It’s all over the news. We see help wanted signs everywhere we go.

“We can’t find enough workers.”

“People are lazy because the unemployment compensation was raised during the pandemic.”

“No one wants to work. They just like to sit around and watch Netflix or play video games.”

“What’s happened to the American work ethic?”

What’s the real story here? Have people throughout the country become lazy, ill-prepared to work, getting fat on an extra $300 per week in unemployment money? Or is there more to what’s happening, as we get more and more lax about pandemic prevention and awareness?

I have no specific statistics from the Department of Labor, nor do I have an “in” with the Congressional representatives who are spewing misinformation on both sides of the aisle. However, I have anecdotal information I’d like to share. Perhaps some of these stories from people to whom I’ve spoken personally can clear up a few misconceptions–or even allow others to think differently about what’s happening in the good old U.S. of A.

First, the pandemic hit women harder than it did men. Women became more and more responsible for child care than their male counterparts. When it came time to return to work, women were stuck when trying to find child care. Child care centers had closed during the pandemic–and many of those places had employed women–so where were the women to turn when they needed to return to work?

Secondly, when people apply for work, employers are not, according to people I know, actually returning calls or following-up on applications. There’s a convenience store chain in this area. Every time I drive by, they have huge signs screaming they’re hiring HIRING, HIRING!!! And yet, everyone I know who’s applied never hears back once they apply. If you don’t want to hire people, then don’t have them fill out applications. Same goes for some of the local retailers. If you’re looking for HUMAN RESOURCES, and people apply, whether online or in person, acknowledge their existence!

Third, I have two people in my family who are well-qualified executive-level people, seeing new positions. One will be laid off in August 1 due to attrition in his current company. He has had multiple phone/Zoom interviews. He’s been told he’s the top candidate for a position more than once, only to be told when he’s supposed to have the final interview with the CEO or top person that the person has “had a personal emergency,” and that interview has to be postponed. The next time he hears from the company, he gets a rejection. We’re not talking here about a $15/hour cashier; we’re talking about someone who makes a six-figure salary. If you want top quality people, why would a corporation treat potential leaders this way?

The other person in my family must apply for jobs online. Rarely, if ever, does he even receive an email to acknowledge his application. Everything has to be done through anonymous job sites. Some companies require personnel surveys that analyze an applicant’s personality through a series of self-assessing terminologies. It’s almost as if one if trying to get one’s application higher up on a Google search. Again, we’re talking about someone who has a doctoral degree, not someone applying for a minor role in a company.

Finally, as someone who worked for more than 40 years in not-for-profit and governmental agencies, I know the value of human resources. That’s why, by the way, the name of the Personnel Office of the 1960s and ’70s was changed to the “Human Resources” Office. They’re supposed to acknowledge and train the best candidates to recruit and retain talent.

What works, in my opinion, is to treat people well when you hire them. That’s the way you build a team. I’ve had supervisors who were the top of the top who would roll up their sleeves and stuff packets for a conference when that was what needed to be done. They never felt as if they were better than the people who made less money than they did. They got to know their employees. Even one who was the president of a major university knew the names of employees across the campus.

As a supervisor, I always felt that acknowledging people for their contributions was what made them valuable as part of a team. It’s what cultivates customer service, whether working at a convenience store or at a government agency. If companies want people to work for them, they need to respond when applicants reach out for a job. They need to tell the truth if someone doesn’t get a job. They need to stop hiding behind the anonymity of the internet and realize they’re dealing with people’s lives.

And finally, they need to stop crying to the media about how they can’t get applicants because they think their fellow citizens are lazy. Yes, there may be a few, but I am convinced that’s the exception rather than the rule.