The Real "Me Generation"—Boomers' Kids

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The self-esteem generation (18- to 25-year-olds) is now moving into the workforce, and they're driving Boomer managers nuts. Kids who were used to being told how "special" they are at every turn by parents and teachers and getting gold stars for their finger paintings are apparently having trouble adapting to the real world in which managers merely expect them to do their jobs. According to National Public Radio:

Companies are hiring consultants to help manage the "over praised" Me Generation. The result? Kudos for showing up to work on time! Awards for getting a report in! Forget Employee of the Month — how about Employee of the Day! Some managers are resistant, saying the only praise they ever got was a paycheck.

Who is responsible for producing this generation of emotionally needy young adults? The Baby Boomers have only themselves to blame.

Listen to amusingly told NPR story here.

Disclosure: I am a Baby Boomer, but I have no children. I wonder if that means that I have basically been spoiling myself all these years?

NEXT: Thompsons Don't Take a Dump, Son, Without a Plan.

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  1. I’m recluctant to play this game of intergenerational sniping (I’m 35, in case it matters). It’s probably anecdotal and scientifically unsound, anyway. I have too many bitter memories of my parents invoking stereotypes about “Generation X.”

  2. I am from the low-end of the ‘boomer generation (just 45) and have NOTHING in common with the Beatles (second most overrated band ever)and Doors (most overrated band ever) crowd.

    But I did come up with a term for this bunch: the ‘latte generation’. View them at your nearest Starbucks (or throwing something through the window of a Starbucks on special occasions).

  3. But if, perchance, the anecdotal observations are statistically valid, I’ll say that their experience of school is the polar opposite of mine. A sense of personal incompetence hangs over me like a dark cloud, and I think it’s because of all the times my teachers got in my grill.

  4. To play the generalization game:

    Why shouldn’t the most narcissistic generation to date (the Boomers) raise a bunch of kids even more self-absorbed than they were? Did anyone really expect anything else?

  5. Bah. Another effort by “the lamest generation” to deflect criticism.

  6. Ron Paul is appearing on the Dennis Miller show in a few minutes (11:00 pm May 30).

    Listen here:

    http://www.dennismillerradio.com/livestream

    Call in on

    866 5097268

  7. Huzzah, anecdotes! Where’re all the statistics about americans wrking longer hours, taking more work home, graduating college with more debt than ever and living at home or staying ut of the husing market longer when you need them?

    Not that I’d ever accuse AM radio of taking unfounded snipes at young people to warm the cockles of their typical uh… generationally endowed… audience

  8. heh, where are the statistics on typoes made due to posting at work hurriedly as well

  9. JI,

    Think this will be the see-I-told-you-so moment when he tells us about the Adam Yehiye video being more proof that it is our own fault for being attacked?

  10. I read about this in the Times last week… an analysis of my generation, basically, and the claim we’re all overachievers who need to be told we’re winners… etc. That boomers think they have to pamper us.

    I personally have never seen it. 10+ years working in manhattan, never got so much as a nod or a pat on the back, no ‘team building’ bullshit, no employee recognition efforts… etc. What my fellow workers wanted and sometimes got were bonuses ($), which we duly appreciated, and promptly blew on drinks and dinners and iPods etc. Its possible this ‘trend’ might be true in different parts of the country, but in the NY business world, I see no mollycoddling or nannying of my generation, nor any need for it. i personally think it’s some BS pop psych that is snowballing regardless of reality.

    I still dont think the metrosexual thing ever happened either. In my day, we just called em guidos or fags. Har har.

  11. If we can coo these idiot kids into complacency, maybe we can pay them less but tell them “heckuva job” everyday.

  12. I wonder if that means that I have basically been spoiling myself all these years?

    You know you could go blind from that sort of thing, don’t you?

  13. The young generation is subsidizing health insurance for the old generation.

    Anecdotally, have a 25 yo couple and and 65 yo couple compare monthly premiums and you will see.

    It’s ridiculous, its not free market and it is a very big deal.

  14. Guy Montag | May 30, 2007, 11:19am | #

    JI,

    Think this will be the see-I-told-you-so moment when he tells us about the Adam Yehiye video being more proof that it is our own fault for being attacked?

    Jesus, guy, give it up. Its stupid.

    RP (who i dont give 2 farts about) never said anything remotely like, “It’s out fault”. Find a new whipping boy, it’s boring.

  15. Let’s say the anecdotal observations in this article actually do represent a broad trend.

    So what?

