A talented safety professional and friend of mine, David Guess, posted an article on this month’s NATMI newsletter. He’s a smart guy, good writer, Executive Vice President of Safety & Human Resources at Usher Transportation and currently finishing up his PhD. More importantly, he’s a dad and like all dads, he cares about his kids.
In his article, he comments on the state of youth today and their apparent lack of self-discipline. It’s based on an unfortunate encounter he and is young daughter had with a poorly-behaved 12 year old boy. The obese young man, wearing sloppy clothes, came out of a grocery store, eating a candy bar, spitting on the entry sidewalk and cursing all in the presence of his impressionable young daughter. She naturally asked her dad if the boy’s parents would be upset if they knew of his behavior. He assured her they would.
Later, he gave it more thought. He concluded that there seems to be a lack of self-discipline among today’s youth. He thought of his own (strict) upbringing and how it had shaped who he is today. He worried where our future leaders might come from.
Noting that the forum is supposed to be focused on safety, he apologizes that his topic might be out of line. I disagree. His topic is perfect. Accidents happen for many reasons, but the majority happen because people take too many risks.
Although he uses different terms than we do, he says what we’ve been saying for 35 years. We approach human performance improvement using our time-tested Can Do / Will Do™ Model. It proves that a person’s Values, Motivations and Personality (Will Do characteristics) have far more to do with accident frequency than Knowledge, Skills or Abilities.
Self-discipline, or a lack thereof, is a bi-product of Will Do characteristics. I suggested to my friend that the same traits that lead to the public displays he witnessed are common among risk-taking employees.
In our professional practice, we encourage progressive fleet owners who want better safety results, to focus on Will Do traits when hiring drivers. All too often, recruiters are so anxious to put warm butts in cold, empty seats that they’ll accept anyone who has the minimum credentials. No wonder they suffer from double digit turnover!
Finally, I assure you that his negative views of the next generation are not new. In fact, several brilliant minds have complained about the youth for a very long time.
Socrates (410BC): “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
Horace (20BC): Our sires' age was worse than our grandsires'. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.
Adolph Hitler (1938): "Our youth today are lazy and immoral. They have little respect for their parents or authority. One has only to look at the menus of our movie houses, vaudevilles and theaters; and one can hardly deny that this is not the right kind of food, above all for youth. The result of this education can be studied in a not very enjoyable way with the youth of today…is it not a misery to see how so many physically weak, and also mentally corrupt, young men receive their initiation into marriage by a whore of the big cities?"
So, cheer up all you old geezers! There are some self-disciplined millennials up-and-coming. In fact, their numbers mirror those of our generation; that is, about five percent of the population. It’s a simple bell curve. The top standard deviation goes to the disciplined, the remaining groups are either followers, miscreants or criminals. Embrace this. Use it when hiring drivers and you’ll get better results.