Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Nod to the Entitlement Mentality

The entitlement mentality that people started bringing to work in the 90s originally struck me (and many other older managers) as negative. The younger generations didn't seem to get it. New hires showed up at work and behaved as if they expected rewarding careers to be delivered to their office doors. They seemed to lack fire in their bellies and, for that matter, a clear understanding that job satisfaction, getting good work, doing good work, and getting ahead were up to them, not to some institutional equivalent of the mommy or daddy we suspected had done their homework for them and otherwise rendered them clueless about taking initiative and personal responsibility. I remember being appalled that my kids' high school insisted on submitting their college applications for them. A better instance of making soon-to-be-adults dependent, irresponsible and unable to fend for themselves was hard to imagine - and this seemed like only one among many examples of how post-baby-boomers were being infantilized.

But, apropos of my last post, the entitlement mentality clearly has a plus side. The blithe assumption that one gets to do it any way he wants and still garner the rewards of working in a traditional work environment may have annoyed us burgeoning old fogies in the 90s, but it has indisputably transformed our work environments - and for the better. Aided by their sheer numbers - and the obvious need businesses have for them now and going forward - younger people have forced a more realistic assessment of what employees want and need and must be given if they are to be recruited, retained and deployed effectively. Whether this is a silver lining of a largely unhealthy phenomenon ("adultolescence," anyone??) or a broad and deep intentional change effort on the part of the generations we suspected didn't get it, the impact of their "suit yourself" approach is loud, clear, impressive - and good.

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