Skip to comments.The Young Labeled 'Entitlement Generation'
Posted on 06/27/2005 6:36:38 AM PDT by GPBurdell
By MARTHA IRVINE, AP National WriterSun Jun 26, 4:43 PM ET
Evan Wayne thought he was prepared for anything during a recent interview for a job in radio sales. Then the interviewer hit the 24-year-old Chicagoan with this: "So, we call you guys the 'Entitlement Generation,'" the baby boomer executive said, expressing an oft-heard view of today's young work force. "You think you're entitled to everything."
Such labeling is, perhaps, a rite of passage for every crop of twentysomethings. In their day, baby boomers were rabble-rousing hippies, while Gen Xers were apathetic slackers.
Now, deserved or not, this latest generation is being pegged, too as one with shockingly high expectations for salary, job flexibility and duties but little willingness to take on grunt work or remain loyal to a company.
"We're seeing an epidemic of people who are having a hard time making the transition to work kids who had too much success early in life and who've become accustomed to instant gratification," says Dr. Mel Levine, a pediatrics professor at the University of North Carolina Medical School and author of a book on the topic called "Ready or Not, Here Life Comes."
While Levine also notes that today's twentysomethings are long on idealism and altruism, "many of the individuals we see are heavily committed to something we call 'fun.'"
He partly faults coddling parents and colleges for doing little to prepare students for the realities of adulthood and setting the course for what many disillusioned twentysomethings are increasingly calling their "quarter-life crisis."
Meanwhile, employers from corporate executives to restaurateurs and retailers are frustrated.
"It seems they want and expect everything that the 20- or 30-year veteran has the first week they're there," says Mike Amos, a Salt Lake City-based franchise consultant for Perkins Restaurants.
Just about any twentysomething will tell you they know someone like this, and may even have some of those high expectations themselves.
Wayne had this response for his interviewer at the radio station: "Maybe we WERE spoiled by your generation. But I think the word 'entitled' isn't necessarily the word," he said. "Do we think we're deserving if we're going to go out there and bust our ass for you? Yes."
He ended up getting the job and, as he starts this month, is vowing to work hard.
Some experts who study young people think having some expectations, and setting limits with bosses, isn't necessarily negative.
"It's true they're not eager to bury themselves in a cubicle and take orders from bosses for the next 40 years, and why should they?" asks Jeffrey Arnett, a University of Maryland psychologist who's written a book on "emerging adulthood," the period between age 18 and 25. "They have a healthy skepticism of the commitment their employers have to them and the commitment they owe to their employers."
Many young people also want to avoid becoming just another cog who works for a faceless giant.
Anthony DeBetta, a 23-year-old New Yorker, works with other twentysomethings at a small marketing firm and says the company's size makes him feel like he can make a difference.
"We have a vested interest in the growth of this firm," he says.
Elsewhere, Liz Ryan speculates that a more relaxed work environment at the company she runs no set hours and "a lot of latitude in how our work gets done" helps inspire her younger employees.
"Maybe twentysomethings have figured out something that boomers like me took two decades to piece together: namely, that there's more to life than by-the-book traditional career success," says Ryan, the 45-year-old CEO of a Colorado-based company called WorldWIT, an on and offline networking organization for professional women.
As much as some employers would like to resist the trend, a growing number are searching for ways to retain twentysomething employees and to figure out what makes them tick.
"The manager who says I don't have time for that is going to be stuck on the endless turnover treadmill," says Eric Chester, a Colorado-based consultant who works with corporations to understand what he calls "kidployees," ages 16 to 24.
At Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, for instance, administrators have developed an internship with mentoring and more training for young nurses that has curbed turnover by more than 50 percent and increased job satisfaction.
Amos at Perkins Restaurants says small changes also have helped loosening standards on piercings or allowing cooks to play music in the kitchen.
And Muvico, a company with movie theaters in a few Southern states, gives sporting goods and music gift certificates to young staffers who go beyond minimum duties.
"If you just expect them to stand behind a register and smile, they're not going to do that unless you tell them why that's important and then recognize them for it," says John Spano, Muvico's human resources director.
Still others are focusing on getting twentysomethings more prepared.
Neil Heyse, an instructor at Pennsylvania's Villanova University, has started a company called MyGuidewire to provide career coaching for young people.
"It's a hot issue and I think it's getting hotter all the time," Heyse says of work readiness. "There's a great amount of anxiety beneath the surface."
On the Net:
Chester's site: http://www.generationwhy.com
Heyse's site: http://www.myguidewire.com/
Martha Irvine is a national writer specializing in coverage of people in their 20s and younger. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org
Many still are... saw a bunch of them along the Va Beach boardwalk this weekend....
The folks in the Armed Forces don't have an entitlement mentality.
Most of 'em grew up poor and learned early on that if you want something, you better work for it. The brats of the EG had too much material stuff thrown at them, instead of tough love which is what they needed.
