When I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle while in high school some 40+ years ago, I learned about the harsh conditions and the exploited lives of workers in the Chicago meat industry. Sinclair brought to the public's attention the sad fate of immigrant workers in the early 20th century.Sadly, I'm not sure we've come very far in the treatment of our workers. No, people don't often fall in vats of fat, but employers don't always have their employees' best interests in mind.My undergraduate major broadly covered topics such as business, communication, constitutional law, economics, human behavior, journalism, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and theology. I was well‐prepared to enter the workforce and face whatever I might find, especially in relationship to the treatment of employees.We baby boomers learned from our Greatest Generation parents to “toe the line; follow the rules; don't bite the hand that feeds you” in relationship to work. Perhaps because of that, we've allowed the workplace to be the jungle that it is.How prepared are today's students who are likely to focus on career‐related majors for a very tough job environment? Our legislators and other groups we are accountable to want us to make sure students can get jobs when they complete college, so education is more skill‐based than ever. That's OK, but I don't think it prepares students for the reality of what they may face in the workplace.Strangely enough, the younger generations are teaching us about how to treat employees. They are demanding a better work‐life balance. They may be the first generation to make significant changes due to their tenacity. They can be demanding. They are the most technologically skilled generation of all time and can command high salaries and fair working conditions.But regardless of who is learning from whom, it is our responsibility as deans, provosts, department chairs, and administrators to prepare students and young workers so that not only do they have the skills to do their jobs, but they also have the skills necessary to make it in a workplace that is still a jungle.I suggest we emphasize to our students and our younger employees the following concepts so that they know how to make it in tough workplaces:➢ Self‐respect. People need to understand how important it is to respect oneself, and not to allow others to mistreat us just because we happen to be subordinates. This is one of the most important things one can encourage and help develop in another human being. The more self‐respecting an employee is, the less likely he is to be abused.➢ Self‐efficacy. This concept relates to how efficiently and effectively one is able to be a productive worker. It has to do with one's adequacy, competence, and sufficiency. It is critical that we raise students' and employees' awareness to their own self‐efficacy. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet in the workplace. The more they are capable of this, the less likely someone is to undermine their productivity and make them feel incompetent or incapable.➢ Self‐confidence. People with confidence in themselves are far less likely to be abused by a manager. Self‐confidence allows for the young workers to say, “You can't beat me down with your words or actions. I know that I am a good and productive worker and will not allow others to berate me or use me for their own gain.”I believe there is a lot of bullying, harassment, torment, intimidation, tyranny, browbeating, and domination in the workplace among supervisors and employees. We're just now beginning to see some of it surface through the media.We need to be the kind of teachers, mentors, and administrators who teach and treat our students and employees well, so that under our tutelage they will gain self‐respect, self‐efficacy, and self‐confidence. Let us prepare them for the real work world where supervisors and management are not always civilized and supportive. We need to help them shore themselves up to withstand 40 or more years working in whatever environments they may find themselves, and we need to teach them to stand up for themselves.About the authorDawn Z. Hodges, Ph.D., is vice president for academic affairs at Southern Crescent Technical College. Her regular column, “The Reflective Leader,” appears monthly in Dean & Provost. Email her at email@example.com.
Dean & Provost – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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