"Entitlement Generation" expects it all

July 2, 2005 | By Patricia Breakey

A new generation of twentysomethings is entering the work force with a different attitude and perspective than the generations before them, several who work with the age group said.

The older end of the generation born between 1979 and 1994—known as Millennials—has been labeled the “Entitlement Generation,” the “Millennium Generation” and “Generation Why.”

An oft-heard view of today’s younger workers is that they think they’re entitled to everything—higher salaries, flexible work hours and ample time off.

Kevin Price, executive director of the Chenango Delaware Otsego Workforce, said twentysomethings are exceptionally techno-savvy and motivated by different goals than previous generations.

“This is the first true generation of hard-wired kids who grew up with cell phones, palm pilots, blackberries and the Internet,” Price said. “They are also more metropolitan in a worldwide sense.”

Price said they bring a technological knowledge base to the work force that is unique. One of the challenges of integrating twentysomethings into the work force, he said, is the multigenerational aspect of the workplace, where baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation Xers (born between 1964 and 1979) and Millennials are working side by side and have varying attitudes and goals.

Keith Valk, vice president of human resources at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, said the new generation has different priorities than baby boomers.

“The boomers worked more to make more money and didn’t worry about getting time off,” Valk said. “The Millennials are more interested in how much time they have to work to get more time off.

“They are also a generation that feels more entitled to things because they have had it all. They all had their own cell phones, their own cars—everything they wanted,” Valk said. “But we are also beginning to see more clearly the advantages they bring to the workplace. They bring a whole lot of skills that previous generations didn’t have.”

Lori Osterhoudt, director of Counseling Services at the State University College of Technology at Delhi, said this generation is very different. She said they are referred to as Millennials on the Delhi campus, and workshops are being held to help faculty and staff understand them.

“Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation” by Neil Howe and William Strauss is the inspiration for the Delhi workshops, Osterhoudt said Thursday.

Generations last about 20 years and cycle every 80 to 100 years, Osterhoudt said.

The GI, or World War II generation, was the last “great hero generation” that came of age when the country was facing a huge crisis. The next generation was the “silent generation” of the affluent 1950s, when life was good. They were followed by the baby boomers, the “prophet generation.” The Gen Xers were the “nomad generation,” and the Millennials are in line to be the next “hero generation,” Osterhoudt said.

Osterhoudt said Millennials differ from previous generations in good and bad ways.

Millennials are a backlash generation who are bucking previous trends, Osterhoudt said. Among this generation, there are lower rates of violent crime, teen pregnancy and serious substance abuse and increased rates of community service and a desire to give back.

“They are more respectful of people, but they also more demanding of respect from others,” Osterhoudt said. “Their parents were very involved with them, and they want adult involvement in their lives. They are very family-oriented and stay connected with their families through their cell phones and e-mail.

“They are rule-followers who were raised with more supervision and structure,” she said. “They are also optimistic, have high morals and are generous to a fault.”

Dr. Mel Levine, a pediatrics professor at the University of North Carolina Medical School and author of a book on the topic called “Ready or Not, Here Life Comes,” said current twentysomethings are having a hard time making the transition to work—kids who had too much success early in life and have become accustomed to instant gratification.

Although Levine notes that today’s twentysomethings are long on idealism and altruism, many also are heavily committed to having fun.

Melissa Muraco, 25, of Delhi said she earned her associate’s degree from Herkimer County Community College and is working on a veterinary science degree at Delhi Tech. She said she found herself surrounded by members of the Entitlement Generation in college, although she doesn’t classify herself in that group.

“I knew a lot of people who thought they were entitled to everything, probably 60 percent of the students, but I tried not to associate with them,” Muraco said.

Muraco, who works at the Humane Society of Central Delaware County in Delhi, said she was raised by her sister and has always had to fend for herself.

“I went to work when I was 16,” Muraco said. “My sister told me that if I wanted stuff, I had to get a job, so that’s what I did.”

Jennifer Switzer, 20, of Ithaca just graduated with a two-year veterinary science degree from Delhi Tech and is spending the summer working at the Delhi animal shelter.

“I know a lot of them,” Switzer said, referring to the Entitlements. “I’m not one of them. I’ve been working since I was 15, and I worked all through college.”

Lorna Taber, Delaware County personnel director, said she finds that the twentysomethings who work for the county have a different work ethic.

“A lot of them are more concerned about their pay and benefits rather than the quality of the work they do,” Taber said. “So we have to be more flexible and accept the way these new employees are.”

Taber added that the Millennials are a generation on the move.

“It used to be that people would stay with the county for 20 or 30 years,” Taber said. “But people are just not staying like they used to. They work a few years and move on.”

Jeffrey Arnett, a University of Maryland psychologist who has written a book on “emerging adulthood,” the period between ages 18 and 25, agrees that twentysomethings aren’t eager to bury themselves in a cubicle and take orders from bosses for the next 40 years.

He added that he isn’t sure why they should have to because employers no longer have the commitment to employees that they once did.

Osterhoudt said Delhi Tech is working on ways to prepare Millennials for the world of work.

“Because they have been given a lot, they haven’t had to deal with much frustration,” Osterhoudt said. “We are working on ways to help them develop independence, and we are letting them know that they can’t call their parents for everything.

“And we definitely are not coddling them.”

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