December 09, 2007

Millennials at Work

author_karen By Karen Sternheimer

American corporations are under siege. They are facing a new threat, a threat they are only marginally prepared for. 

The falling value of the dollar? Globalization? Global warming?

Not quite. clip_image002

According to a November 11th 60 Minutes report, American companies just don’t know how to tame their new young employees. The “millennial” generation, defined as people born between 1980 and 1995, are allegedly too self-centered, too narcissistic, and too fragile to be managed using traditional techniques. Told by their parents that they are special, they need extra coddling and fun in order to do their jobs. Otherwise, they will just quit, according to the people correspondent Morley Safer interviewed.

Aside from overly supportive parents, the other alleged culprit, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Zaslow, is PBS’s Mister Rogers. You remember him, the guy that told children in a calm, gentle voice that they are special? Actually, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood first aired in 1968, long before the “Millennials” were born (and very likely viewed by many Millennials’ parents). clip_image004

The notion that young people are uniquely selfish is an old one. As I wrote in my last post, disdain for young people is widespread and dates back to (at least) ancient Greece. And as I discuss in my book Kids These Days: Facts and Fictions About Today’s Youth, adults also thought that young people in the early 1930s and 1940s were too self-centered, too consumed by swing music to care about anything but their own happiness. Famed writer Pearl S. Buck wrote in Harper's magazine in 1935 that young people were “completely selfish” and would never fight for anything they believed in. Of course they soon did, and due largely to Tom Brokaw's book we now often refer to them as the Greatest Generation, thanks to their service in World War II.

Let’s consider some realities of life for young people today before we conclude that they are too narcissistic to work without constant stroking:

1. Many American kids grow up in poverty 

Poverty rates have been gradually rising in the United States in recent years, and a significant number of people in poverty are under eighteen—currently 17 percent—live at or below the official poverty level. Rather than worrying about a large number of kids being self-centered, we might want to refocus our energy onto these young people. We have much higher child poverty rates than many other industrialized nations; instead of focusing on them, we tend to think of kids as spoiled and overindulged. This way we can avoid the reality that many young people have too little, not too much.

We ignore young people in poverty by focusing almost exclusively on the middle class, a group that is increasingly shrinking. According to the 60 Minutes report, “Today, fewer and fewer middle class kids hold summer jobs because mowing lawns does not get you into Harvard.” Just as not all kids are middle or upper class, not all will go to college—and it’s those who have earned a college or graduate degree that the people that the corporations featured in the segment are likely to hire. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that 66 percent of the class of 2006 entered college; although not all will graduate. As recently as the 2000 Census, only 16 percent of Americans 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree.

2. Young people traditionally have significantly higher unemployment rates

According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, in the third quarter of 2007 approximately 7,142,000 Americans sixteen and over were unemployed (this is based on the number seeking employment). Of that number, 1,302,000 are between 20 and 24; that means nearly a quarter of those unemployed are young adults. As the graph below from the Bureau of Labor Statistics details (unfortunately only featuring men), younger workers have historically had higher unemployment rates--often double or higher than their older counterparts.


In spite of the assertion that if young workers are not coddled “they will walk,” as a corporate consultant told 60 Minutes, jobs are not as plentiful for entry-level workers as the piece made it seem. Combine job insecurity with low wages, as well as fewer (if any) benefits, and you have a recipe for high turnover. In today’s job climate, many companies layoff workers frequently, outsource workers overseas, and reclassify former full-time workers as independent contractors. As a result, workers of all ages have less incentive to be loyal to one company, especially early in their careers. By focusing on young workers as self-centered, narcissistic, and spoiled, we are encouraged to overlook the broader economic conditions and blame individuals.

The 60 Minutes segment also noted that many young people in their twenties continue to live with their parents. Actually, this is not a new trend at all; previous generations were likely to live with their parents until (and even sometimes after) they married.

