Is Duty A Four Letter World

Jul 6th, 2017 | By | Category: Commentary

Jeff Hough

By Jeff Hough

I am not a history buff, but I do enjoy learning about people and events that shaped the world we live in. I believe the old saying “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Although, I do like the more modern twist, “those who ignore history are doomed to re-tweet it!” Recently I took the opportunity to study the lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In reviewing their lives, I couldn’t help but reflect on the term duty.

Both Washington and Lincoln were duty bound men. Each longed for simpler days, yet pressed forward because of a sense of duty. They felt a duty to something greater than themselves. They believed in a cause and were willing to sacrifice all for it.

As I review the shifting tides in the workplace in regards to duty, I begin to wonder if it is an outdated concept. Could it be that much of our historical need to fulfill our duty is wrong? Especially, in the workplace where individuals would toil for years for a gold watch and the great wheels of business roll on without them. It makes the younger generation ask why and  what was it all for?

I look at that sense of duty and compare it to today’s younger workforce look for something more. They say they want to make a difference or have an impact. Yet, when you ask them to define what that looks like, they can’t. They don’t know what it is, but they know they want it.

I would like to make the case that what is missing from today’s workplace is the sense of duty. Often I hear employers complain about people not showing up for work. Excuses like, I didn’t have a sitter or I had car problems are frequent justifications for not showing up at all.

Duty requires more than that. Duty requires that you overcome obstacles to do what you say you are going to do. Duty requires you to give yourself to something greater than you and ask nothing in return. Duty is about being selfless.

Often, in the early days of the industrial economy, businesses would take advantage of their workers. Bosses would treat employees like disposable assets. Work was hard and people didn’t know different. Happy hour helped people deal with the working environment.

Anymore, working environments like that are the exception rather than the norm. Companies are striving to provide a variety of perks to entice people to work. Good leaders no longer lead with an iron fist, but instead use kids gloves. The pendulum has swung the other way.

Which brings us back to duty. The legendary General Robert E. Lee of American Civil War fame declared, “Duty is the sublimest word in our language. … You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.” How true, but to quote one of my favorite movie lines, “people just don’t talk like that anymore.”

Duty in the workplace is simple. Learn what you are to do, then do everything in your power to do it and do it well. Then do it with pride and make everyone around you better because of the way you do it. That is what Washington and Lincoln taught us.

If you want to make a difference in the world, do your duty. Show up, put on a cheerful face and do what you say you are going to do. In today’s world, that will make a huge difference and have a tremendous impact.

Jeff Hough is a business author, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.

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