Illegally blond

Management training for the next generation

Kerry Knudsen

ACCORDING TO A NEW STUDY in the Harvard Business Review, half of millennials and 75 percent of Gen Z-ers have quit their jobs for mental health “reasons.”

Cute, eh? I used to know somebody that would take off every legal sick day as a “mental health day.”

My dad would have kicked my butt if I had done that. I know. I tried. Whenever it was my turn to wash dishes, or if there was a project due at school, I tried to “call in sick.” It never worked.

And I mean never. Looking back, it’s a good thing I never broke an arm or caught pneumonia on a test day. It would not have worked. I had no credibility with dad.

On the other hand, I was a kid. Kids aren’t SUPPOSED to have credibility. They are supposed to acquire it. Learn it. And they learn it from their parents. Fathers, it seems.

I stole some blond hair colouring in Grade Eight. Everybody was shoplifting and bragging about it, so I resolved to do it, too. It is terrible for a kid to be “different.”

It is worse to shoplift, and the guilt got me. I figured how somebody had been watching from one of those glassed-in offices above the store floor, or had made a video and would see me when they reviewed it. And when my dad found out … Dead. That would be the end, and it would be painful and eternal. I would be separated from the family, from life and from legend. I was the one that didn’t work out. Pastor Blegen would condemn me. He had already caught me smoking instead of showing up for confirmation class.

I couldn’t deal with it. I can’t explain it. You couldn’t understand. Everything was wrong. To top it off, I had no need on earth for blond hair colouring. I was already light blond, and I actually had hair.

I resolved to meet my fate, hid the dye box in a bag and began the last, long mile. The end. I had to face the music. The death march was about eight city blocks, and then the drug store sign edged into view. My feet weighed a ton. My heart was beating its rapid last.

In some kind of haze, I entered the store, went to customer service and asked for the store manager. It seemed he was ready for me — waiting to pounce. He had those unforgiving owl-eye glasses, a white shirt and vest and no hair. Everything there is to hate in an adult by one who will now never know what it means to be one. But I could not quit.

I handed him the bag with the unopened box of dye and confessed with one blurted assertion: “I stole this.”

He stared at me the way only adults can, looked into the bag a few times to be sure he had the full picture, and said, “Thank you.”

Baffled, I said, “Huh? Is that all? Aren’t you going to report it or something?”

“No,” he said, “I don’t think we need to do that. I don’t think you’ll be stealing anymore.”

He was prescient. I didn’t. Don’t. It is not worth throwing my reputation away, and my life and freedom, and my selfesteem, for a box of blond hair colouring. Or a new car. Or a day off work.

Work is who I am and what I do. It is how people know me. I own a business, so if I steal a day from the company, I am not only stealing from myself, but from all the people that rely on me, the credibility of Coverings and the trust my readers and advertisers place here.

Somebody needs to tell the millies and zed-ers you don’t quit a job for mental health excuses. In fact, if you do that enough times, you may find yourself someplace you never imagined in your future. Once you set your foot on life’s path in a certain direction, once you take every step along the way, you can’t be surprised when you end up where you were heading.

Society needs workers. Workers become managers. Managers become owners. Owners become leaders.

Don’t quit for mental health excuses. Straighten up. Like the drug-store manager, I have either quit or got fired from every job I ever had but this one. When I quit, I made sure it was a story worth telling. When I was fired, the same. I think everybody should be fired at least once, for two reasons. First, you know what it feels like and won’t fire others pointlessly. Second, you find out it’s not the end of the world.

Quitting for mental health excuses is.

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