In an article titled "The Trophy Kids Go To Work" in The Wall Street Journal, Ron Alsop really sticks it to my generation in what has to be one of the most vicious inter-generational hit-jobs I've seen in a long time.
We all know the rap about us so-called millennials: we're spoiled, we have entitlement issues, we think we're better than everyone else, we have unrealistic expectations about entering the workforce. Apparently we were coddled too much by our parents and teachers, or at least that's what the baby boomers keep telling me. The piece in the Journal was a classic example of all these stereotypes about my generation without much in the way of good evidence.
For example, to prove that we have a greater sense of entitlement than older workers, Alsop cites this rigorous, clearly academic-standard study: "More than 85% of hiring managers and human-resource executives said they feel that millennials have a stronger sense of entitlement than older workers, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.com," he tells us. I can think of a few problems with that question. First of all, hiring managers and human resource executives are all, wait for it, older workers. The people surveyed may be in the field of human resources, but they're also most likely baby boomers or members of generation X. So in essence, they're being asked: who has a stronger sense of entitlement, you or them? There's a clear generational bias here.
Alsop, calling our sense of entitlement "an ingrained trait" further claims, "although members of other generations were considered somewhat spoiled in their youth, millennials feel an unusually strong sense of entitlement." I'm calling BS. If anything, older workers feel a greater sense of entitlement, telling young people like us to patiently pay our dues and wait our turn, and implicitly saying merit doesn't matter nearly as much as time served, the number of years you've worked in a given industry. The difference is that other older workers think that sense of entitlement is justified.
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We're all human beings. I don't know anyone, young or old, who doesn't have some kind of entitlement issue. Alsop continues, "some research studies indicate that the millennial generation's great expectations stem from feelings of superiority." Again, everybody, young or old, thinks they're better than everyone else deep down in the darkest corners of their mind. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone, of any generation, who doesn't feel like they deserve more than they're getting.
I'm going to regard every single claim that my generation is more entitled than previous generations as a total canard until I see some good data comparing our attitudes to the attitudes of baby boomers and generation-Xers when they were in their 20s. I was a social science guy in college, and I give Alsop some credit for citing more than just a handful of interviews to make his case, which is the standard journalistic approach to trend pieces, but there's nothing in his article that comes close to being dispositive. Maybe he has the real proof in his book, but somehow I doubt it.
And at the end of the day the millennial generation is better educated, more adept at using technology, and much more media savvy than generation X or the baby boomers. Maybe we feel superior because we actually are?
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