“The Usual” (Pimm’s Cup)
Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Pour 2 oz Pimms No 1. Fill to top with ginger ale. Garnish with cucumber and mint. An easy-to-make beverage that stands out from the usual Jack and Coke or Gin and Tonic.
In university as well as in business, making connections is essential to success. While it would be easier for an introvert such as myself to “fly under the radar” and just put in the work for a degree, there is a great opportunity missed in simply working towards the syllabus. As the iconic theme song goes, “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”
Attendance used to be an important factor in a person’s success, academically and professionally. Professors would reduce points for excessive absences and tardiness; employers would adhere to policies that discourage excess absences. After all, showing up is half the battle.
Lately, however, there has been a push in the opposite direction. Instead of employers applying a set number of sick and vacation days, “open PTO” plans are gaining popularity. Several professors state at the beginning of the semester that they don’t take attendance and don’t care whether or not people show up. Unsurprisingly, the number of regular attendees on non-test days is very small. As somebody who always tested well without doing the homework even, it would seem I’d be excited about this trend, but I’m not.
I look back on the classes I only sporadically attended and feel they were just a waste of time—more points on the transcript; but I learned nothing of value, cannot recall the professors or classmates, and ironically feel they were a waste of my time. On my return to college, I made a point of missing as few classes as possible, actively engaging in every class, and the results are night and day. More noticeable is the workplace—whenever somebody is absent, his or her coworkers have to pick up the slack, management must make up for the drop in productivity, customers lose out on service they richly deserve. So, attendance is, indeed, half the battle.
It is only half. Looking back on some classes, even those where attendance was mandatory, only a handful engaged more than 10% of the class. Usually, three to five students would carry the discussion, the rest would sit quietly, offering no signal of understanding or engagement. Perhaps they understood the material, maybe not, but they passed on the opportunity to contribute their knowledge, perspective, curiosity and, once again, something was lost.
At work, the same situation arises. A handful of employees arrive engaged, willing to contribute their thoughts and ideas, many of which enrich the work environment and improve the workplace culture. The remainder, those who show up just to do the work, pull a paycheck, and go home, miss out on and deprive the organization of a further opportunity for growth. Having been that person, I know they’re not as happy, not as fulfilled, not as engaged in their work. Having supervised them, I know that I am disinclined to look to them for problem-solving.
As managers, it is incumbent upon us to facilitate, encourage, incentivize participation in our operation. However, management cannot do it alone. Only the employee knows what motivates her or him and (dis)engagement is a choice. A student must choose to come to class prepared to discuss the material, an employee must choose to make a difference at work, a person chooses to know and be known by her or his peers. Then, everybody will know your name and they will be glad you came.