Generation of slackers?


One generation never understands the next, and until the time Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers are all gathered to their reward, we'll be blaming each other for our problems. But questions about the future effects of 20 years of self-esteem training, helicopter parenting, and relentless social networking are beginning to find answers. "A Gen-Xer's rant: What's wrong with my Millennial employees?" is a case in point.

Mayra Jimenez, who with her husband established a successful market in luxury swimwear, is interested in building their business with a smart, competent, and loyal base of young employees. But that, she reports, has been a greater challenge than starting the business in the first place.

Jimenez ticks off the workplace failings of Gen-Y gleaned from her personal experience:

  1. "They're cocky," apparently assuming they have nothing to learn.
  2. "They take things for granted" and seem to not understand that options are limited in a down market.
  3. "They think they're exempt from rules," such as obeying the boss and telling the truth.
  4. "They don't follow through," consistently leaving tasks undone.
  5. "They don't want to pay their dues" but expect high salaries and interesting tasks immediately upon hiring.

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Jimenez's self-described "rant" attracted comments from the generation in question, most of whom insisted that there's nothing inherently wrong with them as Millennials. They claim that none of the bad qualities mentioned are new (true), that it's unfair to generalize from individuals (true), that employers use the bad economy excuse to pay less and expect longer unpaid internships (in some cases, no doubt), and the economy has tanked just as twentysomethings' college loans are coming due (undeniable). They've been caught in a terrible bind: funneled into college at a time when tuition costs are rising at many times inflation, and thrust out four to six years later with a generic or esoteric degree and declining job prospects.

But some Millennial defenders don't do their generation any favors:

"In order to cope with uncertainty we pursue enjoyable experiences. We're taking the time to make our 20s as fun and exciting as they could possibly be-because what else do we have?"

Here's another option: find a job. They are available, though they may not pay well or have anything to do with your Communications degree. You can still begin an employment history, build a resume, establish contacts, and move up. That's how it used to work, and how it still works, even in hard times. My son, with no college education, parlayed a summertime caricature-drawing job into a successful business with five employees. It took 15 years with a few interruptions and one vital mentor, but that's how employment works. You don't flash a diploma and sweep into the upper ranks of the labor force. You show up on time, you do the job, you establish contacts, you build a reputation, you take on more responsibility.

It's called a "work ethic," and between "the Greatest Generation" and the latest job seekers, the concept has been squandered. Mary Grabar, at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, shows how college often undermines the work ethic. But it begins much earlier than that. Parents who don't give their children meaningful work, and never insist on children earning some of their privileges, undermine the work ethic before their kids even get off the couch.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.


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