Monday, January 30, 2006

#228 Generation "E" (for "Entitlement") - UPDATED

[UPDATE: Well, gotta say one thing for them. Whatever else the E-Generation are, given the fact that I wrote this thing over two years ago, they are slow on the uptake. Some guy found this post and linked it from some forum group on "Controversial" he called it.


Compared with whatever Kos and his Kidlings are churning out these days, this stuff is pretty tame.

Welcome to the Woundup anyway, folks. Thanks for the mini-Blogburst!

I understand the sociological need for labelling generations. I just don't think some of the labels we use are descriptive enough. For example, I'm a Baby Boomer. It used to be big news that people who had suffered through World War II began having babies in record numbers, and the Boom was born. In retrospect, however, I think a far more descriptive term would be "Babies Who Ultimately Created the Sixties." In my particular case, I actually belong to a subset that would be labelled "Babies Who Missed the Sixties but Got Fried During the Seventies." (Note to those who happen to be my mother: not that kind of "fried!")

I have always hated the labels of "Gen X" and "Gen Y" or "Millenials." They just don't do those generations justice. They're not descriptive enough of the social evolution of either group, nor do they help us identify anything but a chronological progression from generation to generation. So, if you asked me (realizing all the while that of course you haven't), I would have to describe this latest generation as the "Entitlement Generation," or "Gen-E."

Via Kimberly at Number Two Pencil we are pointed to this article in "Fast Company" magazine:
Beverly Hills psychiatrist's office is an unlikely triage center for the mash-up of generations in the workforce. But Dr. Charles Sophy is seeing the casualties firsthand. Last year, when a 24-year-old salesman at a car dealership didn't get his yearly bonus because of poor performance, both of his parents showed up at the company's regional headquarters and sat outside the CEO's office, refusing to leave until they got a meeting. "Security had to come and escort them out," Sophy says.

It gets worse.

The thrust of the story, actually, deals with understanding each generation as they come of age and hit the workplace. The idea is that we need to evolve our business practices and cultures in order to better integrate the new talent and thus take full advantage of what they have to offer. The only problem is, what they have to offer has little to do with what we used to term "reality."

Focusing on the scenario presented at the front of the article, we find that these young people now entering the workplace find it to be a confusing environment. Their work ethic appears to be defined by the edutainment principles of sound bites, podcasts, and text messages. If you can't communicate at that level, you can't communicate. And it's your own darned fault, too.

So it is that when a 22-year old pharmaceutical employee gets passed over for a promotion (at TWENTY-FREAKIN'-TWO??), his mother descends upon the HR department like the proverbial hawk. Seventeen times. She even demands and receives a "mediation" session. The kid reprimands the HR rep for being rude to his mother.

And he wants a promotion? With this company?

Not surprisingly, the aforementioned psychiatrist, Dr. Sophy, deals not with the poor kids who are obviously so traumatised by this treatment, but with the execs and HR people who have to deal with them. Go figure.

Like Kimberly, I'm all for making some adjustments to improve this new generation's chances for inclusion. They are a product, after all, of an increasingly ineffectual education system and a society that seemingly can only communicate in spurts. TV news organizations spoon-feed us our stories in 45 second increments. If a story takes longer than 2 minutes to cover, it's a "special assignment." Likewise, the entire stage of modern societal mores takes place on MTV using videos that encapsulate everything the developing mind evidently needs to know in 3 minutes or less. That's why the so-called "millenials" are coming in with such severe handicaps. They are to be pitied.

On the other hand, we, supposedly, are required to mollycoddle them through it all. Well, that may be fine in the commercial world where markets drive not only the creation of a product or service, but the culture of the company as well. But I live and work in a world where our primary customer is the federal government (or some branch thereof), and socially speaking they are perennially forty to fifty years behind the times. Sure, they believe in (and even encourage) e-commerce and paying millions of dollars to disguise common garbage as "art." But have you seen the men and women who make up the government lately? They (and their fashion designers) still live in the Fifties, for heaven's sake! They do not understand body piercings, nor do they get their news from their cell phones. They have staff to do that for them.

Now, when I was 22 and entering the work force myself, I was probably just as much into "entitlement" as I accuse this generation of being. I had both graduated from high school and served a mission in Central America, after all, and I felt I had done my time. My first hard dose of reality came when I was laid off from my job with only a few months remaining before my wedding. It was, they told me, my attitude more than anything that put my name on the layoff list, and they would not consider re-hiring me unless that attitude changed. Substantially. Dad was the first to jump into the fray in my case. "You messed up," he told me. "What're you gonna do about it?"

Welcome to reality, infant.

A month or two later I had re-evaluated my life to that point and realized that my former boss was right. I had been an S.O.B., and they had a business to run and grow. I had a nice long chat with my former boss about that, and he became my boss once again. And this time it worked. For me, for the company, and for my future family. I learned quickly that employees who play by the rules of engagement succeed far faster than those who only whine and complain about them.

Those who would effect a positive change in those rules go on to become leaders. It's nature's way of keeping the playing field a little more even.

CCWBASS chimes in:

The problem I have with thinking about whole swaths of people as "generations" is that when the term is used it seems to be with the implied understanding that some qualities of said generation somehow sprang out of whole cloth.

Or, to put it ironically, any jackass boomer who shakes his head at the idiocy of today's whining "but I earned a 'good student' bumper sticker four months in a row at McArthur Grade School!" group of new workforce really only has his own generation to blame. Thanks for the successful rebellion against your hard-working parents, ya knuckleheads.

Or maybe we can just blame California, since our state has always been at the front of the "happiness before results" marching column.

This phenomenon would seem to tie in with Gerard's recent evisceration of Joel Stein; we have turned our culture into one where feelings matter more than just about anything else. Witness Harvard's more or less recent debacle when it had to pony up $50 mil. to feminists because one feminist almost fainted when she heard the Dean say something she didn't agree with - the mean old man hurt her feelings, and there is quite possibly no worse crime to commit these days, at least when it comes to sparking moral outrage.

Be sure to follow the link at the bottom of Gerard's post.

Woody rejoins:

Fair enough. I can't disagree that each generation is always the direct result of the generation(s) that came before. But, man, oh man... if I gotta put up with the whining, at least put 'em in Congress where such things are vogue!

No comments: