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APATHY & BONUS: TODAY'S WRITING HABITS - by TimBryce

I have always had a problem with apathy. It's rather hard for me to sit back on the sidelines without putting in my two cents. I guess that really doesn't surprise a lot of you who know me. Inevitably, I get involved simply because I care about the people and institutions I am associated with. Indifference leaves me cold.

I have a friend who owns a retail shop who has been complaining about the stress he is under at his business. I asked him what was causing the problem and he said his vendors were either bringing in the wrong products or charging the wrong amount. Basically, he found they were going on automatic and weren't paying attention to detail. In essence, they just didn't care what they were doing. He also complained about a few of his clerks who routinely come down with a bad case of the stupids, particularly around customers. I've got many other friends who complain about the same type of problems. Interestingly, each believes their problems are unique to their type of business. I contend they are wrong in this regard; apathy knows no industrial boundary.

When did it become cool to be apathetic? I must have missed the memo. Do we not care what others think of us or our work products? I think we too readily accept apathy which, to me, reflects a general lack of discipline in our culture.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece called "Our Growing Dependency on Mass Mediocrity" where I made the observation that we are being subliminally conditioned to accept inferior workmanship. I still believe this is true, but I also believe we are becoming conditioned to be apathetic.

Today we are living in a Theory X world where people are being micromanaged to death and, as such, are asked to become non-thinking robots. Consequently, I am finding more and more people who prefer to be told what to do, to go on automatic and not think for themselves. In particular, we are conditioning Generations Y and Z to be this way, starting with mom and pop.

I've been talking to some career counselors at universities lately who describe a growing dependency students have on their parents. They describe a scenario where students consult with their parents on just about every decision they have to make regardless of how mundane or important it is. As soon as a student leaves the classroom, the cell phones flip open and the student reports to his or her parent about what transpired in the classroom. The counselors tell me that no course selection, activity, or career choice is made without first getting the approval of the parents. In other words, the student is never allowed to stand on his or her own two feet. Yes, young people should always seek the advice of their parents, but more importantly they need to learn to think for themselves.

This phenomenon disturbs me greatly. If this trend continues, our society will consist of a lot of people with little initiative and imagination, who will not lift a finger until somebody gives them their marching orders. Pretty scary if you ask me.

People will be apathetic until they reach a condition they can no longer tolerate and forces them to act. Unfortunately, that threshold seems to have been pushed down rather low in today's world. If it were otherwise, we wouldn't accept inferior workmanship, we would demand quality products and services, and it would never occur to us to give customers anything other than what they wanted. In other words, we would become more sensitive to the needs of others. We would care.

But what would be the impetus for triggering a shift in apathy? I'm afraid it would have to be a catastrophe of some magnitude, such as an economic depression or a world war, something that would radically alter our standard of living. Americans may no longer be good at planning, but we are excellent when it comes to reacting to calamities. It just seems strange to me that we have to be hit over the head with a 2 X 4 just to get our attention. You would think we would be smarter than this.

BONUS:

BRYCE ON TODAY'S WRITING HABITS

txt msging is pop 4 yung people.
ths short lang is used 2 cut costs.
ths lang leads 2 bad wrtng habits - sent strcture, punct, slang, etc.
peop r lazy + put 4th min 2 commun.
writing sklls r declining - biz ltrs, memos, rpts, etc.
not good, look bad to pub.
instd of good writ, now sloppy.
need tool to trnslte english/shorthnd. LOL
how bout pro att insted?
btw, 24 spell errs in ths txt

TRANSLATION:

Text messaging has become one of the most prominent techniques young people use to communicate these days. Since it is ultimately based on time and number of characters to transmit, our youth have devised a shorthand language to reduce costs (which I am expressing herein). The problem as I see it, is this new language is leading to some very bad writing habits by young people in terms of sentence structure, punctuation, and use of slang. Basically, people have become lazy in their writing habits and put forth the bare minimum to communicate. Consequently we are seeing an erosion of writing skills in the work place. For example, simple business letters, memos, and reports, lack refinement and are embarrassingly amateurish, certainly not the type of image a well established corporation wishes to portray to the public. This is very disconcerting to me. Instead of crisp professional discourse, we now have to deal with some rather sloppy writing. Maybe we need a translation tool that can go from English to their shorthand language and back again. Then again, how about we just demand a little more professional attitude in the workplace.

By the way, there were zero errors in this version when I ran it against my spell checker.



Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant located in Palm Harbor, Florida.
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

He can be contacted at:  timb001@phmainstreet.com

Copyright © 2008 Tim Bryce.  All rights reserved.


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