It's everybody's problem Featured

10:08am EDT July 22, 2002
I've often heard that playing golf with a business associate or potential employee can reveal plenty about that person's underlying character. This spring, when I lugged my clubs out of the basement for the season, I decided to test this concept on some family members and friends-unbeknownst to them.

I quickly noticed how often one of them tends to curse or sulk when his tee shot slices sharply into the rough. His anger intensifies as his errant shots continue. Perhaps he's more of a perfectionist than I realized. I can only imagine what he's like at work.

Another of my golfing pals will occasionally improve his ball's lie when he thinks no one is looking. He claims he's still learning the game and I should cut him a break. I wonder how many company pens I could find in his car.

As for me, I've caught myself paying more attention to other players' scores than keeping track of my own. Perhaps it's just my intensely competitive nature revealing itself, but it could also be a sign of an underlying mistrust of others. Guess that comes with being a journalist.

It's easy to ignore this childish behavior. Most of us do. After all, golf is only a game. But some of these actions-the cheating, the anger, the lack of civility-reflect a growing problem both on and off the golf course. What are we teaching the workforce of tomorrow to accept?

We don't have to be parents to influence the youth around us. All of us-as business owners, managers, community leaders, neighbors and friends-set an example each day in everything we do. If we drink to excess every Friday after work, lie about being sick just to get a day off, cheat on our taxes, gossip about co-workers, drive recklessly and curse like a maniac during the morning commute, how can we expect young, impressionable adolescents to act any differently? We model what we see. And kids are seeing a lot these days.

They see adults backstabbing each other to climb another rung higher on the corporate ladder. They see salespeople stretching the truth to land a new account. They see supervisors stealing ideas from employees and reaping the rewards.

Then they see us, sitting and shaking our head over the morning newspaper, as we read about another disgruntled worker-or worse yet, an ill-adjusted student-who went on a shooting rampage the day before. It's easy to blame their upbringing. Parents often contribute, sometimes unwittingly, to the problems of their children. But we should blame ourselves, too. We're the ones who collectively taught these people to accept the behavior that lead to this tragedy.

It's time for that to stop. We all need to shoulder a little more responsibility in raising the next generation of business leaders.

Nancy Byron, editor of Small Business News Columbus, can be reached by phone at 848-6397, by fax at 842-6093, or by e-mail at
sbnpubco@psinet.com.