unnecessary disturbance to everybody else on board.
That’s how insane things have gotten in this country since … well, you know where I’m going. There is no “new normal.” It’s as if everything now is abnormal. Let’s call it “National Syndrome #45.”
Remember that Will Smith incident at the 2022 Academy Awards, when he walked up to presenter Chris Rock and smacked him in the face? It wasn’t fake. It was real. It also was, once upon a time, Unthinkable. Not any more! It happened. It was reality television at its unrealest. That ridiculous behavior is going to follow Will Smith around for the rest of his life.
What possessed him to do such an obnoxious thing? Someone on a podcast I heard had a logical explanation, not specifically mentioning Smith’s impulsive act of person-on-person violence, but about today’s bad behavior in general. This person said the cause of all the current craziness is that what used to be our instinctive constraints on bad behavior now have been loosened, and they attributed it to one particular public figure. You guessed it! Syndrome #45.
What does that mean? It means that it’s now considered okay to act stupid in public. To say and do stupid things without regard for the consequences – for you, or for the target of your lack of control.
The irony is that we have a president of the United States now who, to state the obvious, speaks slow, and is given to trip over words and who can act awkward. That’s all evident. At the same time, what also is evident is that he is a decent person who thinks about what he’s going to say, even if it can come out garbled. He means well. Who ever thought we’d get to a point that we appreciate a leader who simply means well instead of a leader who acts mean – and visibly relishes that constant display of malice – for the sheer sport of it. How sick is that? It’s as sick as Syndrome #45.
This syndrome isn’t limited to customers, such as airline passengers. Depending where you dine or shop or play, there’s bound to be some bad actor intent on spoiling your experience. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed becoming a restaurant influencer. Stephanie and I dine out several times a week. We frequent our favorite places and always are game to try new places.
One of those is a new eatery in New York’s West Village we wanted to try. After being seated by the hostess, the owner came over to inform us we mistakenly had been shown to a table reserved for another party. By the time we finished dinner, an hour later, and were ready to leave that sacred table we couldn’t sit at still wasn’t occupied. Stephanie told the hostess on our way out that the owner is a jerk, and the hostess, wordlessly, appeared not to disagree.
ICY CUSTOMER SERVICE
A casual lunch place where I’m a regular all of a sudden started charging me an extra dollar for requesting ice with my drink. That’s right. A couple cubes of frozen water is now one dollar, folks. Except the next time, I wasn’t surcharged the buck.
Other members of our Millennial Advisory Board noted how they encounter young workers serving the public who go about their duties like robots, showing little interest in what they are doing or who they are serving. As Dezz describes it, “There is no empathy.”
No surprise there. By empathy, it’s not that we should expect sales people in stores or restaurant owners to show interest in our personal lives or emotional state. What we should expect, and they should expect of themselves and others who work for them, is to do their job with pride, which includes satisfying the customer, not ignoring us. What happened to pride in quality service?
Being social doesn’t just mean hanging out with your friends or co-workers. It means engaging customers in a friendly and caring manner. The disappearance of that kind of socializing when we’re shopping or dining is to be expected when an entire generation of workers is performing their jobs in solitude, at home. It doesn’t take much to forget how to engage with people and do something as basic as carry on a conversation across the counter. What happened to training? They talk about customers being loyal to a brand. What about the reverse – loyalty to the customer.
WORKFORCE OR WORKFARCE?
It’s increasingly difficult for employers to hire the right people when they are finding it difficult to hire any people at all. The modern workforce is turning into a work farce. I come across this disconnect constantly. At a Best Buy to look at TVs, and looking for advice, I quickly realized that the person “helping” me had great experience – at a Chick-Fil-A! He could no doubt serve up a mean side of fries, but wasn’t of any use to me when it came to my deciding the best TV purchase to make.
One of my good friends with a disciplined work ethic who started a new, high-level job was discouraged to find she is one of the few who shows up to work in the office. Is it lethargy? Is it apathy? It’s both, brought on by pandemic fatigue. It’s time that we put that aside.
Isn’t it bad enough that we need to work our way through surviving the destructive and discouraging personal behavior caused by Syndrome #45?
Let’s stop using the pandemic as our excuse for not being motivated enough to work our way back to good, old-fashioned work. That might even be one way to start curing ourselves and our nation of the bad behavior pandemic known as Syndrome #45.