February 23, 2011

Cactusman, Makin' Copies

What I'm about to say is going to make me sound approximately ninety years old. But I'm going to say it anyway. Kids these days.

The other night while driving back from a small work function in Monkeytown, some colleagues and I were having a discussion about the workforce, specifically junior staff. During the conversation we realized that the younger generation of folks we're dealing with basically comprise two categories - The Rockstars and The Entitled. The Rockstars are open-minded and motivated, not afraid to tackle anything. These are the go-tos, the people you want on your team because they are so damn good at what they do. The Entitled, conversely, are useless. The Entitled emerge from college and because of the degree they've gotten, refuse to make copies or stay late an extra couple of hours to finish a report that has to be pulled together. The Rockstars don't care about these things; they realize that things need to be done and those things might not always be fun or glamorous. The Rockstars ask how can I help? The Entitled ask what's in it for me?

My fear is that The Entitled are slowly becoming the majority.

Back in my day, I walked five miles through snow, ice, locusts, mutant Debbie Gibson clones and hordes of midget zombies to get to work to make copies and do other grunt work that wasn't that much fun but was what I was getting paid to do and helped me figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up and what I never wanted to do again.

We talked about hardassery - whether or not its okay to be a hard ass and set high expectation. (Consensus: yes) And we discussed how over-polite we've all become (when we don't like something that someone's come up with we tell them that they've got a really good start then politely tell them in the least offensive manner possible how we followed their train of thought but would prefer they go in a different direction when all we really want to say is hey, this sucks, try again).

We didn't come to any great conclusions. Have you? Is there a sense of entitlement in the air? Are people afraid of working hard?

Posted by Chris at February 23, 2011 6:27 AM

Yes, be a hard ass! Or, more to the point, be an HONEST ass.

It was rampant in the Army, too. In...the...ARMY.

People didn't want to work hard. Or carry heavy things. Or do the grunt work.

I find it now that I'm back in college, too.

I was recently granted the honor of being inducted into the NSCS (National Society of Collegiate Scholars). I cried when I received the news. It wasn't something I was expecting, but it sure did feel good to know that my hard work was noticed.

The thing is...it took hard work. I'm always proud of a job well done by anybody. The minute I sniff the "entitlement" in the air, though? I cease to appreciate it as much.

This is also something I am working hard to avoid in my children. Hopefully, one day...there will be three more Rockstars in the world.

Posted by: Holly Reynolds at February 23, 2011 7:18 AM

Oh, yes the Entitlement Generation is now reaching the workforce. We've been dealing with them in academia for awhile now. The result of the helicopter parents. The kids to got trophies and medals just for participating, not achieving. These are the kids who came to me as seniors and wanted to know where their $60,000/year, 9-5, no OT, no weekends, 4 week vacation, company car jobs are. They have a DEGREE! GIVE ME MY JOB!. I really wanted to strangle quite a few of them.

Good news is they seem to be phasing out. The current crop of freshman seem less entitled.

Posted by: Lisa at February 23, 2011 8:09 AM

This new generation is different. Harder to motivate thats for sure! I work for a staffing company so this is a very interesting topic for me as I search for professionals.

In my own household I have seen it too. My oldest son (Lt. in Army now) would work anywhere anytime for money. The next who is 18 is very very picky about what or when he will do anything! He lifeguards (I think because this is considered "cool") and refuses extra shifts because he wants to hang out with his friends instead. Obviously, he is not hungry enough which may be his parents fault!! Ha! But, I do believe their generation has had a different experience so they will approach work differently.

Posted by: Debbie at February 23, 2011 8:12 AM

They SO are. I teach college freshmen (English so they automatically hate it) and though a few kids each semester ARE hard workers, the majority of them definitely just expect me to hand them an A and not expect too much from them. I want to blame their parents but I think it's 50 % parents and 50% our society.

P.S. I am only 32 and I find myself saying "Kids these days" way more often than I'd like!

Posted by: Claire at February 23, 2011 8:17 AM

I teach English at the college level, and the number one problem I have with students is ALWAYS a sense of entitlement. They are shocked when they receive anything other than an A (even an A- is unacceptable) because they turned something in. Seriously. They think just showing up and turning something in entitles them to an A (a feeling perpetuated by our public school system's teach-to-the-test environment I think). They can't fathom that some of them may just not be an A writer without putting extra work in. It's incredibly frustrating.

