Conditions are often not ideal, but when you work amongst positive people you can do amazing things.
There is an article I have seen circulating on social media about the pilot shortage and how airlines have largely brought it upon themselves through the way they treat their pilots. While I don’t doubt that the airlines couldn’t treat all of their employees better (what company outside of Google couldn’t?), I found the article to be mostly a bunch of whining with a whole lot of contradiction.
The one area that I wholeheartedly agree with is that flying is becoming too darn expensive for the vast majority of people to pursue. A select few may be able to secure scholarships, have rich parents, or survive a career in the military before going to an airline, but for the rest it will be a massive financial sacrifice to secure a good job flying planes. No matter how much pride or excitement someone has for flying, if you can’t afford it, it will never happen. That is the real challenge when it comes to people not becoming pilots. I know it has been for me.
It all went downhill from there.
She goes on to mention how airline executives talked a lot about discipline in last week’s IATA conference and how that translates into cutting costs and charging passengers more. However, the definition of discipline she provided was, “requiring punishment for bad behavior…” So who exactly behaved badly here, the passengers who are being punished with increased fares and fees, or…yeah, I don’t see anybody else mentioned in the following paragraphs except for employees. That is the real focus of the rest of the article.
I find it interesting that she chose to use that definition of discipline since she followed that up with plenty of examples of employees that could use a little discipline of the type she mentioned. She also states that, “discipline is something you force, not something you earn.” Which I completely disagree with because of the definition of discipline that I feel is far more applicable in this situation. I prefer, “willing behavior in accord with rules of conduct.” This likely stems from my military background and how I have seen both good and poor discipline affect outcomes.
“Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.”
When personal discipline is present amazing things can be accomplished and the organization as a whole functions more efficiently, and with higher morale. The exact opposite occurs when a lack of discipline is exhibited, which is when her definition of discipline comes into play. Personal discipline is in fact earned through hard work and determination to do your very best against all odds. It is exactly the type of discipline that allows the diligent pilot to wade through all of the crap the article mentions to get to that cockpit they dreamed about their whole life.
If that discipline then fades away because of the actions of an employer, that is an indictment of the individual, not the employer. So you don’t make a ton of money at first, neither do most people coming out of college with mountains of student loan debt. You have to spend time away from your family? So does every military member in the world, and I’m not just talking about deployments. But that was part of the job I signed up for and I knew what I was getting into. If you didn’t take the time to understand the demands of the industry you are entering then once again, that is your problem, not your employer’s.
A story is then shared about having a vacation cut short by the company that was scheduled by the company at the expense of the author. That really sucks, and if I was there when you had to cut your vacation short I would empathize with you, and probably agree with your complaints, and then go about doing my job the right way, because that is the kind of discipline that makes a successful company from the bottom to the top. Instead she proceeds to describe how she regularly wasted company resources such as fuel by extending flights, provided poor customer service because “why should I care about the passenger who will miss the connection…”, and brags about how, “there are things I could and did do which cost the company thousands…”.
She submits that employees “aren’t doing anything wrong” when they act in these ways but therein lies the problem. Just because you haven’t technically broken any rules does not mean you didn’t do anything wrong. In fact the greatest contradiction in the article came right before that last quote, and it was easy to spot because it included the word “but”, “I was proud of my position, and I have a deep appreciation for my comrades, so I would never do anything to harm my professionalism, but there are things I could and did do which cost the company thousands…”
You are not proud of your position when you reject your own personal discipline in favor of petty retaliation that has no impact on the person that upset you. There is no professionalism in admittedly costing your company thousands of dollars because you didn’t like the way you were treated. We all have aspects of our jobs that suck, but you deal with it if it means enough to you, or you find a new profession. Discipline is not just punishment, it is a willingness and determination to do your best and to do the right thing because that is who YOU are, not because everyone else gives you what you want, or what you think you deserve. That is what true pride in your position entails, standing tall because you did your absolute best despite the challenges you faced.
We live in a world right now where people call foul when everything doesn’t go quite their way, even when they signed up for it. Many people are quick to point out the shortfalls of an industry or company or person, and want to place the blame for everything squarely on somebody else’s shoulders. Nobody wants to take accountability for the role they played in the situation no matter how minor. It is no wonder that we see this in our leaders because so many of us exhibit it ourselves.
Fortunately, she actually provided the answer to her own contradictions near the very end of the article, and I could not agree more with the assessment. “Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.” WOW! Those are powerful words that could not be more true.
The only way the next generation will be as passionate about aviation as we are is if we exhibit pride in our profession and discipline in our actions.
If you stop and think for a minute, almost all of us can think of at least one person, if not many, that had a positive influence on our life that changed our world. Maybe it was a teacher, coach, or family member, but their “positive ideology” inspired us to set and achieve goals that we never thought possible. We saw the impact they had on us and we wanted to be like them.
We wanted to have an impact for good, but somewhere along the way many of us lost sight of that. Instead we focus on the things that suck and how we were wronged by this person, or that stupid supervisor, or some company that screwed us over, and that is the ideology we have chosen to sell to anyone that will listen. The relative anonymity of the internet has allowed us to project that negativity in ways never before possible, but there is absolutely no reason we can’t turn the tables back in the other direction.
We can look at people like Ron Rapp who is quick to call out the FAA and other organizations when they damage the industry he has such a passion for, but also immediately follows that up with a solution that will meet the intent of proposed changes while at the same time improving the industry as a whole.
Or Eric Auxier who actively promotes the wonders of aviation to anyone that will listen. He acknowledges the challenges he has faced, and continues to face, but chooses to have a positive outlook and focus on the good.
To quote something attributed to Abraham Lincoln in the movie Pollyanna , “If you look for the good, you will surely find it.” That is true of everything in life, but is something that can be a great challenge if you never look for it. It takes a concerted effort to get past all of the crap that happens and choose to focus on the good.
It bears repeating what the author said near the end of her article because it is the message she should have shared instead of the paragraphs of complaining and negativity that she chose to focus on. I will be the first to admit that I struggle with this same challenge, which is maybe why I was so quick to recognize it, but all of us would be a lot happier, and our industry would be a lot more appealing if each of us would commit to the following phrase:
“Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.”