Rather than concluding that today’s young people are being spoiled by mom and dad and unwilling to care for themselves, shouldn’t we consider the cost of housing in major cities like New York (where much of the 60 Minutes piece seems to have been shot). In 2005, the average rent in New York was $2,400; it was $1,573 in San Francisco, and $1,421 in Los Angeles. A year’s rent of the average-priced New York apartment alone would then be close to $30,000. When you consider those astronomical costs, living with parents in these cities seems more of a sign of financial responsibility than immaturity.

3. Millennials are on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan

clip_image008Perhaps the most important oversight of the segment—on Veteran’s Day, no less—is that it neglected to even mention the thousands of young men and women wearing our country’s uniform overseas right now. Young people in the military do not have the option to just “walk” when not coddled or if their self-esteem is threatened. In fact, stop-loss measures make it so that young people in the military are serving for longer periods than they signed up for. 

As of this writing, nearly four thousand U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and many more thousands have been injured. As is often the case, most casualties of war are young people, many of whom are returning with the loss of a limb, a traumatic brain injury, and/or psychological trauma. To ignore their service and sacrifice says more about the shortsightedness of their elders than young people today. Their elders are the ones who wage war, and they are also able to benefit from claims that young people are spoiled and narcissistic.

Older people can become expert consultants on this so-called trend. They can (apparently) get corporations to pay them to run seminars. They may even get to be on TV. And we all lose by mischaracterizing an entire generation and failing to understand realities of America's young people.


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first things frist kids do not have manners and they don't know the eithic of the work place starts at home. They are not paying kids to act out but to do a job.

American companies have a hard time with younger adults today becasue first, they have no manners, and second they believe they should not have to work for what they want, it should just be given to them. They believe they should be able to talk on their phones, play around and goof off and get paid for it, and then complain and get rude when they get fired for not doing their jobs!

Actually, the article is right. It's not that we don't have manners, older people, especially employers, are often disrespectful to young people. They feel that because they are the boss and we are just "kids" they can treat us however they want. Then expect us to give them respect in return. They overwork us for just minimum wage and wont even throw us a benefit. They give other old people whatever they want just cause they're old. Another reason we don't have jobs is because so many old people are collecting retirement pay and still working. Not because they need to but because they want something to do.

I think that younger people have manners they just havent been taught.I also believe that if older people would treat younger adults with respect everyone would be okay.

According to the article american companies have a hard time with the younger employees because they think the need to be coddled. I do not think it is all about coddling. There is a high precent of unemployment its hard to get a job unless you have a previous or good work experience. If the younger employees just quite and leave work why would anyone want to higher them somewhere else. Hmm if there is poverty in a younger generation I do not think they would just quite work it would be all the more reason to try and keep a job. As far as being in the service it is a difficult thing you can not just quite and some do have some problems some adjust and some do not so they do things to get out. To me I think it just depends on the values and goals the younger employees has.

I am an young adult and I do have great manners and my parents raised me up well and I know responsibilty. I held my first job at 16 for 3 years and I have a new and better job now. Not all young people are that way. These young disrespectful people act that way because there parents spoiled them and allowed different behavior.

Not all young kids act that way. It is all in the way you are raised. If you are allowed to act in that manner at home then you will no matter where you are. Even at work under soneone else's supervision. I wouldnt categories all young kids in that same category.

I wish someone would step up a be a representative for kids that are afraid of speaking up. Not all kids are bad kids. Kids act off of how they are raised in most cases. They see whats around them and that's what they live by. We do have some great children in society today. Who do you think you watch on T.V. on your favorite sports team or who takes care of your loved ones in the E.R., or who's fighting for your freedom. Think about that the next time you want to call them spoiled!

People say that we are spoiled and hard to keep on track. However they never ask us are we ok or if they are doing everything they can to help us ok. The goverment is making us pay more and more for school. We have to settle for these little jobs and pay our way to school and we are spoiled because our parents helps us to keep up with the payments?!? I agree with the author to a certain point because sometimes young adults get what they want because their parents may not be at home all the time because they are at work trying to make ends meet.

