I recently watched a movie called “The Intern.” Robert DeNiro plays a 70-year-old retired widower who is lonely and bored, so he applies for and gets a position as a senior intern to Anne Hathaway in a fresh, new start-up internet clothing company. The employees are young hipsters dressed in “super casual” clothing, shirts untucked, hoodies, some unkempt with messy hair. They are all “chill.”
And there’s Ben (DeNiro) completely comfortable in a suit and tie, impeccably groomed and standing out like a sore thumb in this workplace. Always saying and doing the right thing…honest, trustworthy, reliable and self-confident. These are the kind of men I worked with way back when. Gentlemen. Professionals. People who ran companies with compassion and treated their staff with respect. The movie rekindled memories of some of them. John Murphy. Al Carlton. Gene Smith. The best of the best. The cream of the crop. Men who respected me as an employee, treated me fairly, complimented my efficiency, leaned on my business support and valued and appreciated my knowledge and skills. They made me feel like somebody.
I’ve struggled in the past few years finding that echelon of workplace integrity. I’ve come across leadership that is shallow and self-centered. Interactions are mostly technology-based. People stare at their phones as they walk by to avoid eye contact. There is an aloofness and a disconnect. Yes, I’m getting older, and it’s hard to fit into this new business world, let alone find a place in which to belong.
I miss my old bosses. I miss the way things used to be. Ben eventually worked his way into the hearts of his co-workers with his old-fashioned ways. Some began to emulate him. It was heart-warming for me to reminisce. And I still hold out hope that people like these still exist in our business world.