Or maybe some of the so-called "entitlement generation" are just not going to take the same crap that our parents took. My mom has been a dedicated employee for 32 years at the same company. Has a perfect record. Never takes her full allotment of vacation or sick time. Her bosses treat her like crap. They have no respect for her. They treat her like a dog. Maybe we're just sick of being taken for granted. Maybe we want a boss that will give us respect (after we've earned it). But we don't want to wait 30 or 40 years - and still not have it.
It's an interesting concept and this anecdotal evidence as cited does make one say "hmmm". But to call ANY one generation in America an 'entitlement' generation well.. that's absolute pabulum.
As the observant Robert J. Samuelson noted in a column in the Washington Post from March, we're a nation of 'Welfare Junkies'/"Entitlement Junkies". The finger can be pointed squarely at each succesive generation in America, probably since the days of Woodrow Wilson that has increasingly voted itself public largesse.
That having been said, my generation (post 1976 -- probably earlier than that really) don't understand that they aren't going to start out their adult existance with everything their parents had and worked hard for over many, many years.
If the latest generation has grown to feel entitled to cell phones, a great paying job and whatever else -- they've learned from example.
Let's talk about entitlement. Companies think they are entitled to have you available 24/7 through email and pagers and laptops. They think they are entitled to know what you do on your non-work hours. And they think they are entitled to dump you at a whim to hire a bunch of cheaper labor offshore.
The bottom line is, we are all free agents, whether we like it or not, and you better be prepared to continually sell yourself to many different companies over the span of your career.
Healthy skepticism? That's an understatement. Employers in the past couple of decades have made it quite clear that they have no commitment to their employees. With a piece of capital equipment the company at least has to keep it on the books for a few years. They don't even feel that much loyalty to their employees. If the company sees all employment as essentially day labor, fine. But don't expect the employees to give the employee 100% of their life under those terms.
The real "Entitlement Generation" is the baby boomers, who clearly have no problem with feeling entitled to spend both their parents' and childrens' wealth, while assuming no responsibility whatsoever to pull the apple cart off the train tracks.
When I was in the World Trade Center during the bombing in 1993, I got paid up to the minute the bomb went off. Escaping with my life was apparently on my own time. Since then I've had a "healthy" (insert dripping irony) skepticism of the commitment of corporations to their employees.
If you want to see entitlement, look no further than senior citizen's who paid $ 1,000 into SS and now get that much out per month, and it's still not enough for them.
You can expect their respect, but only if you earn it, and you can't expect loyalty to a job or employer - watching the way their parents have been treated has trained them to look out for number one.
Of course, these are mostly blue collar or lower middle class kids, their patents aren't buying them ANY BMWs.
"Entitlement Generation - That' pretty rich coming from the spineless boomer generation who is selling America down the tubes."
I am a Gen Xer, I suppose. GWI and Kosovo vet.
Worked at a major oil company for about 6 months before deciding I could do it better --- "meetings" "committees" = B.S. Went out on my own.
I gathered up some partners, and we have multiple employees working for us; no debt --- personal or company.
Almost all it takes is the guts to leave.
"They have a healthy skepticism of the commitment their employers have to them and the commitment they owe to their employers."
I think this is a significant point. Why would anyone be more than nominally loyal to an employer who has no loyalty. Yes folks, the latest crop of twenty-somethings can be motivated just as their parents could.
What motivates people has not changed.
At my office, the talk is that anyone who is just getting out of college would be a fool to work for a large corporation.
If you're going to work hard, you might as well have your own business and reap the rewards of your efforts.
This leaves corporations with the bottom half of the labor pool. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch....
"The bottom line is, we are all free agents, whether we like it or not, and you better be prepared to continually sell yourself to many different companies over the span of your career."
Well said! I like your style and willingness to say what the younger generation needs to hear to succeed. I've had four distinct and different "careers" to date over my 30-year span of working for a living. If a person can't think outside the box, stay flexible, live beneath their means so they're not TIED to a paycheck, educate themselves and learn to exploit their own special talents and gifts, they deserve a cr@ppy job that's "beneath" them.
Reading list for anyone that's interested:
"Do What You Love...The Money Will Follow"
"Making a Living Withot a Job"
ANY book by Barbara Sher
And a hundred other great titles here:
http://www.investinyourselfbooks.com (No affiliation, I just like their selections.)
That's so true. In fact, if anything I think as the youngest generation grows into its 30's and 40's it's learning that it will have to adapt and change to stay in the work force.
This isn't an era of 1 job loyalty for life. The modern business model doesn't seem to allow a 1 job/1 company for life ideal. Not that that was ever an ideal to begin with.
I have yet to see anything good from the baby boomer generation.
Ain't THAT the truth. The hippies that later discovered money are somehow disappointed that these twenty-somethings never spent much time and energy revolutionizing against the moral infrastructure and capitalist institutions that made this country great. Why...the slackers!
Who is the REAL entitlement generation? Think the 'greatest generation'. When they came of age America had no debt, and its industry ruled. When they retired we were deeply in debt and our industry not as competitive.
So what do they ask for.. maybe an apology? Nope they want their full fat SS checks, and now medicare and medicaid too, and the new perscription drug benefit. They made 13.5% rate of return on their SS investments those people who retire this year. Not too shabby.