    This is only a problem if you’re a manager with some sort of personality issue that makes you dislike bestowing positive reinforcement.

    If handing out praise for workplace accomplishment actually produces workplace accomplishment, then managers should hand out praise for workplace accomplishment and stop whining.

    If you’re a manager who refuses to do this because your personal preference is to get productivity through fear [petty workplace Stalinism], then I won’t shed any crocodile tears for you if the “new narcissism” makes you fail. And if you’re a manager who thinks you shouldn’t have to do anything but sign a paycheck – well, the payroll company sends out the paychecks, so what the hell would we need you for, Mr. Manager?

  16. I guess everybody got the memo, because there was the same article in the WSJ about 2 weeks ago.
    It was amusing, but ultimately a bunch of nonsense. Once they’re on their own bringing home a paycheck I think even the most coddled 20-something will quickly realize that an “Employee of the Day” award and $.25 will get you a crappy cup of vending machine coffee.

  17. Summary:

    Dose kids! Theys be lazy! Why, when I was theres age, I walked 10 miles to school, uphill, in the snow, both ways! Now theys want “health insurance” and “flex time.” Dose is MAH prerogahtives. ‘Specially health care. HAND IT OVER.

  18. I have to say I agree with Fluffy’s statement…

  19. Guy–You and I are the same age, but I steadfastly refuse to be labled a “boomer.”

    I prefer Gen-X Elder?. If you were raised on punk and new wave and Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a day in the life of your high school years, you ain’t no boomer.

    That said, assuming this story has any relevence, any decent and smart manager will figure out PDQ what motivates his staff and reward them accordingly.

  20. Also, the youngest generation spends more time on the internet and less time churning out TPS reports, those lazy bastards. Shit, better get off the internet.

  21. I’m 25 and if everyone doesn’t chime in and say what an awesome comment I just made, I’m never coming back here! Ever!

    Seriously though, trying to generalize a particular personality trait on to a whole generation is bullshit. It was bullshit about the “slacker” Gen-Xers and it’s bullshit now. I’m sure some similar bullshit was peddled about every generation when they were entering adult hood since we developed the language skills to bullshit about the previous generation.

    I don’t drink lattes either. Occasionally a cup o’ joe at work. Speaking of which, if I was seeking gold stars, I wouldn’t be pissing away time commenting right now…

  22. Also, the things that Boomer managers tend to criticize are non-adherence to dumb rules. There’s a prevailing opinion in the feebler generations that working hard means sitting at your desk for the same eight hours every day. Gee, hard to see how that management philosophy could go wrong.

  23. Fluffy and Ryo rock.

    Is Kerry Howley in that age group, or barely over it? What does she think about Mr. Bailey’s post?

  24. Anecdotal or no, there’s something to this. My wife manages a fairly large team and they have fairly standard turnover which they fill with recent college/grad school grads. Over the past couple of years she has found the newbees increasingly frustrating. Unreliable, a work ethic that comes and goes, unmotivated and desiring praise for just doing the work… And they do not take to criticism at all.

    I have met most of them and it shocks me how, on the one hand, they seem to have had life experiences that I could not have dreamed of at their age (trekked Macchu Picchu, spent a year in Paris, a month in the South Pacific, a semester in China) that make them seem worldly, but at the same time you get the sense that they really have never really worked a structured j.o.b. and are very insular and immature.

    I think GILMORE has a point about the Manhattan thing. My time on Wall Street (93-05) would back up most of what he says, but I very much remember how in 1999-2000 recent grads fled real work to start dot-bombs (they were unbelievably rude and condescending while doing so) but came crawling back after the crash and were shocked when we refused to hire them.

    Last anecdote: During my final years in NYC I interviewed a lot of recent grads….. the resume padding was absolutely freaking unbelievable!

  25. Disclosure: I am a Baby Boomer, but I have no children. I wonder if that means that I have basically been spoiling myself all these years?

    Ron — That describes me as well, and the answer to your question is Yes.

  26. One thing I HAVE noticed between Boomers and my generation is they get pissed off how fast we talk and how we intuitively know how to use devices/computers/software…

    I mean, go to a conference meeting and tell the boss to adjust the keystone on the projector and he’ll look at you like you’re speaking klingon. I actually knew a guy that made his teams print up all his emails before he got in the office. Lazy fucking old fart if you ask me. They just have a bit of agita about the younger people taking over their gig, and are doing the old, “back in my day, we did it with sweat and determination, and these kids just ‘brainstorm’ and ‘white board’…” It’s like a parting shot before they take their retirement.

  27. Good sweet zombiejebus, am I sick of this drivel…Because Gen X was all disaffected loser dropouts (really? I think folks like the Google guys would beg to differ), the Me Generation was comprised of self-absorbed free-loving, permafried greedy pigs…? Wow. Stereotypes.
    Is anyone else sick to fucking death of this? Please say yes.
    And if you don’t, well…remember that I am Gen Y, and we all tote firearms and are wholly sociopathic. Oh, and may I have some cookies and a belly rub? Please, I so desperately need the praise…apparently.

  28. I’m not impressed, Garth. Piling on more anecdotes doesn’t stop the anecdotes from being anecdotal.

  29. I’m sick of these stories about how rotten the younger generations are. Younger people are generally more libertarian than older people. Baby boomers still have this idiotic belief in the sanctity of government. If you want to know why we’re facing $60 trillion in liabilities, blame the boomers. There won’t be any change in Washington until they’re gone.

  30. I very much remember how in 1999-2000 recent grads fled real work to start dot-bombs (they were unbelievably rude and condescending while doing so) but came crawling back after the crash and were shocked when we refused to hire them.

    Ahh, true, true.

    I work in consulting, and the same thing happened in my world, where 30% of the kids thought they’d work for 5 years and be millionaires by 30, and were terribly dissapointed they’d actually have to work for a living

    It was not so much just them, though – EVERYONE was in that mood from 1995-2000. And the fall was very hard. It didnt help that the market crash, tyco/aldelphia/enron scandals and 9/11 all happened in rapid sequence. 1000s of 20 somethings were culled from banks and consulting and tech and left on the street. I had to take nearly a 20% pay cut for a few years.

    I dont think many of the people my age who lived through that act like life is handed to them on a silver platter. Maybe some newer grads, but not the 30-33yr olds.

  31. First of all, everyone in America is remarkably coddled (that is, less independent and self-reliant) compared to, say, 100 years ago. Isn’t that what most libertarian complaints are about? Many of these anecdotes
    may be coming from first-time managers who always think their new underlings are goof offs. In many ways, I’ve seen the workplace change over the years from a place that puts up with incompetence (because good ole afternoon-drunk Joe went to your prep school)to putting up with it because so and so is a protected minority and keeping him or her around is less hassle than firing and a lawsuit. Forty years ago, there were just as many drone employees as there are today.

  32. The way I see it, if you’re not happy with the quality of your workers, then get rid of them and offer more money to attract better workers.

    Problem solved.

    The real issue here are the spoiled boomer managers, unable to grasp why younger employees aren’t willing to work hard in exchange for a lousy paycheck and benefits. If you want more production, offer more incentive. Until then, stop whining about it.

  33. I’m a GenXer (35) who works with Boomers, GenXers and the “me generation.” Several of the young people in my Practice fit the stereotype. They have never heard criticism and have a huge sense of entitlement. One young woman is leaving my company because we did not promote her — just four months after she was promoted. It is very difficult to work with those who fit the stereotype, and it has impacted the way I parent my children. I don’t let my kids win games. They have to beat me to earn self esteem.

  34. i just got out of college, am working at a 9-5. Getting paid doing boring shit, and frankly i don’t really see the point. That’s why i post here. I don’t really see the value in becoming a tool, even if it’s a highly valuable specialized tool.

    Whether that’s an indication that I’m spoiled, or what the work force is offering me is underwhleming is up to debate, frankly at this point i think the latter. I don’t care how much my boss praises my shit, it’s still ultimately shit.

  35. What in the world are these idiots doing hiring consultants to tell them how to coddle someone who’s not getting their work done? How hard is it to can somebody?

    -jcr

  36. To the likes of stephen the goldberger:

    Why put up with the boring, shitty job then? It sounds as if you’re perpetuating the generalization…you want something handed to you on a platter.

    I’m 28. I, too, had a shitty, boring job as an insurance agent (from 2000 to 2004). Hard-work lead to promotions and praise, but it was still not the job I wanted to do (as sounds to be the case in your situation). I took it upon myself to go back to school (evening classes while working full time) to get the education for a career that I truly love. Upon graduating, I took a job for roughly $5-an-hour less than what I would have made at the insurance company. There was some financial hardship at first, but that has cleared itself up. But, the best part is that I love my job…it’s something that I chose, not something that chose me.

