Among the city-states of ancient Greece, Sparta stood out because of the quality of its warriors—male and female. The tribal elder inspected all babies to determine whether they were fit to live in that society. Those who were were assigned to a regimen of education and training to become soldiers. Those who were not were exposed to the elements or left in the marketplace for others to find and adopt. 1, 2, 3
By today’s standards, that would be considered barbaric. But for us to call it that would be hypocritical.
The difference between the Spartans and us is that Sparta made no bones about what it was doing and why it was doing it. Was their behaviour right or ethical or moral? Can we make that judgement without understanding that Sparta lived in a tough neighbourhood? That, dear reader, is for you to decide. But as you ponder, consider the state of today’s workplace, quality of life, the world economy, the rise and fall of once great companies, job and financial security and what it takes to survive in our neighbourhood. Then ask yourself:
Where did our children’s ideas of entitlement come from?
Why don’t managers use plain language to tell their subordinates what’s expected of them and what the consequences are for failing to deliver?
Why do employers tolerate environments in which energy that should be going into producing better products or delivering superior service is being spent playing politics?
What does it really take to climb the corporate ladder?
Why do we need euphemisms like “team building” and “coaching” and “training” and “professional development” when we could just as easily—and candidly—call them what they are: measures for increasing output and corporate profits, hopefully with commensurate increases in employee salaries?
Why are managers afraid to tell the people they separate from the business that, yes, you are being released because your performance was substandard and we should never have hired you in the first place and then left you to fend for yourself?
Do we realize that, with few exceptions, everybody’s job and the lifestyle it pays for are hanging by a thread?
Maybe we’re not telling them this because nobody ever told us. We know that none of these malaises will disappear any time soon. They represent the current state of business ethics and human nature, and human nature changes very, very slowly. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t equip our children and ourselves to test for the presence of good management and candour. Johnnie and Jeannie deserve to know that it’ll take more than a postgraduate degree to be set for life.
Our children are our future. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. How many times have we heard one or the other or both? We are somebody’s children. The present is the future we’ve created. Were we told to be on the lookout for any of this before we started our first full-time job? Are we teaching our children to protect themselves and their future by not sharing any of this with them before they start community college or university? And what are we teaching ourselves?
Sparta prepared its children to survive in its neighbourhood. Can we justify not preparing ourselves and our children to survive in ours?
1. Ancient Greece — 500 BC to 100 AD – http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~duchan/new_history/ancient_history/greece.html
2. The Ancient Greek City-State Of Sparta – http://greece.mrdonn.org/sparta.html
3. Ancient Greece – Sparta Story – The British Museum – ancientgreece.co.uk