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Why Do We Settle For Mediocrity? It’s Simply Not Affordable

Mediocrity is the new standard.

Recently, a friend of mine was complaining to her husband that, when she asks certain people at work for information pertaining to a client or a pending issue, they tend to provide only part of the information requested, or they don’t think far enough into the request to answer any questions that may arise from the information they gathered. Then she has to get back on the phone and ask for more information, taking up more of the time she doesn’t have to spare. She winds up frustrated and annoyed because constant back and forth to complete a task is an all-consuming waste of everyone’s time.

His response to her: “The world strives for mediocrity so you should just accept it. Otherwise you’ll spend every day getting frustrated and annoyed at people and wind up hating your job”.

So, is he right? Should we just accept mediocrity and move on?

According to Merriam-Webster, mediocrity is defined as the quality of something that is not very good, or the quality or state of being mediocre. Also defined as a person who does not have the special ability to do something well.mediocrity

Why do we settle–especially at our own events?

It seems that more and more these days we are settling for mediocrity in quality of the goods and services we purchase, in the people we hire, in those we vote into public office (ok, that’s aiming high on the last one, I’d be happy with the giant leap to mediocrity there!). But why is it okay to settle for mediocrity? What happened to striving for excellence? (Notice I didn’t say perfection, I said excellence. There’s a difference.)

Let’s talk about that one big trade show in your very busy schedule that you exhibit at every year. It’s not the 10×10 shows you have on autopilot, it’s The Big One; the one that all of your competition is going to be at, and you’re planning to launch a super-secret new product that they’ve been trying to get a sneak peak at for months.

You went to Skyline and purchased a custom trade show exhibit or rented a spectacular exhibit that meets all of your requirements for graphics, traffic flow, height, storage, meeting spaces, technology, a beverage bar, and multiple demo stations throughout. You really went all out on this exhibit. This is the big show and the entire executive staff of your company will be there. The exhibit production is completed; you saw the staging photos and cannot wait to see it on the show floor.

As is typical of a full service operation such as ours, Skyline provided you with a quote to do the install and dismantle. After comparing our numbers with another I&D group, the other guys seemed a little less expensive, so you went with them. Ok, it happens; we don’t hold a grudge.

You get to your booth space at the agreed upon time that the install was to be completed, just to check it before the techs move on to the next install, and something is amiss. The graphics are fine, although that one on the aisle is a little droopy; and there are a lot of wires; you didn’t know they would be so visible. The guys have already moved on to another install but you give them a call anyway to see if they are free to discuss. You leave a voicemail and wait.

At some point the lead technician comes by and you discuss with him the two things you discovered. He walks over to the graphic and pushes it into the channel with his thumb and looks at you like you’re the idiot. He had to come back for that?

Yes, he did. He should not have left the booth without checking to make sure his work was done correctly. It’s not your job to fix what he left behind; you’re paying him a lot of money to take that job off your hands.

What about those wires and cables though? “Oh”, he says. “That’s going to require an extra hour or so of billable time.” Ugh!

(I kid you not, it happens; although it’s not a widespread occurrence, we’ve had clients cancel the dismantle after experiencing the install, and hire us to do it.)

You sign on the dotted line approving the additional billable time, and he gets to work hiding and taping, looping and tucking, so your wires are no longer visible. Because it was an extra hour or so per man (oops, didn’t I tell you it was per man?) of billable time, your I&D bill is now higher than the proposal sent to you by your Skyline rep. Who, by the way, quotes by the exhibit, not by the hour.

Mediocrity is not affordable.

According to the Edward Lowe Foundation, mediocre players on your team are likely to generate missed-opportunity costs many times greater than their budget-line costs. They:

  • Divert Management Time and Effort
  • Affect Other Employees’ Productivity
  • Create Customer Dissatisfaction
  • Kill Your Competitive Edge
  • Hinder Your Marketplace Image

A 2009 Watson Wyatt WorkUSA survey, “Steps to Keep Employees Engaged, Productive in a Downturn,” translates employee mediocrity into real dollars. The survey reports that:

  • When employees are highly engaged, their companies are 26% more productive.
  • These companies also have less turnover and are more likely to attract top talent. In organizations with a culture of mediocrity, it is too often the top performers who leave.
  • Highly engaged employees are twice as likely to be top performers. Three-fourths of them exceed or far exceed expectations in performance reviews.
  • Highly engaged workers miss 20 percent fewer days of work.
  • Highly engaged workers are more supportive and resilient of workplace changes, contributing to smoother work flow.

Unfortunately, mediocrity has become the new normal. Until someone comes along and tells us that a C+ really is not good enough to make the honor roll, we go with it for some reason. Everyone wants that “My kid is on the honor roll” bumper sticker, don’t they? But then, how special is the bumper sticker if 60% of the student body has one?

Congress has a 5% approval rating…out of 100%

Think about that guy in the booth next to you who had more banners than banner stand hardware to go around, so he drew the short straw and had to staple his graphics to the pipe and drape in his booth (we have actual pictures of that one), while his coworker headed off to a different show with a complete exhibit. Does this person’s exhibit give you the confidence that he will do the best job possible for you if you hire him? Would you give him any of your money to complete a task for you?

You should be able to demand excellence from your vendors, your employees, and anyone who gets a paycheck for working in a service position. Complacency in mediocrity gives us nothing to strive for, no reason to set goals or challenge ourselves. Eventually it halts progress.

Mediocrity is simply not affordable.


Learn how exhibitors and event marketers are using trade shows to grow their businesses. The Value of Trade Shows examines real surveys and results and evaluates the needs of event attendees; you’ll see that mediocrity has no place in this field. Click here for your free copy.

About the Author

Lisa Maniaci is a Senior Account Representative with Skyline Exhibits NJ.

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