The most common adjective used by today’s employers to describe the young emerging workforce is “entitled.”
While there are many exceptions and contradictions to any demographic stereotype, this label that young employees are having a difficult time shaking implies that they act as though they deserve more than their employers feel they are worth.
The reality is that employees are entitled to certain things (i.e. a safe working environment, ethical treatment by management, a paycheck, etc.). However, in exchange for providing jobs that meet or exceed these things, employers also have certain inalienable entitlements, and it’s these that are seldom featured in news stories or discussed at the family dinner table.
It takes two to tango
What are the expectations and entitlements — the ‘non-negotiables’ — that are common to every employer in every industry at every level? I’ve been asking my clients this question for years. I’ve summarized hundreds of responses to this query in a document called “The Entitlement Creed” and a wide variety of employers have volunteered to recite the creed on camera. (Hold that thought for a moment.)
As the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” So wanting to get a better feel for what the emerging workforce feels entitled to and whether the reputation this generation has amassed is accurate, I recently conducted a non-scientific experiment.
I stood in the middle of a busy college campus with a large handmade sign that read, “Do you deserve a job after graduation?” In the span of an hour, hundreds of college students passed by and most offered up a response by simply nodding their heads, giving a thumbs up, or verbalizing in a word or two that they did, indeed, feel deserving. Some felt compelled to offer more than a one word response, and they were asked a follow-up question, “What starting salary do you feel you are you entitled to?” (My videographer stood back and recorded the interaction.)
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Nothing radical in The Entitlement Creed
The juxtaposition of these two extremely diverse views on entitlement is eye-opening, and well worth 3 1/2 minutes of time.
Although the creed may appear harsh, direct, and demanding, if you break it down line-by-line, you’ll see that there is nothing revolutionary, radical, controversial, or remotely unfair about what every employer feels entitled to.
The only unfairness would be to not share this with anyone looking for a job, or anyone who may feel stuck in their present job. And for this, there are no age requirements or generational boundaries.
This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.