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You do your best to be the best

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

When I get emails like the ones I'll share in a minute, I wonder, “But how ‘bout those Ohio State Buckeyes?”

Let me first say that I don't follow sports. But having hailed from the city that loves its college football team more than, well, most anything, I can't help but be curious. And I couldn't help but notice a good sports-work analogy when I saw one.

And now for two of the emails I got in response to my column focusing on employers who say they're frustrated with a generation of workers who don't seem to care about the American work ethic.

These readers were among many who wrote me and blasted corporate America and the reference to younger workers who seemed less dedicated than older workers. I quoted Cam Marston, author of “Motivating the ‘What's In It For Me?' Workforce,” who said younger workers have a “self-centered work ethic.”

Tim from Abingdon, Va., and in his 40s wrote, “Good for them!”

Daniel, 49, of North Carolina said: “Employers have the audacity to whine and cry that the new employees are not completely dedicated and inspired. Why should they? They have seen what my generation (has) gone through with employers firing good people and shutting down companies just so they can make a few more million on top of their already bloated salaries.”

He compares work to sports, saying “If a person doesn't feel that they are part of the team or that the coach (management) is treating them badly, they are less likely to perform well or even want to give their best effort.”

Such sentiments are understandable. A lot of dedicated workers indeed have been treated unfairly.

So I ask, how do you explain those OSU Buckeyes? Here are young men who through no fault of their own got a raw deal.

You may recall, the NCAA levied sanctions against the team as a result of bad behavior by a handful of previous team members and their former coach. Even if this team played great and came in first in its division, these men can't win their Big Ten conference title or go on to compete nationally.

So what's the point of playing well?

How does a new coach even recruit players or motivate the ones he has knowing they don't have a chance to go for the gold?

The players have every reason to say, “It's not my fault. Why should I bust my butt for you, coach? I won't have the opportunity to advance.”

But so far, they've won every game this season.

How does that happen, even though they have plenty of reasons not to be completely dedicated and inspired?

There's only one explanation: They play to be their best.

They play to win, for the satisfaction of knowing they did their best and want to be the best whether they get rewarded for it or not.

So fair or not, why wouldn't you embrace a work ethic that commits you to do your best? Fairness has nothing to do with pride in yourself and your work.

Consider this quote whose author is unknown: “Every time you stay out late, every time you sleep in, every time you miss a workout, every time you don't give 100 percent, you make it that much easier for me to beat you.”

Email andrea@andreakay.com.

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