    The point in this long, rambling post is:

    Shit won’t get handed to you on a platter…quit your whining!

  37. It seems like a lot of this intergenerational difficulty proceeds from an inability to measure “work ethic” in the same units. For the boomers, work ethic is showing up exactly at 9am and leaving at exactly 5pm. Not to engage in the equally silly wanton generalizations of the “those damn kids” people, but I think my generation tends to define itself by the task. If you get the work done, you’ve done your job, and if you get to go home once it’s done, you have a greater incentive not to put it off. Putting in a certain amount of time at a desk isn’t how we measure what we’ve done that day. For instance, my co-workers (all older) apparently fill time during the day by printing out EVERY SINGLE EMAIL they receive. I’d like to ask that the boomers try to see this from our perspective–as a waste of time and resources, which, while filling the day, doesn’t make one any more efficient or better at one’s job. And, as others in this thread have pointed out, Google isn’t exactly bankrupting itself by this philosophy of work at the moment. I doubt someone’s sitting by the desk of every Google employee with a stopwatch, making sure they’ve put in their eight and half hours every day.

  38. Lol @ old dudes who have their secretaries print out their emails . . . very common in the law where shuffling corpses can still be wandering into an office well into their 90s.

    Wanting praise and all that from a corporation is just odd. Learn stuff you can sell elsewhere to a higher bidder and steal office supplies.

  39. Wanting praise and all that from a corporation is just odd. Learn stuff you can sell elsewhere to a higher bidder and steal office supplies.

    Let’s remember that it’s not really the youngsters who want praise, it’s the older guys who assume they want praise. They must want it, because kids today are spoiled. Or something like that.

  40. Learn stuff you can sell elsewhere to a higher bidder and steal office supplies…

    …that you can also sell elsewhere (ebay) to a higher bidder…

  41. FYI, you’ve inadvertently included some NPR javascript in that blockquote, which is showing up verbatim in your RSS feed (and hitting npr.org’s webservers on every page view here).

  42. jimmy da geek

    yeah that’s the feeling i’m starting to get. I wasn’t trying to perpetuate or refute the generalization, just provide a real life example to be judged. Your prognosis is my own (at least intellectually) but it takes some time to truly believe it and do something about it.

  43. Jimmydagreek, I like your get-up-and-go! What are they paying you now, Son? Whatever it is, I’ll double it. >;-)

  44. These generational labels are pure drivel, concocted by media types (Hi, boss!) who have to label everything, generalize about the labels, then find anecdotes to support the generalizations.
    I’m supposedly a Boomer, but my grandfather served in WWII (Hi, Grandpa!) and my dad was born during the war (Hi, Dad!).
    Now my son is off to college (Hi, Son!) this fall to study engineering. And apparently he’s going to have to deal with this “Self Esteem Generation” “Boomer Echo” nonsense.
    (By the way, he’s a great kid, kind and caring, and his ACT scores KILLED. I’m certainly not going to stop telling him he’s a great kid.)

  45. I remember when I was looking for work after getting my masters in 2003. I saw articles where businesses were expressing shock and outrage that college kids doing summer internships had the audacity to expect to be paid. What lazy bums those are.

    I occasionally lead some classes in the software that we commonly use around my office. It’s a frustrating experience because the younger people are bored while I teach the baby boomers to navigate Windows Explorer and open zip files. That’s okay because the old people really just want to learn the software so they can tell the young people what to do and complain when they aren’t sitting at their desk from 9 to 5.

    The other day I was searching for jobs on a school job website and saw an ad looking for a JD to work in a major city making $45k. I can picture the baby boomer doing that hiring cursing my generation because nobody from a top law school is willing to work at his company for peanuts.

  46. stephen the G,

    Yes, it does take some time to truly believe it and do something about it. Hopefully, you’ll find out what it is that you want to do and make the effort to get there.

    _____________________________________________

    jp,

    Sold!! What does my new job entail?

    __________________________________________

    Shannon,

    At the insurance company I used to work at, there was this old fella who managed a different department. Each morning at around 8AM he would do a head count of his department and then proceed to stand at the elevator waiting for stragglers. At 5 in the afternoon, he would do the same. Funny stuff. His employees all hated him.

  47. waiting for stragglers? wow.

    talk about “managing up.”

