Generation Me Me Me

standard August 6, 2013 Leave a response

Earlier today, I stumbled across this post on the Wall Street Journal – The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work.

For those of you in the dark, a “millennial” is also considered Generation Y, a generation born from 1980 to the present, a generation who is just now getting their feet wet in the job pool.

By that definition, I am considered an Yer, but when reading about what constitutes a millennial, I am aghast at how selfish and clueless my generation is, and saddened by how our parents have raised us.

Employers are dishing out kudos to workers for little more than showing up. Corporations including Lands’ End and Bank of America are hiring consultants to teach managers how to compliment employees using email, prize packages and public displays of appreciation.

I hate to break it to all the other millennials out there, but showing up for work should not earn you instant praise. It’s a requirement of your job that you show up in a timely fashion.

As he sees it, those over age 60 tend to like formal awards, presented publicly. But they’re more laid back about needing praise, and more apt to say: “Yes, I get recognition every week. It’s called a paycheck.”

I agree. If I do my job well, I get to keep said job. I work maybe 30 feet from my boss in a large corporate environment, I receive daily emails from him on tasks to do, but I might go a few days without talking to him. Why? Because I’m doing my job. I don’t expect praise for doing the mundane. Do I like praise? Yes, especially when I’ve gone above and beyond in some obscure project. But I’d be happier with a yearly bonus, honestly.

Mr. Nelson advises bosses: If a young worker has been chronically late for work and then starts arriving on time, commend him. “You need to recognize improvement. That might seem silly to older generations, but today, you have to do these things to get the performances you want,” he says. Casey Priest, marketing vice president for Container Store, agrees. “When you set an expectation and an employee starts to meet it, absolutely praise them for it,” she says.

Quite frankly, I find the entire concept of praising someone for doing what’s expected of them childish and contrary to a good work ethic. It’s like training a dog, you don’t praise them every single time they sit, especially if they’ve known the command for years.

Many companies are proud of their creative praise programs. Since 2004, the 4,100-employee Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Mich., has required all of its managers to write at least 48 thank-you or praise notes to underlings every year.

When you require someone to give kudos or praise to an underling, it cheapens the praise itself. Praise should be spontaneous and truthful, not forced and trivial.

The problem isn’t with the millennials, it’s with their parents. It’s been proven time and time again that praising your offspring for every accomplishment, or for just being “special,” over-inflates their ego and causes a disconnect between what they are and what they think of themselves. Do we all want to be special unique little snowflakes, brilliant at everything we do? Of course. Are we? No. I couldn’t sing a note on key if my life depended on it, and I have no delusions about that. Nor could I pull a MacGyver out of thin air. But I do have my own skill set, one which has served me well throughout my career.

Throughout said career, I have run into people from every walk of life, and I must say, working with millennials is the hardest. I can excuse an older generation for being incompatible with current technology, that is something they were not exposed to at an early age. I remember getting nearly indecipherable text messages from my mother when she first learned how to text.

While I expect college graduates to be a bit clueless on how the real world works, I do expect competency in basis tasks. I’ve run into people who were truly confused on how to address an envelope, didn’t see the point in setting up their work voicemail, and would tell customers they were wrong

There’s also the mindset of those who are lucky enough to land a cush job straight out of college, with no real work experience, and their mindset is “this is good enough for me.” Why should they expend themselves outside of their 8-5 hours, when someone else is willing to pick up the slack for them? Why should they continue to better themselves, professionally and personally, when everything is handed to them on a silver platter?

I might come off as a litter bitter, yes. I am constantly asked by millennials, “Where did you get your degree?” and they look shocked when I tell them I didn’t receive one, that my college experience is minimal. I started working full-time when I was 18, and my job history has been varied. I’ve worked at jobs that only required 8-5, and jobs where 40 hours a week was considered a light week.

This rant doesn’t really serve much of a purpose, other that to reiterate what other like-minded people already know. It would not occur to the millennials in which this post reference that they are a problem, that they need to look within themselves and grow up. Nor would it occur to their helicopter parents that their parenting skills have led to a narcissistic generation who is only motivated by constant, meaningless praise.

On a side note, I took the “How Millennial Are You?” quiz at the Pew Research Center, and was told “Your Millennial score is 60.” I’m halfway between a Generation Xer and a millennial. What’s your score?

Header image // Kelly Sikkema

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