Posted by: Catherine at February 23, 2011 8:44 AM

sure, I see it everyday and our government encourages it by giving way money freely if you are single, if you are single with children, if you are a head of household with 5 dependants by 5 different dads in prison. Lets give everyone health coverage because its a right, and lets make everyone else pay for it. You just didnt sound old there, you sounded like a hypocrite too. Holy buckets! I had to laugh at you today.

Posted by: Linda at February 23, 2011 8:53 AM

Most definitely an increase in entitlement. But, to some extent, I'm sure it's been around forever. In every generation, there have been workers and slackers. But slackers are on the rise.

I think I started noticing the increase in entitlement frequency in high school (mid-1990s). My family was plainly middle class but my parents were not generous with us kids. Not that they ever let us need anything, like food or clothes, but we got generic clothes off the sale rack at the beginning of the school year. That's it. We were STRONGLY encouraged to work if we really wanted a pair of Guess jeans (OMG I thought I'd die if I didn't have that triangle patch on my ass), and I quickly learned just how ridiculous $50 for jeans was.

But then I met some girls who carried one of their parents' credit cards, and were allowed to buy any clothes they wanted. Any time. At full price. I was, to say the least, SHOCKED. In awe.

And in college, then I got to LIVE with those girls, and their sense of entitlement in all areas was appalling. They were given cars, fully insured, and bitched about how ugly the cars were. Their rent was paid for them (OMG), and they refused to share bedrooms to save money (which I desperately needed to do). Etc. And each year, there seemed to be more and more of these girls.

I agree that it increased with the "helicopter" parents, but also with wealth. Basically, in the 90s, people had MUCH more disposable income, and at the same time, parents were pressured into making Junior the center of the universe. Keeping up with the Jones-es became keeping up with Junior Jones. And shortly after leaving college, I realized how many kids were given every.single.thing they wanted, without question. But, I swear, there are now fewer kids coming into college who are like that, because since 2007 or so, families have had much LESS disposable income, and kids have been told "no" with more frequency.

Anyhow, sorry for the ridiculously long comment, but I think about this all of the time and struggle with how I'll raise my own kids to appreciate their privilege. Maybe it's to deny them the privilege. "Hey, I worked hard so that you could go to a great school and I could drive a car that won't break down every month and I could have a house with a master bathroom. I didn't work hard so that you could have a LV/Coach/DG/WHATEVER purse. Buy it yourself!"

I would hope that such training would make them not only appreciate the value of money, and the value of working hard, but would also teach them that they will not be handed anything in life that is worth having--grades, friends, luxury items, etc.

Posted by: Sabrina at February 23, 2011 9:14 AM

My favorite managers / leaders / coaches have always set a high bar, have not been afraid to tell you point blank "This is not good enough; make these changes and try again", and act like leaders. They drew lines in the sand, called their shots, and plowed ahead. They took care of their rockstars by giving them important grunt work and choice assignments, and showed their love by tone of voice. The entitled got the "I'm annoyed with you tone", had their work double checked in front of everyone, and were called to task. If they didn't shape up, they were eventually either shunted off to work that was non-critical ( support functions, etc. ) or released. But if someone had a change of heart and wanted to start acting like a rockstar, then they were welcomed into the ranks and treated appropriately.

The bad bosses I've known treat their rockstars like gophers and then whip them when they don't get their primary assignments done because they were doing "other work" ( which they were assigned by the same person doing the whipping ). The entitled get treated well because "They are not wasting their time on work that is beneath them". So it may have a lot to do with how you are raised / mentored.

Posted by: metawizard2 at February 23, 2011 9:23 AM

Yes -- a sense of entitlement is heavy in the air. This is PARTICULARLY annoying if you are A Rockstar. I'll use myself as an example. I go into work early and leave work early. I give 110% on the job. I accomplish more in one day than some of my co-workers accomplish in two or three days. In return, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I look for ways to be more efficient, ways to get more done, ways to make The Man proud of me and feel like I am an asset that simply cannot be lost.

The Entitled, on the other hand, come in late and leave early. They pad their timesheets to make themselves look productive which is sorely unfair to clients. They do the bare minimum and stop their feet and whine when you ask them to do more.

As A Rockstar, it's a total pain in the ass working along side The Entitled, and some days, it's REALLY hard not to say, "Hey, Jackass -- grow the fuck up, shut your mouth and do some work, for crying out loud."

*steps off soapbox*

Posted by: Emily at February 23, 2011 9:27 AM

Wow, Linda.

