Friday, December 2, 2011


Earlier this year my boss praised me for accomplishing something that I consider to be one of my most basic tasks. Although it was an important and time-sensitive job, it had required less than 10 minutes to do. I looked at him oddly and asked why I deserved such a compliment. That actually flustered him slightly and he responded that not everyone would agree that completing such tasks correctly, on-time, and on a regular basis is easy.

That got me thinking about how often I've been overjoyed when others met my expectations. This definitely isn't limited to the workplace. For example, all I want at a restaurant is a waiter or waitress who keeps my water glass full, stops by a couple times to see if I need anything, and is reasonably civil; i.e., that they do their job. I've talked to many others who will recommend a business or the services of an individual, not because they go above and beyond, but because they simply do what is expected.

I've since coined a phrase that is becoming popular at work:
Mere competence is the new excellence.
How often have you praised a person or an organization for doing exactly what they said they would? Are you increasingly impressed by any book that has a minimum of spelling and grammatical errors? How much of a modern schoolchild's grade is based on the fact that they did an assignment rather than that they did it well? How many college credits have been "earned" effectively because students showed up and breathed the air?

Although this trend depresses me, I guess there is a bright side; it makes the accomplishments of those who strive to do a little better than average look a lot more impressive.

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