Some of the young people are in or under the poverty line. People look at the Millennials and they think that they have been pampered all of their life until they get their first job.

most young kids do have manners but these days it's "not cool"to be respectful and they don't use their intelligence

I believe that American companies are having a hard time with younger employees because the generatiion has become lazy and have always have had things done for them. The world that we live in today have a lot to do with it. In todays world, no one has to work for what they get. Everything is a handout. This has taught younger people to be lazy and make them believe that you do not have to work. They are disrepectful and think that for some odd reason, we just owe it to them. The author believes that this is a mischaracterazation of a generation because "no character" contines to prove itself in todays generation.

Companies are having a difficult time with this generation of workers because most a very self centered, too narcissistic, and told by their parents that they are special and deserve special treatment. The author says that this is a misrepresentation of the generation because many kids grow up in poverty, their is a high percentage of unemployment of young people aged 16-24, and many of this "millenial" generation are on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today kids do know how to act, but how their friends act usually determines how they too will act.

When you are young you want to do what you want to do. I am sure that most people not all have been through this stage in their life. You are young and free and make your own choices they all have certain consquences though. Many young people don't weigh their consquences as much as the benefits.


According to the article, American companies are having trouble with the younger generation because they are self-centered, spoiled, and need a job to be "fun" in order to keep it. The author believes it is a mischaracterization of an entire generation because older people fail to see the realities of younger people. The younger people arent given the same benefits and opportunities that their elders are recieving. It is mostly the younger generation, however, overseas fighting for our freedom. Do they call that selfish? Because it is definitely NOT in any way selfish.

Young people are gonna have to understand with great power comes great responsibility. This generation is gonna have to stop trying to fight for the right to party and stand up and quit depending on their parents and others. The author may not agree with this,however. He must be from this generation.

if you were raized right you act right but a work ethic is taught so if it isnt then it wont be nomatter how old you get!!!!

again it all goes back to the childs up bring and what a child has learned. everyone has to make their own choice wheater good or bad. but most kids dont care because you can like and not work their isa to many ways to make money legal or illeagl it will be done or they can just take a ride on our tax money becuse that the only thing i see that is working. fro the lazy people that sit at home have kids and dont do nothing more but have kids and we have to pay for them but when the hard workiing need help we cant get it.

When you tell someone constantly that they suck, they are crap, they are stupid, eventually, they are going to start thinking of themselves in that light. Eventually, they are going to quit acting like themselves and are going to start acting like what people are comparing them to. If the employers and managers would start treating their employees with more respect, and less disrespect, those workers would be more inclined to stay at that company and not go to another. Well, if the older people think that the younger generation is "too spoiled, bratty, living at home with mom and dad makes them immature, or they don't know how to keep a job," let me just remind them, they were young once. I bet that somebody said that about them when they were our ages. They just need to get off their high horse and go pester somebody else.

I think i lot of this stims from how work has change from less labor to more tech also the abily to spoiled yourself is the killer in all of this "the younger generation" is given to what our parents and parents with relax views and standers from generations = radio to boom box as from desktop to laptop as tv is to ipod as the toys get bigger

What is lacking in the younger generation is a good work ethic. We have created kids that want to work the least for the most amount of money. This does not mean ALL kids are like this, but definitely it has become a majority. There is nothing like working for something to be earned. It produces a self-worth like no other. Has anyone been taught to work for an employer to make HIM successful and not just for yourself? It is very rare!

American companies believe younger people were too self-centered, too narcissistic, too fragile to be managed using traditional techniques, and told they were too special by their parents. I believe older people are just use to doing things their way and view our way as out of line.


This augrument can go both ways. There is really no right or wrong. I've seen some young people that were more smarter and mature than I was ever at that age. Alot of young people do show disrespect but it's not right to make that assumption that all young people are the same.

They feel that young people are to self centerd and need extra attention and a pat on the back for a well done job. The author clearly states that life has been this way for many years now. In my opinion the author does not stero type because someones age.

Theyre having a hard time with younger employees because they are too self centered and narcisistic, and they get bored easy and quit. One reason its a mischaracterization is because people tend to focus on the middle class when getting these analagies, and they dont focus on a large part, the lower class. Many children grow up in poverty and are not self centered.