I will respectfully disagree with your opinion that healthcare is not a right, and that providing it to people will cost others more money. Uninsured Americans are *already* costing us an obscene amount of money. They don't get basic care, and arrive in emergency rooms in very ill health, and require thousands of dollars in hospital care that could have been avoided with a $100 annual doctor visit and $4/month in blood pressure medication. (Of course, I simplify the issue, but there's nothing simple about the problem, or the solution, and we need to find a way to discuss it rationally.) These uninsured people then can't pay their bills, and the hospitals absorb it, and just raise prices for those of us who ARE insured. Providing basic care for all will save us all money. As I see it, it has nothing to do with entitling the poor (or lazy, as I gather you perceive uninsured Americans to be), but it is just makes good economic sense.

We currently spend more per capita on healthcare than ANY other developed nation (in many cases, more than twice as much) and we are less healthy. We die sooner, and are much sicker. We spend the least on preventative services. See this if you would like facts:

Look at slide 40 first, about health expenditures, then slide 36, about coverage. Then see slide 4 for life expectancies, slide 5 for infant mortality, and all other slides in section 1, "Health Status" and note the US' high frequency of a variety of conditions.

I mean, I understand that there are no clear answers to our problems. But here are the facts: we spend WAY MORE money on health care than countries which provide universal public coverage, and we are LESS HEALTHY. If you don't care to read or acknowledge facts, that's fine. No one can force you. But please don't talk about the problem like you have answers. Please.

Posted by: Sabrina at February 23, 2011 9:43 AM

I completely agree. Even those without college degrees in the service industry seem to think their job is not customer service. Its crazy. If you find a way to turn the tide, let me know - I'm totally on that bandwagon.

Posted by: 3jaysmom at February 23, 2011 10:09 AM

The friends of mine who work as college professors will tell you that this is sadly, sadly common.

I've always wondered what happens when those kids hit the workforce in droves. Do they fail until they learn or does the work environment change to accommodate their unique snowflakeness just to get some work done? From the last part of your post, it looks like the workplace may be changing.

(Shockingly, at 35 I am one of the youngest staff at my company. So I have no experience in this matter.)

Posted by: Cherie Beyond at February 23, 2011 10:27 AM

I got a bit entitled last year when the new crop of employees with the same title got office and parking spaces when I was sitting in a cubicle and can't get all of my bus pass reimbursed. I got a window office out if and that's about that. LOL.

Some of us EARN the entitlement. The "kids" really don't. I did what you did too, making copies, licking envelopes etc. You don't get where you are unless you earn your keep, yo.

Posted by: oakley at February 23, 2011 11:06 AM

I've heard this from multiple sources - that kids entering the business world out of college are definitely much more entitled than they used to be. I've also noticed that this is usually paired with mentions of the parents calling their children's bosses to complain about the fact that their precious offspring has to make copies instead of doing REAL work.

That said, I never saw too much of it in the workplace. The press seems to indicate that the big problem is with kids coming out of business degree programs and, while I'm sure there are exceptions, business degree students were kind of douchebaggy when I was in college, so maybe that's the issue.

In my grad school program, the younger kids are some of the hardest workers in there. They study WAY more than I do and are constantly emailing out charts and review sheets that they've compiled so that the whole class can use them. I've never seen anything like it. It sort of freaks me out a bit, to be honest, although it's really super-awesome of them to share their efforts like that.

Posted by: Dawn at February 23, 2011 11:38 AM

I see it, too, but I'd like to hope that most of the "entitleds" aren't beyond redemption. The term entitlement makes it seem like it's a character flaw, something inherent about them. And maybe it is, in some cases- but more often I think there are a lot of factors implicit in creating it- the desire to encourage kids' self esteem, prevent them from harm and hurt, and our general discomfort with difficult conversations as a culture. Yes, I think it's okay to be a hardass- but I think there's also a need to teach a lot of young workers/kids that me being a hardass on you doesn't mean I'm just an asshole, doesn't mean you can never do good work in my eyes, it means I expect more of you, and believe you can do better. If I didn't, I'd fire you.

Does that make sense? I see a lot of people complain about entitleds but not try to do anything about it. They just gripe about it, and feel superior knowing they were not so foolish as young'uns- and that ain't making it any better.

Posted by: pseudostoops at February 23, 2011 11:59 AM

Huh how did this conversation turn to health insurance? Can not resist it though...


Well, you actually reduce the overall bill if everyone has insurance. You namely change the incentives. People will go to the doctor sooner with smaller and cheaper complaints and not wait till they have to go to the ER which is much much more expensive.
Plus if they go to the doctor sooner the chance that contagious diseases spread and make more people sick is smaller. Again, that's cheaper.

