“You Can Take this Job and…”..Celebrate the Antihero

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

So, the song that kept coming into my mind this week is that country and western hit “You Can Take this Job and…” Yes, it is a busy time for the Baldrige Program, with Baldrige applicant consensus calls, 2011 Baldrige Flight attendantCriteria revisions, the initiation of the Baldrige Fellows Program, and numerous other activities. But, the song was triggered by the newest U.S. antihero, Steven Slater, the now famous flight attendant, who departed down the emergency chute with beers in hand. Are you ever tempted to emulate his behavior? I have been tempted on occasion! But make mine a nice craft beer.

Why do we as a culture celebrate the antihero? According to one account I read, Steven Slater was adding 150 fans per minute to his Facebook page, was the top Google search, and the basis for the New York Times soliciting “last straw at work stories.” How many of us cheer on bad boy, good diagnostician House for his (mis)behavior?

Has this always been true or are we at such a loss for true heroes that we celebrate antiheroes? Are we engulfed with so much bad news that we enjoy the occasional triumph of mischief over good? And why does bad news always trump good news in news coverage. I have always been frustrated by the quick mention of Baldrige when a recipient stumbles, but the lack of coverage for all the good things Baldrige recipients do. When did you last read about the unique community outreach of some of our Award recipients? Did you know that MidwayUSA gives ten percent of its annual profits to community support? Did you know that after the Iowa floods in June 2008, Cargill Corn Milling employees were rebuilding their community with pay while their plant was being rebuilt? Did you know that the city of Coral Springs purchased and placed in trust 66 acres of environmentally sensitive land to protect native plants and animals? Did you know that Jenks Public Schools has an innovative community partnership with a local long-term care facility, providing pre-K and kindergarten classes in the facility thereby giving residents the meaningful experience of engaging with children? And did you know that Heartland Health cleaned up a brownfield site and created EmpowerU on the site to engage middle- and high-school students in a hands-on curriculum that focuses on civic education, critical thinking, team building, community problem solving, technological skill building, leadership development, and workforce readiness skills?

Do any of these thoughts cause you to ponder or contribute a thought of your own? I am eager to capture your musings!


About Barbara Fischer

NIST Baldrige
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4 Responses to “You Can Take this Job and…”..Celebrate the Antihero

  1. Bryan Zak says:

    I was trying to think of a good Country song written about my job, my community, my church, etc., but then I realized that just about every country song is connected in some way to a dog, a girlfriend, a wife, a train or real life. Now, I have the song “I love my job” stuck in my mind and I can’t remember who sings it. So I googled country music “I love my job”. I did not find the singer that I was looking for or the song, but Wow did I find many, many examples of why I love this country and yes Country Music says it all. I think the flight attendant had just reached maximum overload, popped and has joined a long line of folks looking for a good job. I just hope he finds the right line and that it leads him to his dream job.

  2. Judy Malsbury says:

    I saw a list of comments supporting Slater the other day with very few criticisms of his actions and wondered about that also. I believe that most people want to do a good job. This belief is supported by all the hard-working and caring people that I see all the time. Employees, for the most part, don’t need to be motivated; management’s role is to assure that they don’t get demotivated. When employees are asked to work long hours with limited recognition or inadequate pay, when the company’s bottom line becomes the prime focus and employees are treated as commodities, when the significance of customer focus is loss and the front line staff have to bear the impact, then the workers become disillusioned and events like this happen. I don’t condone the action, but I can understand it. It is wonderful when the Baldrige winners demonstrate that there need not be a trade-off between caring for the staff and treating them well and increasing profitability.

  3. Terry Rusconi says:

    I’ve been thinking about this trend and wonder if it isn’t somehow linked to the increasing polarization that is taking over more and more of the conversations in the country. People are more and more defining themselves by what they are against. It’s hard to be stirred up to be against such organizations as the ones Harry mentioned (Midway, Cargill, Coral Springs, Jenks, Heartland). It is easy to become stirred up to be against inconsiderate passengers or other similar situations that generate antiheroes.

  4. Harry Hertz says:

    Thanks for the comments. I think we also get more vicarious pleasure these days from the tales of the antiheroes than the heroes. Maybe it is part of finding it increasingly difficult to decide what we are for because of the increasing complexity of all situations.

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