  48. JW: Thank you! I am adopting the “GenX Elder” tag. I am 43, totally a product of the 80s, like you, and I get huffy when Boomers insist I’m one of them. I realize that my anti-Boomer prejudice is silly, but it is nonetheless very real and very strong. I insist that as I was born a month after Kennedy was shot, there’s no damned way you can call me a Boomer.

    I do think that a lot of kids today lack a certain drive, a certain ability to get the job done just because it’s a job, and you have to do it until you find one you like better, and sometimes life demands that we do things we don’t particularly enjoy – but you can’t generalize across a whole generation (except in the case of Boomers, of course).

    I work with two early 20 somethings – one is a surly moron who can’t be bothered to learn anything – they say he’s really smart but I have no way to confirm it – and the other is a firecracker who keeps finding ways for me to do my job better. It’s kind of embarrassing.

    My five year old daughter is enrolled in Tai Kwon Do, where old fashioned values like courtesy, hard work, integrity, and cleaning up your room are stressed. And she gets an allowance only when she does her chores, and she is never allowed to win games. Lately she’s been beating us in Go Fish, and it gives her a thoroughly deserved sense of accomplishment.

  49. Disclosure: I am a Baby Boomer, but I have no children. I wonder if that means that I have basically been spoiling myself all these years?

    Mr. Bailey, if you do indeed wonder, then I can assure you that you are the only person who knows you who harbors any doubts on the matter.

    BTW, I like to believe I have proven that spoiling oneself and one’s children are not mutually exclusive objectives, even though I do occasionally look at one of my children (which one varies from day to day) and wistfully think “I could be driving a Porsche in Tahiti instead.”

  50. Some managers are resistant, saying the only praise they ever got was a paycheck.

    If the only positive feedback that I ever got was a paycheck, then I’d only do exactly as much as was required to get a paycheck. That’s not a lazy Gen-X/Gen-Y response, or an overly-I’m-special response, it’s a rational response. Both positive and negative feedback help me figure out what my supervisor needs from me.

    That said, I can’t imagine anybody praising me for coming in on time, unless that were praising me for improving my on-time arrivals. But I’m expected to be at work on time, and don’t expect praise for accomplishing that goal (although it might make that more common – but since my boss is in another timezone and has to go through customs to come visit me, he usually has no idea whether I’m on time or not). Actually, if I were praised for being at work on time, I might actually be motivated to do it, but as it is, it’s not really one of my priorities, so I tend to time my arrival to avoid censure, not garner adulation.

  51. stephen: dude, seriously, cubicles bite it. I am working on my escape plan. I suggest you start formulating your own. I find “do boring work as well as you possibly can until somebody notices that you come early, stay late, get things done prior to deadline, and do things that aren’t your job because they need doing then finally gives you a raise/promotion” to be pretty, well, dull really. I probably just majored in the wrong thing, my fault, fixable…but annoying.

  52. Why do I picture a very old Mr. Bailey waving a cane, complaining about “these young whippersnappers” and saying stuff like: “In my day we had REAL environmental problems, none of this namby-pamby global warming stuff. To go to work, I had to swim ten miles through sludge laced with PCBs.”

  53. lunchstealer: one of the things I really like about my job is that if I’m here at 8:15 instead of 8:00 nobody cares. The downside is that nobody cares if I’m here until 6p either.

  54. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” – Phillippians 4:11

  55. It is also a bit misleading to have this conversation without the subject of “job security” being mentioned.

  56. There are numerous studies showing a strong correlation between employees’ level of job satisfaction and their superiors showing appreciation for the work they do. This is true for all generations. When people work hard, they like to know that it is noticed and appreciated.

    Good managers do this instinctively; employees who feel that good work is appreciated are more likely to do good work.

    These complaints sound like bad managers trying to find a generational explanation for why their employees don’t want to do good work for them.

  57. I get praised once per year: at my annual evaluation. Last year, my boss said “You’re perfect. Everything works!” I can live with that. I work in IT, BTW.

    (I love my current boss. He’s the 4th in 6 years and considering the previous 2 who were respectivly sociopathic and meglomanical, I’ll take this one. The first one, who hired me, was an Italian NY-er lawyer who was terrific to work for. I’ll never have a boss with tits that big again.)

    The rest of the year, if I don’t hear someone complain about the network (or *do* complain that they don’t have a “cool” computer/monitor, etc), then I know I’m doing my job. And I’m surrounded by 20-somethings.

  58. Tim: I started mentally formulating an exit strategy from day one, hour one.

    Unfortunately it seems to entail school. Which we all know, is for fools.

