2010 May 14 Friday
Generation Y Kids Feel Entitled

Generation Y are in for a rude awakening as they enter the job market (at least those who manage to get jobs).

As thousands of Generation Y college graduates flood the workforce this spring, the nation’s employers may want to brace themselves for a new crop of entitlement-minded workers.

Research conducted by Paul Harvey, assistant professor of management at the University of New Hampshire, shows that members of Generation Y are more entitlement-minded than older workers. For employers, that means more employees who feel entitled to undeserved preferential treatment, who are more prone to get into workplace conflicts and who are less likely to enjoy their job.

“Managers have reported a lot of problems associated with this – primarily that these employees have unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback. Basically entitlement involves having an inflated view of oneself, and managers are finding that younger employees are often very resistant to anything that doesn’t involve praise and rewards,” Harvey says.

They've won so many video games and written and sent so many text messages that after such accomplishments surely they deserve big rewards by now. Of course they feel entitled.

Gen Y could top other generations in their willingness to take credit for the success of others. This bodes poorly for people who really are productive.

According to Harvey, people who feel entitled to preferential treatment more often than not exhibit self-serving attributional styles -- the tendency to take credit for good outcomes and blame others when things go wrong. And people with self-serving attributional styles are less happy in their jobs and more apt to cause conflict in the workplace, especially with their supervisors.

I suspect the movement to boost child self esteem is at least partially responsible for this state of affairs. Teaching kids how wonderful they are even before they've accomplished anything will tend to make the kids think they deserve stuff just for being so great.

Joe Queenan laments the pathetic job market that Gen Y is graduating into. But I see his observations as suggesting an epic clash between generations over demands for entitlements. While Gen Y was growing up the "Greatest Generation" was busy sucking up entitlements money, setting up the country for bankruptcy.

There are three formidable obstacles confronting college graduates today. One, the economy, though improving at a glacial pace, is still a wreck. There are no jobs, and the jobs that do exist aren't the kinds anyone in his right mind would have spent $100,000 to $200,000 to land. Two, nothing in most middle-class kids' lives has prepared them emotionally for the world they are about to enter. Three, the legacy costs that society has imposed on young people will be a millstone around their necks for decades. Who's going to pay for the health care bill? Gen Y. Who's going to pay off the federal deficit? Gen Y. Who's going to fund all those cops' and teachers' and firemen's pensions? Gen Y. Who's going to support Baby Boomers as they suck the Social Security System dry while wheezing around Tuscany? Gen Y.

Even as generations have become accustomed to entitlements the country has become less able to deliver. In the 2010s decades of accumulating debt and entitlements will collide with Peak Oil and demographic deterioration. California and Greece show us what is in store.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 May 14 05:27 PM  Cultural Wars Generational

Mike Pat said at May 17, 2010 11:52 AM:

Great article. I recently wrote a book geared towards Gen Y on how to succeed and become promotable at work while losing their sense of entitlement. It's called "Promotions Are Not Served At The Deli Counter" and is currently available on Amazon.

Steveo said at May 17, 2010 7:46 PM:

No one ever talks about the HUGE defense budget that has sucked up trillions of US taxpayer's dollars for a few high tech gadgets. While SSI has been paid for as another tax. I and my employers have paid more than 250K into the SSI system and it will probably be another 300-400K before retirement. I certainly deserve to get my benefits paid back fair and square.

We need to cut military spending by half, close down the worldwide network of bases, bring our boys home form Germany and Korea, why be there after 50 years? We need to stop funding the walmartization of the rest of the world, protect our own borders and stop the insanity.

no i don't said at May 21, 2010 5:57 PM:

In most of Europe and most of Latin America public education is FREE. In a country that calls itself a "Republic", free education -from kinder garten to university- is a constitutional right. To most Americans this is so shocking that they simply do not believe it.

It's really sad that in the U.S. this constitutional right goes only as far as 12th grade high school.

Publicly Educated said at February 11, 2011 11:30 AM:

To no i don't . . . How about if we can just get folks to actually graduate the 12 free grades they DO get?? Instead we have a high level of dropouts from teen pregnancy and from criminal activity . . . both very preventable! Let's start with the small stuff and worry about who isn't getting into college for free AFTER we have a near 100 percent high school graduation rate. I graduated from public school, attending public universities on scholarships and other financial aid. There is nothing wrong with working for your knowledge!

Um-hum said at May 24, 2011 3:43 PM:

I dare to say that I will never recover the money I put into social security. Had the govt. given me an option when I started working to participate I would surely have chosen something else. Almost any plan is better than social security if you have a decent income.

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