Generations are not what they used to be. Or are they?

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Grodnitzky, Ph.D.
January 26, 2024

In Allen Hauge’s exceptional newsletter, this article written by Susan Lucas, “The Evil HR Lady” addresses a very interesting concept, "Reverse ageism: why do companies avoid Gen Z workers?"

Her first premise: Every generation thinks the next generation is lazy and awful.

That is spot on. And it’s not a recent phenomenon. Here is a famous quote about generations:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Who said it? Socrates — at least 2,400 years ago!

Her second premise: If Gen Z is so lazy and awful, then Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are bad parents.

That’s also spot on. Working in the generational space for the past 15 years has always fascinated me. Among my personal fascinations is that parents have chosen to raise their own children in a very specific way, creating some very specific behaviors as consequences of the parenting style of the era. Those very same parents then complain about how other parents raise their children, using the same parenting style as they themselves used during the same era.

Her third premise: There is something wrong with our universities.

That needs to be considered more critically.

She cites a study that found 91% of respondents believe that universities foster unrealistic expectations among students about life and work after graduation.

That's what people believe. But just because people believe something doesn't make it true. A large (and growing) number of people believe the Earth is flat — even in the face of overwhelming data. No matter how many people believe the world is flat, though, the belief alone doesn't make it true.

Four years in a university environment does not undo 18 years of how a person was parented. Fundamental beliefs and behaviors take more time to change, and you can’t change people against their will.  

As Lucas’ article states, the same parents who raised children who lack strong soft skills — like eye contact, body posture, and body mirroring — overestimate the value of their children's skills when they enter the workforce. That is a much more likely a direct cause of college grads’ inflated salary expectations.

The solution: Connect young people with other young people in the workforce. They’re the best teachers and models for other young people whose parents (not their university!) have set unrealistic expectations. 

I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note

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