It all involves externalities (sorry, I'm an economist) and once what you do affects other people's wellbeing (i.e. it imposes costs or grants benefits on them) you can no longer look at it from an individual perspective. If you do that not all costs and benefits will be taken into account and people make subotimal (yes, economist) choices.

As for the "kids these days" thing, no clue, not enough history for that, but I do hope I am a rockstar!

Posted by: mikkie at February 23, 2011 12:11 PM

I totally agree that the entitlement among the younger generation is on the rise. I'm a bit older than you are, but not by much, and find myself in the "when I was that age, I paid my dues!" mindset. I see it all over my organization- the 20somethings, even those whose resumes seem to indicate drive and high levels of achievement, take an attitude that certain things are just owed to them and that they don't have to get their hands dirty doing work that they think is below them. One of the directors for whom I have the most respect is the one who never asks her staff to do grunt work that she is not willing to do herself sometimes. When the shipment of meeting materials arrived late to our conference, she was right there next to the rest of us stuffing binders and layout out nametags at the registration desk so we could open on time the next morning. Another director was shocked- she claimed that doing the prep work was something that should have just been delegated to the staff, regardless of the fact that the staff was not responsible for the delay.

Posted by: MamaKaren at February 23, 2011 1:30 PM

This is very much the case... A few years ago I had to tell a new-ish employee (2-3 months into the job) to stop whining and be realistic about HR not letting her take 6 weeks off to go backpacking around Europe. She thought it was unfair because another employee (who had been there 8 years) had gotten to take 3 weeks off. we had a very interesting discussion about how the "real world" operates. To her credit - she came to me 2 years later when she had to tell someone else the same thing and apologized for being such a whiner!

Posted by: Sue R at February 23, 2011 5:03 PM

luckily linda was the only one that got a laugh while not even getting the post (The Entitled and entitlements are two tooootally different posts, clearly). and luckily sabrina was here to be more articulate than i am. :)

Posted by: kati at February 23, 2011 6:30 PM

"Work hard...go far"...that's all I have to say.

Posted by: Lujza at February 24, 2011 12:50 AM

Yes! So very much yes! There is definitely an increase in the number of those that fall into the Entitled category! I started noticing it when I was in my last year of school already - the attitudes of the kids in the lower grades was so different to us. They didn't see why they needed to work hard, and they just didn't seem to care. And it seems like now that same sort of attitude of expecting to be given things without working for them is creeping in to the work place too.

Both hubby and I believe (and were raised to believe) that you need to work hard and you have to earn the things you have. It's an attitude we hope to instill in our kid(s) as well. Both of us paid for our own education through hard work. We are both known to be hard workers on the job - often taking on way more than other people, working late and getting the job done. Yet there are so, so many people we see that walk into a job and don't give it there all because they don't see what's in it for them if they put in just that extra bit of effort.

As for being a hardass, it is most definitely ok and sometimes even necessary. The people that I work with here know that I have the patience of a saint for teaching staff (heck, I trained almost everyone in my department including my own boss!) but don't give me things that you've only done a half-assed job on or not bothered to check. My boss is the same and we have some staff in the department that most definitely don't pull their weight and it drives us both mad. And sometimes the only way to get through to those types of people is to be a hardass every now & again.

Posted by: Delia at February 24, 2011 2:24 AM

In my former career as a daycare director, I saw it all the time. From the 25 year old teacher refused to follow the rules because she knew the kids in her class "better than their parents did", to the parents who asked me to meet them at the center on a Sunday to retrieve their 4 year old's $300 ski jacket because they couldn't leave for their trip without a full ski outfit. Oy!
And the little kids were just as bad.

I think at some point in recent history, parents lost the confidence and ability to do their own thing. Everyone started watching and judging everyone else. Everyone became an "expert" we are supposed to heed like a guru and we can no longer trust ourselves to do right.
Now our culture of fear and scared to death society has parents truly thinking that the only way our children will live past 6 months (or not grow up to kill us in our sleep) is if we provide for their every anticipated need and rid their paths of every possible risk or obstacle. And god forbid they get bruised or banged up, emotionally or otherwise.

Hence the celebration of mediocrity and the complete lack of humility. We sacrifice work ethic and compassion for "self-confidence".

Posted by: Amanda at February 24, 2011 9:31 AM

I have no solutions for you, but I agree that kids today are useless. "Do it because it's your job and we're paying you to do it," no longer seems to be properly motivating. So, I have that helpful piece of commentary; but mostly, I just wanted to say that yours is the second blog I've read today that reference Debbie Gibson. Weird.


