For the first time in history, we have 4 generations in the workforce at the same time. Naturally, this much diversity requires adjustments and understanding. While it’s convenient to bucket groups by age, some of the generalizations are not helpful. Generation X and Generation Y are generally identified as arriving at the workplace with a sense of entitlement as big as the great outdoors. I disagree with singling them out for this unattractive character trait. I see entitlement rearing its ugly head in every generation. It just sounds different depending on who’s speaking. And businesses react differently according to the age of the speaker. That’s the worst part.
Here’s what entitlement looks and sounds like across the generations.
Born between 1928-1945
I’ve done my time. I deserve a senior position based solely on my years in the workforce. I hire good people and let them do their jobs on their own. I don’t measure them and I certainly do not set stretch goals for them. You should treat me the same way.
Born between 1946-1964
I put in extra hours therefore I am not subject to the same rules as everyone else. If I work hard, I’ll get everything I want — whether my expectations are reasonable or not.
Born between 1965-1979
I saw my parents work hard yet they still got laid off so I want what’s due to me now. I’m not looking for equal treatment, I’m looking for special treatment.
Born between 1980-1995
I have no interest in doing menial chores that could be automated. You can have someone else do that for me. If I have to get good at what I do before I get promoted I’ll just work for someone else. Give it to me now or I’m moving on.
Of course, not everyone exhibits this unproductive trait. There are workers and leaders in each of the generations who honestly want to produce quality, measurable results, and they want to be recognized for such. And there are workers and leaders in each of the generations who work hard at getting better at what they do every day. Taking the time to get to know the unique skills and perspective offered by a multi-generational workforce can lead to an enriched workplace.
Is entitlement creeping into your speech? How would you deal with it in your business?