I agree with the article one hundred percent. Unfortunately, I have quit every job I've had and it probably was for some of the reasons the article mentioned. Another problem is its hard to get your foot in the door. That is very fustrating and can hurt confidence. Things change as time goes on. I believe we as a generation are changing with it. Of course a lot more can be done, but I don't think there will ever be a time where we can't say that.

Having worked as a supervisor I know first hand that young people nowadays can be a handful. Even to the point that they are not able to work with. Then again there are also some bright young people who work extra hard. One thing I noticed and bothers me is some of them don't seem to care to much about anything. We need to help them instead of judge them.

They are having a harder time with younger employees because they were not instilled with a work ethic. They were coddled too much and if the job is not exciting enough for them, they just might quit. It is a mischaracterization because the information seems falsified. Older people want to blame younger people by saying they were too coddled or they are too lazy, but they don't take into consideration the hardship of the younger generation.

According to the article, American companies have hard time with young because they are self-centered and narcissistic and fragile to overcome the hardship of work environment.
However,i thing young people are characterized firstly by enthusiasm and passion, whichever file they get involved in. American companies tend to ignore that and rather than focus on the condition of the workplace ( which by the way is not that sweet!!), they project the guilt onto young people.Instead of focusing on the "selfishness"" of the younger generation, they may as well focus on the broader economic conditions (insecurity, low wage,fewer benefits than the elders ...) that young people have to handle. Now, they may look at the mirror to get who are the ones selfish and narcissistic.

I agree with M Hunter that young people need help and understanding, not judgment.

I believe that American companies are having a hard time with younger employees because the generatiion has become lazy and have always have had things done for them. The world that we live in today have a lot to do with it. In todays world, no one has to work for what they get. Everything is a handout. This has taught younger people to be lazy and make them believe that you do not have to work. They are disrepectful and think that for some odd reason, we just owe it to them. The author believes that this is a mischaracterazation of a generation because "no character" contines to prove itself in todays generation.

companies have a hard time with younger employies because they are not fully committed to working and know what good it actually does. they usually skip out or they are more worried about partying and enjoying their teenage years

Most younger people today are absolutely dependant on their parent(s) and usually they do not gain respect or develop an understanding of responsibility.I have seen it more times than I care to recall a parent bailing their kid out of a situation when the kid would have benifited greater by dealing with their consequences.

I to agree with some people, most children today are very spoiled and has been raised properly, except for morals and dedication to hard work. The kids back in the day, worked so hard to help their parents put food on the table and some of the kids were allowed to quit school because their parents were so poor that they put their children to work as well to make ends meet. These days, children haven't been accustomed to things of that nature, so they don't know how important the work force is today. In doing so, the younger kids have taken advantage of all the opportunities of working hard for a living so they take for granted the opportunities available to better themselves and be able to work hard for everything they get. Instead the parents try to give them everything under the sun just because they probably had it hard growing up and don't want their children to have to struggle like they did. Above all, I think that it is a wrong thing to do because unless a child know how hard it is in today's society, they are not going to take seriously how hard you have to work for the things you want out of life so therefore, when it's time to go to work, they be late, stayed out all night partying and calling in to work with a bogus excuse for sickness when they should get up and go to work anyway to learn a lesson about being punctual on a job and working for everything they want and not to mention learning self respect for others. If you want respect, you have to give it not only in a work place, but throughout life's journey.

I think what everyone is saying is great and more power to you, but the fact remains that all children are not bad and have been taught great manners; it's just that when children get around other children, they tend to act in another way as if they have not been taught well by their parents and it makes the parents look bad. I don't care who you are and what morals you have taught your children, they are almost and always steered in the wrong direction by other children to look cool in such way forgetting that their way is the wrong way and to act like their parents have taught them. That's how a lot of children get into trouble while away from the home and into other environments. Let's face it guys it is not all parents fault the way children act at times.

