Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Entitled Generation Hits the Workplace With Chutzpah and Plenty of Controversy

I was grocery shopping the other day (one of the things I hate doing the most), and my attention was drawn to a mother with her two young daughters.

“Can you pick out some juice for Mommy?” the woman asked her oldest daughter, who appeared to be about 6-years-old.

The girl picked up a bottle of apple juice and turned to her mother. “Look what I did, Mommy!”

“Oh! That’s the BEST JUICE EVER. You did a GREAT JOB! That’s so WONDERFUL! I’m SO PROUD of you!” the mother gushed.

Geez, I thought. It’s only apple juice. Child didn’t just negotiate peace in the Middle East.

I continued on my way until I came to the dairy section where another mother was trying to talk her son into letting her place some cut flowers on his lap while he rode in the grocery cart. He was balking a bit, his lip sticking out while he contemplated his mother’s request.

Another mother stopped nearby as the boy finally held the flowers and his mother prepared to continue shopping.

“Wow! That is TOTALLY AWESOME!” the other mother told the boy. “Aren’t you SO GREAT for helping! You’re the best helper EVER! What a TERRIFIC thing to do for your mom!”

Ooo-kay. Another child who didn’t bring an end to world hunger, but was praised as if he did – merely because he held onto a bunch of daisies.

That grocery store experience was why the recent story about the “Entitlement Generation” (those born after 1970) caught my eye. The story found that the kids who have been handfed the constant “you’re-so-great” feedback throughout their lives grow up to be (big surprise) a bit full of themselves.

The problem, however, with these narcissistic youngsters seems to be that when they enter the workforce they continue to believe they are always the best, and always right. They drive older workers and bosses bonkers.

Still, some experts believe these young workers may end up helping, rather than hurting, the workplace. Yep, it seems this brazen, brash, can’t-stop-me-or-top-me generation may be just the shot in the arm many companies need to find innovative, energetic and creative ways to function.

On the flip side, however, some experts contend that this generation often alienates and bullies others, and ignores good advice or common sense. Relying on these kinds of workers actually hurts, rather than helps, a company since their wrong-headed ideas can quickly hurt the bottom line, experts say.

So, I guess the key is this: We’ve got to find a way to nurture and guide these young workers in the right direction without totally squashing the chutzpah they bring. In other words, finding the ones who truly do select REALLY GREAT apple juice.



Alexandra Levit said...


There is some truth to what experts say about the entitlement generation. I've consulted with corporations on it, and I've seen it myself in my everyday work. Until I saw that Globe story, I'd never heard the word narcissism associated with it, though. That may be a tad harsh, especially when used to describe an entire age group.

The fact of the matter is, organizations have no choice but to learn how to work effectively with this new generation of talent. Most are facing a major labor shortage in the coming years, and Millennials will be the most bankable (and available) employees.

Alexandra Levit
Author, They Don't Teach Corporate in College
Blogger, Water Cooler Wisdom

Anita said...

When I think how narcissitic I was when I came out of college, I cringe a bit. Yet I know that it was that "I've got the world by the tail" attitude that got me where I am today. Sure, I fell, and fell hard (more than once), but it was that strong belief in myself that served me well in the long run. I don't think younger workers have cornered the market on narcissism by any means, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out when they've had a few stumbles along the way.