Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences.

Where is the loyalty to people in these tough economic times?

“Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time passing

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the flowers gone?

Girls have picked them every one

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?”

These are lyrics to one stanza of the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” written by singer/songwriter Pete Seeger in 1955. The “Flowers” song essentially laments loss and expresses grief for life’s transience.

The words came to mind recently when I was laid off from my job of 14 years as director of leisure services. One of my senior managers was also laid off, and the entire leisure-services division was disbanded, with the staff distributed among other departments.

The decision came as a total surprise; I didn’t see that one coming. But then they say the bullet you don’t hear is the one that gets you.

For the first time in my 40-year adult working life, I find myself jobless.

It’s a long story, how and why this happened–new city manager, desperate times, misguided decisions. But that is for another time and not the subject of this missive. It happens, and life goes on.

Ownership Is An Illusion

I wrote about this in the “Week-Ender” blog in July, pointing out that, in this world, nobody is bulletproof. A few responses came in commiserating with my situation. Many others have experienced it in the past, there are probably some experiencing it today, and more will undoubtedly join us before the economy climbs out of the primordial ooze in which it has become mired.

One of the blog responders made a telling remark. Terry wrote: “It has made me rethink who I am, as an employee and as a person. Younger employees, of a different generation, are sometimes accused of not making the ‘buy in’ to their jobs. I am now learning from them–my ‘ownership’ was an illusion easily swept away by people I’ve never met.”

That’s where the song comes in. Where has all the buy-in gone? Where has the loyalty gone? Where has the team spirit gone? Where has the respect gone? Where has the concept gone that assumes if a person works hard and does a good job, is honest, has the best interests of the “company” at heart, and is loyal, that person will be treated with dignity and respect?

Call me naïve, but I think there was a time when all this was important, when it all counted for something.

Call me blind, but I think there are still places and jobs where it is still important. I think it merely depends on who is in charge and how that person treats people.

I fear that with the emphasis so decidedly on the “bottom line,” the human element has been so diminished that it may be in danger of extinction.

At what point do we, as a society, start treating our fellow humans with common courtesy instead of accepting what is becoming the “new normal,” which apparently is to cast people off like cattle, to allow the “bottom line” instead of past performance, loyalty, and common courtesy to guide our treatment of people?

Maybe I am just a dreamer. Maybe I am holding on to a concept that is no longer relevant in today’s society. Maybe what Terry said is true, that this ownership was an illusion.

Where’s The Loyalty?

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