I try to pay attention to the game as the assistant coach. However, I am bombarded by begging from players on the bench: “Brother Green, can I get back into the game?” I try to ignore by pointing: “Ask the coach.” Every weekend was like déjà vu for me. A bunch of 8th graders were trying to tell us they were just as good as high school athletes.
These 8th graders were undersized and no match for more experienced ‘ballers.’ The basketball league was designed for high school students. I felt they should be graceful to be allowed to play with our high schoolers. Instead, it was a steady stream of complaints and ingratitude from some 8th graders. I wondered how I got stuck with Gen Next.
Today’s organizations face unprecedented competition from all fronts. Many institutions desperately need to infuse their organizations with fresh leadership and new ideas. Yet, there is a hesitation for this transformation. Many baby boomers argue that the current generation is not ready. These young workers are called many names such as Generation Y (Gen Y), Echo Boomers, or Millennials (born 1977 to 2002). Most experts predict the generation will be a major factor in society. There are more than 70 million of them.
However, they have been described in the workplace as lazy and self-absorbed with their own worth. Laura Clark, columnist, argues, “Today’s young workers, it appears, believe they deserve jobs with big salaries, status and plenty of leisure time – without having to put in the hours.” According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters study, there is a new breed of graduate ‘divas’ who expect everything to fall into their laps. These people believe they are a hot commodity in the job market. Yet, their managers describe them as ‘unrealistic,’ ‘self-centered,’ and ‘greedy.’
For the first time in American history, organizations have four different generations in their workforce. Sadly, it’s not without problems. Companies don’t understand this young generation. They desire to share in organizational decisions on day one of employment and be promoted instantaneously. With managers who had to ‘pay their dues.’ The Gen Y mentality is a hard pill to swallow.
Dr. Jean Twenge and Dr. Keith Campbell track this trend of self-absorption in their book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. They explain, “Narcissism- a very positive and inflated view of the self is everywhere….Understanding the narcissism is important because its long-term consequences are destructive to society.” In the 1960s, individuals led causes for the greater good. During the 1970s, there was a focus on self-admiration. By the 1980s, society had totally gone to ‘looking out for oneself.”
Unfortunately, some managers distort the work value of this emerging generation by stereotyping them as selfish. Baby boomer managers complain about the difficulty of managing Gen Y employees. But, didn’t these baby boomers raise them to be narcissistic anyway? Therefore, it isn’t fair to label them totally as expecting entitlement.
Twenge and Campbell note, “Parenting became more indulgent, celebrity worship grew, and reality TV became a showcase of narcissistic people.” One must wonder what Gen Y will pass along to their own children.
As more baby boomers retire, a new generation of leaders will replace them. These new leaders will cross age, gender, race, and geography. I certainly hope that Gen Y can overcome the negativism surrounding them and be prepared to accept future leadership roles. I pray it’s not too late.
Is the Age of Narcissism solely a characteristic of Gen Yers? How can organizations infuse the right kind of team-oriented values, given cross generational conflicts?
© 2010 by Daryl D. Green