Dec 2009

I must be getting older because I find myself increasingly wondering what young people are thinking. There’s a little bit of the usual older person’s mystification over their wardrobe choices and music tastes, but mostly what bothers me is their alarming absence of a work ethic.

I’m a Generation X’er — you may remember that we were called slackers. But when I look back to what I was in my 20s and recall what other Gen X’ers were like and then see what they and I are now, I recognize that in a way, we were all just conservatives. We felt that no one could be trusted to do right by us, so we set out to do things our way, by ourselves. Ultimately, that made us good workers because we steadfastly refused to be managed, which forced us to do a good job and work hard so as not be hassled.

I don’t see that in the younger generations. They come in with a sense of entitlement and with little appreciation and loyalty to the company that hired them. If they’re not texting or playing around on Facebook, they’re complaining about not being paid enough or being above what they’re asked to do. I think I know where this comes from. My daughter just started playing soccer and to my consternation, no matter how poorly any of them played, the coaches were always saying, “good job!”

No, not good job. They may be young, but it creates a bad foundation when you tell them they did well when they did not. No one ever improves at what they do if they think they’ve done just fine. I see parents do this as well. They tell their kids to clean their room and then say, “thank you,” or reward them with something. No. That’s what they’re supposed to do. And this has been going for quite a while, and it’s these things and more that create pampered, complacent adults.

And I’ve seen the consequences of this as a manager, and I know you have, too — many times while meeting with some of you to do your Profiles we’ve lamented how difficult it is to hire people in their 20s. Ultimately, I’m not sure what this bodes for us as a nation — maybe it’s nothing, in the long run — or maybe it’s just that I’m getting older and now I’m feeling the same things my predecessors felt. But it sure feels like something’s changed, other than my hairline. P

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