“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, quote from the King)
The message in Lewis Carroll’s quote is not to stop until you come to the end. If you stop before the end then you will have quit.
The first time I lost Chutes and Ladders to my little brother I told my mother I would never play the game again. Needless to say she made me sit down and play three more games with that “little brat”, my brother. She told me “one should never quit”. After four games with the “little brat” the end result was a two-two tie.
Unfortunately I was not happy with a tie therefore I urged my brother into a couple games of Trouble, where I constantly kicked my brother’s “little behind”. A couple years later when we both progressed to the game Battleship he kicked my behind. I have to admit he was quite good at Battleship so I continued to lose but never quit. (Years later he ended up at the Coast Guard Academy so it was not a surprise I lost!)
But my story is not about the games we played but what we learned. We both learned not to be quitters. We were taught not to be over aggressive, but to be persistent and not to give up. I think this was a very important lesson because it has helped me today in my career. I try to communicate this lesson to those on my staff and young people entering the workforce.
I cannot tolerate people who are self made victims or quitters. I could not tolerate them in the schoolroom or the playground when I was young. I cannot tolerate them in sports or in life and I cannot tolerate them in the workplace.
Today, a 45-year-old male employee walked into my office and quit his job after only 4 months on the job. It really irritated me. It did not irritate me that he quit; it was the “why” he quit that irritated me.
There are times when we choose to move on from our jobs. When we feel that we have made our contribution and there is no more to contribute than its OK to move on. If we believe the match to the job is not right for us, or if we get a better opportunity after a certain amount of time, then certainly under those circumstances choosing to move on is not quitting. Quitting is when we choose to move on because the job is difficult, we need to work a little harder, we may need to struggle a little before we get the momentum we want or we just do not have the patience or persistence to do the job. This is what this man did; he quit because he did not want to invest the time and energy into getting his momentum going. He felt he was not as immediately successful as he wanted to be therefore he was moving on in order to seek an easier path. We are not always immediately successful in what we do, but if we do not try we will never see the outcome.
Quitters in the workplace should take some lessons from athletes. Good athletes experience many failures along the way to success. They know how be patient, they know how to work towards goals, they are persistent and they do not quit.
In these economically difficult times we have to learn to be patient and persistent. We need to find ways to succeed because success will not be handed to us on a silver platter. Employees need to remember not to become self-made victims and managers have to face up to their responsibilities and encourage and coach their employees. We need to remember not to give up after our first attempt, or we will never become a winner, only a quitter.