Friday, October 24, 2008

More on Trophy Kids

In April 2007 The Wall Street Journal published a long article of the negative effects of the ‘me generation’, the ‘trophy kids’ who are now in their 20s and in the workforce. I have mentioned that article on my blog in the past.

Wall Street Journal article from April 2007: The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work
Uber-stroked kids are reaching adulthood -- and now their bosses (and spouses) have to deal with them. Jeffrey Zaslow on 'applause notes,' celebrations assistants and ego-lifting dinnerware.

Now the generation is being termed “the millennial generation” and it is being defined as children born between 1980 and 2001. A new book has been published about the trophy kids and their lives now that they are in their 20s. It includes discussions of how they are faring in the workforce. The book is “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace" by Ron Alsop.

On October 21, 2008, The Wall Street Journal ran one of their long articles which is dubbed an adaptation from the book: article titled: "The Trophy Kids Go To Work" . There are so many quotables that I don’t know where to start. I can’t do the article justice—please go read it in its entirety!

What strikes me from reading some of the interviews with millennial generation adults in the workforce is they seen unwilling to do what it takes for businesses to run. They have enjoyed a lifestyle having access to goods and services produced by American businesses but they are nto willing to do the work it takes for that to take place. For example, the quote where it is said they want to be a CEO right now but they are unwilling to work more than 40 hours a week. Well truth be told, CEOs rarely work 40 hours a week (or less). And there are just not enough CEO jobs to go around. There seems to be a resistance to the fact in life that there actually is pecking order and there actually is a corporate ladder to climb—you don’t just take a helicopter to the top as soon as a college degree is earned!

I have heard parents criticized for letting their post-college aged working children live at home. In my area it is nearly impossible to rent and save enough money to put down a 20% deposit on a house; housing is very expensive in Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut. I personally have no problem with adult children living at home, saving their money in preparation for buying a home after they get married. However this quote from the article tells a very different story. In my opinion this is a situation where the adult is not being responsible nor are they being self-sufficient. This seems to me to be a case where the parents are allowing the child’s adolescence to continue up toward age 30 (or if this keeps up, into the 30s)!

I can't resist sharing some quotes from the October 2008 Wall Street Journal adaptation:

"These workplace nomads don't see any stigma in listing three jobs in a single year on their resumes. They are quite confident about landing yet another job, even if it will take longer in this dismal economy. In the meantime, they needn't worry about their next paycheck because they have their parents to cushion them. They're comfortable in the knowledge that they can move back home while they seek another job. The weak job market may make millennials think twice about moving on, but once jobs are more plentiful, they will likely resume their job-hopping ways."

The Milennials in the article talk so confidently, as if they are capable of doing their work and as if they have a good work ethic. However this quote to me seems to illustrate quite plainly their incompetence.

Another quote:

"Millennials also want things spelled out clearly. Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules and the order that they crave. Managers will need to give step-by-step directions for handling everything from projects to voice-mail messages to client meetings. It may seem obvious that employees should show up on time, limit lunchtime to an hour and turn off cellphones during meetings. But those basics aren't necessarily apparent to many millennials."

I could go on and on sharing quotes but I highlighted nearly the entire article as one section was better than the next!

I blogged earlier this week in my rant-post "I'm Sick of Negative Effects Caused by Non-Thinkers" about my increasing frustration with wasting my time dealing with incompetent employees and stupid people. It was a total coincidence that I later read this article. I’m having that feeling again of feeling doomed, as a poor work ethic contributes to problems for businesses and for customer relations. This article (and book) provides evidence of this generation who seems to lack responsibility.

Dare I get even more cynical by saying that the hard work ethic that made this country so great is now in decline? If our businesses and service industries are unable to just keep up with what the Milennials are used to living with, then what? Will we start having a decline in the quality of life in America? What I'm speaking of is having companies filled with lazy workers, workers who think they are doing a job right but who actually can't work independently, who need their hands held and told what to do for every single step? Workers who don't even have basic etiquette such as knowing how to act professional in a business meeting? Workers who want praise for doing a sub-par job? Then if they don't like the treatment they get, they quit? I know full well how hard it is to train employees and to keep competent employees working, but I also know that a job can become routine or even boring at times. That is the way it is, period. If there is a high turnover at companies, the cost of doing business rises, and that impacts everyone by raising the cost of services and goods. This could really be disasterous, after all, what will happen when the blind are leading the blind?