Posted by: Dreamybee at February 24, 2011 10:17 AM

The ant and the grasshopper comes to mind . . . "Oh, the world owes me a living!"

I'm an ant. And I've long grown frustrated with the grasshoppers. I kick them in the ass.

Posted by: mindy at February 24, 2011 11:44 AM

I'm late chiming in, but now (at 39 years old), I find it everywhere. When I taught high school English for a dozen years, I thought it might just have been a symptom of the age of my students. Like the commenters above, students felt that merely completing the assignment and handing it in warranted an A.

Now, working at the company (digital agency) my husband built from scratch to a multi-million, 30+ employee venture, I am in awe at the 20s generation working there. To sum it up, it's everything you say about mediocre work and more. I can't tell you the number of times we've had to tell people to rewrite or redo reports/manuals, etc because the product is shallow and substandard. Also, many (not all) of the young employees expect to be given a raise and a promotion yearly. There's no concept of, do the work of the raise/promotion, prove yourself and then you are rewarded with it. It's frustrating and infuriating all at the same time.

Posted by: Mandy at February 24, 2011 12:30 PM

Why Chris Cactus, I do believe you have a troll!

Linda, I never got a dime out of the government for being single with no kids. And when you say being single with kids, are you including widows? Widowers? Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, who lost their spouses in the war? And does that mean you're FOR gay marriage, since it sounds like you want everyone to be married and stop sucking money from the government? I just want to make sure I understand your grand, broad, sweeping statements of fact. Also, where can I write my letter to the government to get back-pay for all that money I missed out on when I was single? I sure could have used it while I was busy working hard and paying every bill on my own, including health insurance and student loans.

Chris, I completely understand what you're saying here. I'm finding the comments interesting, and I do hope the pendulum is swinging the other way these days. I heard a quote recently - and I knew I should have written it down because now I can't find it - that basically went like this "Grandparents worked their fingers to the bone in factories and mills so that their children could go to school to work hard to become doctors and lawyers so that their grandchildren could become poets and artists."

Take it as you will, but it was so poignant to me, particularly when looking at some of the generations within in my own family (and as it applies to this topic).

I don't have any answers except what's right for me (and my husband, and any potential future kids): Work hard, pay your dues, never rest on your laurels, keep moving forward, remember that you earn respect.

My husband and I were actually having a similar conversation the other day. He's a chef, and he mentioned that the best managers he's ever known are those that are not afraid to wash dishes when they're piling up. I think that goes for bosses in all industries: Don't be afraid to wash the proverbial dishes.

Posted by: Caitlin at February 24, 2011 12:43 PM

we have to be harder on these kids (me especially) we arent doing them any favors... and truely its becoming an epidemic...if we dont expect anything from them /insist on quality work from them...& stop coddling them when we ask for it... they wont learn and we will only have ourselves to blame...the parents have already proven they arent gonna do it... we/employers are pretty much the only line of defense ...
sorry... i feel like im heading off a zombie apocalypse on this topic..;-)

Posted by: suicide_blond at February 25, 2011 10:47 AM

It's so funny that I'm just reading this now... I recently signed up to join my work's basic first aid training program because I work on a big industrial site where people get hurt and I'd like to be able to do something to help if I happen to be around when something like that happens. One of my co-workers, who was previously pre-med and very interested in that kind of thing, declined to sign up for the same training because he felt like we should receive raises for doing that kind of thing, and frankly, his attitude baffled me. You wouldn't take the opportunity to learn the kind of skills that would save someone's life because it doesn't mean a pay raise? But looking at it in the context of your post, maybe it's something like that. I don't think it is a reflection on this particular guy--I've known him for years and he's usually really good at helping out--but maybe he is just reflecting a broader cultural phenomenon. Which is kind of scary, and ultimately very disappointing.

Posted by: Angela at February 25, 2011 5:47 PM

I work for as an independent caregiver in an elementary school and the kids' behavior on the whole drives us nutty. They don't stay in their desks, they backtalk the teachers, they run into adults and other kids all of the time in the halls and the cafeteria and think nothing of it, they shove their way past us to get through a door (which includes half trampling kids with physical disabilities)- stuff that would never have gone down when we were in school. We hate being in line with kids at the local ski slope. It's a merge style line and most of the time, if their are kids, they shove their way in front of us in droves... and get away with it (mostly- we shove them back out as much as we can ;-)

Posted by: Karen at February 26, 2011 9:51 PM