I think that this is wrong, yes some young adults are immature. But some learn from their parents mistakes and mature. Alot more kids nowadays have summer jobs, and do use a clock in machine to get work experience. I personally work at a salon at 17, and I am on my way to have my cosmetologist liscense. Having goals is good, when your parents tell you that you can be whatever you want to be they mean it. And its true, if you set your mind to it like most kids who want to succeed in life and take the necessary steps you can be anything you want to be.

A lot of these posts say that young adults are rude or are not dedicated. Is that our fault or is it the parents fault. My parents know that they have had almost 18years to teach me respect. All this rude stuff comes from the fact that parents don't want their babies to leave them so that make it difficult for them to ever leave them. Don't put all the blame on kids because they learn their behaviors from their parents. If you think its because of the kids then you are an idiot.

I am 23 years old and have had to work for everything I have ever wanted or needed since I could walk. Nothing has ever been handed to me. I am very respectful and have outstanding moral fiber. I was in the military for half of my contracted agreement and was forcibly removed from active duty for inability to act in accordance with military standards. So that being said holding a job with that kind of history is almost impossible especially with today's economy. Hard work and dedication is all I know but as a 23 year old Iraqi Campaign Veteran with no civilian work experience to speak of puts me on the " dont hire this guy list" so poverty will have to do until some McDonalds will hire me or I just get lucky.

First off, all the negative remarks are more than likely from an older generation. I am from this supposed "self-centered" generation. Yes, my parents took care of me very well until I turned 18, went to college, and got my first job. I still live at home because rent is ridiculous and my school is more important than drowning in debt. I am so sorry if that's spoiled!! I have manners. I have a good work ethic. I am not lazy. Obviously I need to remind a few of you who have made comments on this story. It is because of the older generations that have allowed our supposed "self-centered generation" to become what it is today. Everybody learns from their elders as they grow and mature. If you think our generation is so messed up, it is more than likely your fault.
P.S. some of the grammar and sentence structure on these comments that are very negative towards my generation, need to get fixed seriously...

I think that most young adults if given a job will goof off or not do it right but there are some that won't because they'll know not to and be mature about things. But some young people act spoiled and rude, they do this because either their parents spoil them with stuff and expect them not to do anything themselves or they are not fully aware of how to be dedicated to working hard to get something themselves.

I'm currently 17 and I own my own travel agency which I started at the ripe age of 14 currently making 6 figures a year after thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of hours of time invested. I used to hire kids my age when I didn't have the capital to invest in a more legitimate work-force. I have to admit you bastards are very irresponsible, lazy, but most of all you're all brats, pathetic absolutely pathetic and I'm ashamed to be in the same generation as all of you quite frankly. However the youth were always like this, it's just that in this generation it has become so prominent, life for this generation has become all about leisure and me me me. Good luck to all of you, with that type of attitude you're all going to need it.

Like the blog said, the kids who are being spoiled and have poor work ethic are mainly people from middle class homes. Sternheimer is pointing out that what our stereotypes about the younger generation is not true for all young adults. I found this information very interesting and I was able to relate it in my personal life.

I am 42 and wont put up with the BS that happens in the work places today. That is why I am now working for myself, I don't blame the youth for not wanting these boring no where jobs that micro manage them. They could all be automized by robots we are wasting peoples potential when it comes to most types labor these days. As far as the younger generation, my daughter is 22, has held the same job since she was 15, doesn't use her iphone at the dinner table or text while speaking to others, and learned how to make an omelet at age 2. She helps with the bills, sure her life is a little more relaxed as she lives at home in this economy, but why not. Life is hard why shouldn't we live under one roof as opposed to wasting precious environmental resources and isolate ourselves in two homes. There is always good and bad with all people individually, and different perspectives on manners and ethics. And sure they might be more privileged then those before them, but they are also more disadvantaged. In reality they are just a new generation with new ideals that we can all learn and benefit from.

kids who are raised right normally do act right.It is important to teach kids to act right.A good work ethic will go a long way in being very beneficial to the kid in question.

To take a few young people and to assume that, they all practice not doing a good work is wrong, there is truly many that perform at their peak.

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