After reading this article I am asking myself questions, since both of my sons are technically part of the “Milennial Generation”.

What does this mean for my children? Do I want them to function this way when they are adults in the workplace?

What kind of work ethic do I want my children to have?

If we are to blame the American public education system for any of this, well, thinking for my own children who are homeschooled, I’m asking myself, what am I doing that would contribute to my kids becoming like those young adults?

What am I doing that is different now, with my children, what is different than other parents who raised Milennial Generation children to adulthood already?

How can I raise children with good self-esteem yet who do not think they are ‘above others’ or who are deceived to think they are more capable in their careers than they actually are?

In conclusion I need to share the paragraph where the business people complaining about these terrible-worker Milennial Generation are actually the parents who raised them. There is something quite funny about that fact.

In the final analysis, the generational tension is a bit ironic. After all, the grumbling baby-boomer managers are the same indulgent parents who produced the millennial generation. Ms. Barry of Merrill Lynch sees the irony. She is teaching her teenage daughter to value her own opinions and to challenge things. Now she sees many of those challenging millennials at her company and wonders how she and other managers can expect the kids they raised to suddenly behave differently at work. "It doesn't mean we can be as indulgent as managers as we are as parents," she says. "But as parents of young people just like them, we can treat them with respect."

I'm putting this book on my "to be read" list. Library hold queue, here I come.

Related article: The Kindercracy: Every Child a Dauphin by Joseph Epstein appeared in The Weekly Standard, June 9, 2008.

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wrongshoes said...

I would argue that the structure of school this generation endured played a big role in promoting the need for everything to be spelled out, and created a mindset of doing only the minimum necessary to "pass."

Additionally, at least based on my experience, managers in corporations are culprits for creating a culture of doing the bare minimum. Corporate politics don't allow for individual contributions to be valued. Workers are also considered to be replaceable by management, so there simply doesn't exist a mutual loyalty between the company and employee.

Edge of Design said...

Well I can only speak up for the "Millenial" children where my own daughter is concerened and let me tell you what! She doesn't fit any of these descriptions at all! She's learning to spend her time and money wisely, choose her words carefully and put forth 100% heart effort. She is taught of the Lord, obedient to His will and great is her peace and undisturbed composure.

Edge of Design said...

I hope I didn't come across as defensive. I am first a mother and then I am someone who doesn't take it lightly when someone wants to put everyone in the same boat when they don't take the time to get to know the person. Granted, there are some children who have been raised under less than perfect conditions but that doesn't mean they will turn out bad. It's not what's wrong WITH children, it's what's wrong FOR children in my book. If I had a book that is!

Mon said...

I had never heard of the term 'millennial generation'. Funny, a group of us (30 somethings) were discussing not that long ago about how the youngin's seem to live as if they deserved it all. We thought about how some of that was from self-confidence stemming from loving parents, and also, self-entitlement stemming from indulgent parents.
Interesting topic.

christinemm said...

Edge of Design, I don't think my kids are like that either.

However sometimes when discussing with my friends, various parenting issues we are having, and I have taken a certain action some friends tell me they would have done different, when IMO that path would lead to some of the bad things that the coddled and over-indulged children who are now older are facing.

In my volunteer work with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts I see some behaviors in some kids and I see what the kids expect of me as their adult leader (me coddling them or doing work for them as they feel it is 'below them') and I see how the parent is with them and it is easy to put two and two together.

I am making very careful choices about raising my kids and most certainly want kids who as they are teens, in college and in their 20s (and beyond) to take responsibility, have a good work ethic, follow the law, provide for themselves, on and on. It is not asking too much, it is no different than how I handled my life after high school ended. I rose up to the task of being an independent and self-sufficient young adult and I want that of my kids as well.

I bet you do too.

Edge of Design said...

Well, judging from your posts that I have read so far, I don't think you have anything to worry about where your children are concerned. If they turn out anything like you (or at least the you I've come to know through your blogs) they will become excellent leaders of tomorrow. Somehow that just makes me feel a little safer, how about you?

Annie said...

This was a great post, and absolutely true. I'm in my teens now, and I hope that I'm not like that, but hey, who can be sure? I think a big part of the problem is schools and sports. Kids get trophies for everything, or certificates. Even if you're the worst player on a team, and your team loses every game, you still get a trophy! The reason - it might "cause low self esteem and make people feel bad." I think that's totally stupid. If you don't try, you don't deserve a trophy. I'm doing a speech about this for my debate class, and I hope some people will listen.