  59. Never trust anyone under 50.
    Let them backstab each other while reaching for the ring.

  60. Hmmm……. Seems to me that this narsacisstic “me generation” is fighting a two front war voluntarily. No doubt that the military is having trouble getting and keeping troops. but the point is that a large burden of the fighting is falling on this generation and they seem to be doing it voluntarily (i.e. as opposed to a draft).
    Considering

  61. appreciation for a job well done ought to be paid in cash, not platitudes…or pizza for that matter.

    An outfit I worked for would reward stellar production numbers by shutting down the line to throw a pizza party and hand out award plaques to stand out drones. I’d rather have an extra 20 bucks. Cripes, looking back, I’d have paid 20 bucks out of pocket just to be excused (without prejudice) from attending the pizza party/pep rally.

  62. There is something to be said, if just anecdotally, about how this company uses praise/rewards for its employees. My fiance works in their Tampa office, which was voted one of the “best places to work” in Tampa. They provide their employees free use of a gym within the building, a park/recreation area just outside of the building for volleyball, basketball, etc. They also have team-building “outings” to Busch Gardens, the zoo, theaters, bowling, etc. And, they have contests for work quantity / quality, which they reward the winners with fairly nice prizes.

    It is a rapidly growing company and it’s due mostly in part to the culture of praise/rewards that really motivate the employees to bust their asses for this company. Every time I visit my fiance in her office, the atmosphere in the building is quite bubbly / energetic.

  63. Oh…. and they are fighting a not so popular two front war….voluntarily.
    Nothing can be more pathetic and self absorbed than baby-boomers…please…Every time these lame fuckers enter a new decade there is a Time Magazine cover devoted to it. Like they are the first people to turn 60.

  64. Some managers are resistant, saying the only praise they ever got was a paycheck.

    Fluffy said it best. Besides if a manager wants to motivate someone with money alone, he should try raising the salary.

  65. Shannon, I loved your post. There is definitely a generational difference in how productivity is measured – face time versus objectives being met. Do a search on the ROWE (results-based work environment) being implemented at Best Buy’s corporate headquarters. I am ready to move there. I personally don’t give a crap about team-building exercises, corporate gyms, back massages, or any of that other fluffybunny stuff. Just stop demanding that I sit in this cubicle 8 hours a day when I don’t need to, and leave me alone to get my tasks accomplished as I see fit. And does it seem kind of weird that people let someone else tell them what to wear every day? No one has otherwise told me what to wear every day since I was about 10 years old. But everyone is so used to it, no one even questions it anymore. By the way, I’m 37, smack in the middle of Generation X, for what it’s worth.

  66. This generation stereotypic shtick is old. Every generation is deemed shiftless, lazy, and uninspired when they’re kids. Every generation then somehow becomes selfish, capitalist tools when they’re adults. Every generation then starts making the same complaints about their kids.

    Amusing tidbit: the term “Generation X” was originally coined in the 60s to refer to whiny, slacker Boomers.

  67. Guy–You and I are the same age,

    Me too – technically a Boomer, but no, thanks anyway.

  68. stephen: then enjoy those TPS reports, mate. Given “more school” or “more of this crap forever” it seems like a pretty easy choice, frankly.

  69. You know, all this talk about generation gaps makes me think of that song by Bowling for Soup.

  70. Labels are for the intellectually lazy.

  71. I personally don’t give a crap about team-building exercises, corporate gyms, back massages, or any of that other fluffybunny stuff.

    Amen.

  72. This thread gave me low self esteem. Someone compliment me.

  73. Hey Jennifer,
    Did you ever run into this with the teachers you knew?

    As far back as ten years ago, I remember a teacher friend of mine telling me how her students self-esteem was so delicate. And that if she didn’t make them all (each and every one) feel oh so special, they’d run home crying, shoot up heroine, drop out, and get pregnant that same afternoon.

    Even in back in BC times when I went to school (before calculators) grade inflation was out of control. Failing a student was virtually unheard of.

  74. Yeah, Warren, the whole “self esteem uber alles” meme was pretty big when I was teaching. But you can’t blame the kids for that; you have to blame the idiot adults who told them self-esteem was an achievement in itself, rather than a by-product of achievement. And there was NO indication that sometimes, feeling bad about yourself is a healthy thing, because that’s what spurs you to make necessary changes.

