The kids are alright

Oct 24 2007 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

You can't swing a dead cat (an odd term and an unhygienic practice) without hitting someone in the business world complaining about the dearth of qualified young people and how business is doomed as a result.

The new generation, it is loudly proclaimed, is not ready to take over when we all pack up and move to Florida, or Portugal, or wherever it is we're planning to go when we hand the keys over and retire.

"Each generation believes itself smarter than the one that came before it and wiser than the one that comes after it" [George Orwell]

"There is a shortage of qualified managers among new workers entering the workforce" [pretty much every HR study on the planet]

"Duh, Dad" [my 14 year-old daughter]

Yeah, those darned kids don't know anything, they're lazy, they have no work ethic and certainly no respect for authority. The Millenials are coming and woe betide us all.

The term "generation gap" hasn't been heard so much since, well, the last major generation gap. When I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, much was made of the fact that we boomers were a new generation, one destined to change the world. Apparently we were going to do such a swell job of it that when we were done the world would be fixed once and for all. I mean, what would our kids have to fix when we'd created such a utopia?

So much of the grumbling is the same knee-jerk reaction our parents had, and theirs before them.

This doesn't mean there aren't real differences between the newest workers and us at their age. It's just that when you list the common complaints, a disturbing pattern appears:

They don't have any loyalty to an employer - yeah, not like us. We stuck with a company for a long time. Of course nearly half of millenials were raised in one-parent families because while we will stick out a bad job, a marriage apparently is easier to leave.

Oh and those who had two parents probably lived with a father or mother who was laid off or had their job go overseas, because those are the breaks and the company didn't owe them a living.

They don't know the meaning of hard work - of course, the number of kids in high school with part time jobs is a fraction of what it was 20 years ago because their parents decided that a good grade point average and soccer was more important than doing chores and earning their own money and shouldn't have it as rough as we did.

They are spoiled and self-centered - we learned by sharing with our brothers and sisters. These kids are almost all from one and two child families. (This is not just a western phenomenon. China's one child family policy has resulted in what is whisperingly referred to as "the little emperor" syndrome).

And marketers have long played on the fact that they drive most of the buying decisions in their homes because parents pretty much give them what they want. Darn those marketers.

They don't understand that business is a rough game and life is not fair - hmmm, how could a bunch of kids whose parents insisted that everyone get a trophy when they play, that self-esteem comes from not ever being made to feel badly and that "there are no real losers" possibly have such an unrealistic picture of the working world?

They have book learning, but no real experience - Why, when I started my business career, I took that first job and knew exactly how to get things done. I got my first management position and instinctively knew the right and wrong ways to motivate people, how business worked, how to navigate the labyrinth of bureaucracy and office politics and where the extra paper clips were kept (usually in the Admin's desk drawer, guarded like they were made of platinum).

Who are these parents who raised these useless brats?

Who are the marketers who told these kids that despite Mr. Galileo's hard work to the contrary, the center of the universe lay with them?

Who are the companies that have sliced apprenticeship, training and mentoring programs?

Fact is, the kids are fine. Our generation just need to suck it up and do our jobs, and better late than never.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.