    My school didn’t take it to super-ludicrous extremes, though; for example, we only had one class valedictorian per year, despite the damage done to the egos of the non-valedictory students in the class.

    Grade inflation was also big where I was; the only way you could fail a student was if his parents allowed you to. (I am not exaggerating. If a parent complains enough, the fact that a kid never did any assignments and has a numerical average of 10 on a 100-point scale will still qualify him for at least a “D.”)

  75. “Disclosure: I am a Baby Boomer, but I have no children. I wonder if that means that I have basically been spoiling myself all these years?”

    It’s a bigger club than you might think, Mr Bailey; welcome.

  76. Every generation thinks the one below it is lazy and worthless.

    The parents of the WW2 generation thought they were lazt and worthless too, at least right before WW2.

    If we’re going to pass around anecdotes…Where I work there are a bunch of 40+ year olds and a bunch of 20 somethings. Almost without exception the 20 somethings have worked out very well and perform well. The 40+ year olds sometimes do that and sometimes not.

    As a disclaimer I am one of the 20 somethings. Now I do think we as 20 somethings are much more likely to not pay attention to rules we don’t care for and will question the ones we don’t understand; but we do the work. A main difference I seem to notice is that a much larger number of us younger people don’t shave as regularly; maybe that’s what the bosses don’t like.

  77. I see no problem with a manager telling me what I’m doing right, as long as he or she is also telling me what I’m doing wrong. It’s not mollycoddling (I used that words for you grumpy old Boomers out there).

    “Remember, kids, don’t trust anyone over 30. And now, here’s Peter Frampton!”

  78. I’m a late poster but hopefully someone will see this.

    I graduated from college 9 days ago. Something you’re forgetting is that the kids entering the corporate world each year are smarter and have done better than the kids from the year before. For each of the 4 years I spent in college, every entering freshman class was hailed as the “most-prepared” class ever, and they were. Every year there are more kids, which means more smart kids, which means more kids that worked and studied and got [well-deserved] praise. Businesses and universities can’t keep up with the growing number of high-achieving kids. We’re not used to criticism because for most of our lives we got most of it right. And it’s not because the work is getting easier: my college-educated, Boomer mom couldn’t help me with my math homework anymore by the time I hit 8th grade, and everyone I knew had a job by age 16. So don’t blame us for being unhappy doing menial tasks when we’ve been pushed and pushed all our lives, and don’t blame it on some squishy notion of “self-esteem.”

  79. Something you’re forgetting is that the kids entering the corporate world each year are smarter and have done better than the kids from the year before. For each of the 4 years I spent in college, every entering freshman class was hailed as the “most-prepared” class ever, and they were.

    I guess you were fortunate to attend one of the few colleges that wasn’t forced to offer freshman courses like “remedial writing” and “remedial math” for those students who didn’t learn college-level skills in high school, then.

    my college-educated, Boomer mom couldn’t help me with my math homework anymore by the time I hit 8th grade

    That’s standard for every generation to forget most academics after their school days end. I can no longer recite from memory all African nations and their capitals, though I could do so in ninth grade when my World Cultures class required me to. For that matter, unless you were a math major I doubt YOU could do all your eighth-grade homework today, unless you bone up on all the formulae first.

    So don’t blame us for being unhappy doing menial tasks when we’ve been pushed and pushed all our lives

    I’m not playing the generational blame-game here, but what brilliant student isn’t unhappy to find herself doing menial tasks after being praised for brilliance all her life? Sylvia Plath nearly lost it when she interned at a magazine during college; instead of praising her writing her editor sent a story back for multiple rewrites.

  80. “Remember, kids, don’t trust anyone over 30. And now, here’s Peter Frampton!”

    I may have felt like he did, but he never felt like I did.

  81. I don’t want to overly praise it, but this thread was not entirely unpleasant.

  82. I am the upper end of the Me generation (I’m 25) and am a manager who thinks a paycheck is positive reinforcement, and that writeup and termination are negative reinforcement. My Market Research team is primarily in the same age group. It formerly was ran more like a grade school with hugs all around and production was stagnant. Since I have taken over productivity has skyrocketed and turnover decreased.

  83. Something you’re forgetting is that the kids entering the corporate world each year are smarter and have done better than the kids from the year before.

    I hate to bust your bubble, Kate, but you see, this whole discussion just became very meta.

    “They told us we were the SMARTEST! KIDS! EVAR! We *deserve* the praise.”

    And around and around… 🙂

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