Are people getting worse?
March 21, 2011 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Get off my lawn filter: What's the matter with these kids today? Really. (More after the jump).

I'm posting this to ask rather than chat because I'm asking for real answers: For those of you who have been in your respective fields for a while, are you finding that younger employees/trainees/interns are less willing to work their asses off? College profs, are you seeing a(n even) greater sense of entitlement in students?

I'm embarrassed to ask, but I've really been noticing something in my workplace and after seeing something about it on 30 Rock (in the episode "Gentleman's Intermission", sorry, can't find video...) I'm starting to think it's not just me, or my non-profit line of work. So I ask you--in all seriousness, and with an eye toward actual information.
posted by supercoollady to Society & Culture (75 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
No, I have not noticed this. I've noticed that the same amount of work doesn't necessarily bring the same amount of result that would produce, but that's basically inexperience/unfamiliarity with tools/time management/etc.
posted by DU at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2011

What is it about 20-somethings?
posted by phunniemee at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2011

I regularly work with students and I have not seen this.
posted by special-k at 10:51 AM on March 21, 2011

I have noticed it. But in my experience, it seems like a conscious decision on the part of some people, who expect to work less but also expect to make less/have different goals. Try to make sure you're just not equating your definition of success with the only definition of success.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:53 AM on March 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

I also work in an academic setting and interact regularly with college students, and they seem to be as good or bad as ever (mostly good). The subset of people you're interacting with will make far more difference than any global change anyway; perhaps there's been a change in hiring practices in your field, or the economic situation is leading to different people going into it.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:54 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

dpx.mfx does have a point, too. Among my group of friends, there seems to be a rising interest in quality of life issues; but again, I don't know how universal that is, or whether it's just because we're getting older.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2011

I think that the ones who are self-entitled lazybutts stand out more. they make more noise, they cause more reactionary agitation, so where they exist they stick out and thus you are more aware of the subspecies..
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

At one point in San Francisco, I felt that I was seeing a pattern of loudmouthed, egoistical braggarts with a sense of entitlement all around age 30-35 - this was about 6 years ago. I started to think it might be a generational thing although L'estrange fruit's observation makes far more sense.
posted by infini at 11:02 AM on March 21, 2011

I have not seen this either. I meet workaholics of all ages. The younger ones generally are better with computers.
posted by dobie at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2011

In the library world I've seen younger librarians be just as hard workers, good work eithic, etc as their older counterparts. What is different is their work/life balance, for lack of a better word. They expect to be able to have access to their email/phones during work time. They expect to be able to check facebook as long as they're getting their other work done. They will check work email from home but want to be able to check home email from work. There's a lot more of an expectation that if they're getting their work done, they can block out their own time unless you tell them differently.

So, if you're in a type of workplace that basically says [in my example] "You're scheduled to sit at the reference desk from 11-2 and while you're there if it's not busy you can do some copy cataloging." and you're done with the cataloging and still on the desk, they'd maybe have twitter open while they were doing that. For people good at multitasking, this is fine. Where it falls apart is when peopel get sucked into this sort of thing at the expense of their actual work. This requires, often, a change in management styles and often perspective of what work is "for" and what other activities are part of work and the workplace.

So, not saying that other people may not be seeing younger people doing whatever, but that sometimes when younger [or even older] people are doing something that doesn't look like work, it may, in fact, be work.
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2011 [36 favorites]

I've seen this. I've seen younger employees who have no desire to bust their butts to prove something to a corporation. It kind of makes sense. Somewhere along the line of all the plant closings, glass ceilings, nepotism and stories about less qualified individuals that got cushy positions because they have a friend at the company, the culture started to change. There are numerous articles out there about this. I have seen younger employees demanding better salaries and more benefits with less work time expected. And to an extent, they get it, because if all the innovative workers are demanding it, you can hire the warm bodies or beef up your benefits. And definitely, as was said above, there's a stress on the work/life balance, with a noted emphasis on the life part. Not having kids/a spouse probably helps that along.
posted by cashman at 11:07 AM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

I have heard/seen/experienced that millennials (disclaimer: I’m one) are less likely to just work for the sake of doing busywork. We need direction, purpose, for things to make sense. I, for better or for worse, am not going to do something just because someone tells me to or because that’s how things have always been done. But if I can see or have explained to me the purpose of what I’m doing, I am right on that, often after hours. In the reverse, I see a lot of “olds these days” seemingly pretending to work, with no one noticing or caring that they aren’t actually getting anything productive done, or working as efficiently as they could be, and they are out like a shot at 4:59 with no email or cell-phone access until 9:01 the next morning. Older workers, to me, are also notorious for not-my-jobbing.

So, what is your definition of “hard working”? It probably differs from mine. And there are probably differences between what you and I feel “entitled” to at work.
posted by thebazilist at 11:13 AM on March 21, 2011 [32 favorites]

No people are not getting worse. Every single generation in the history of mankind has believed that the subsequent generation is lazier and morally questionable.
posted by JPD at 11:13 AM on March 21, 2011 [45 favorites]

"I've seen younger employees who have no desire to bust their butts to prove something to a corporation."

My observations exactly, but for a different reason - people in their twenties (and early thirties to an extent) seem to be working less because of quality of life decisions AND because they don't feel any great loyalty to the corporation.

When the company doesn't have any qualms about laying me off without any human considerations, there is no reason for me to go to great lengths to keep the corporation happy. You get what you pay for, nothing more, nothing less.

You expect to respond to urgent email at 10:00 PM? Better be prepared to let me respond to personal email/requests during office hours or to check my twitter account.
posted by theobserver at 11:17 AM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

I agree with thebazalist and jessamyn. As a 20 something, I gravitate way more towards multi dimensional success (having the biggest possible experiences, tastes, skills and knowledge). I feel it completely trapping to have one ambition only.
posted by Tarumba at 11:23 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Exciting! I seem to have set off a small generational flame war! Just to clarify what I was asking (and I should have done this in the question originally, my mistake):

I work in a not-for-profit field that depends heavily on interns and students--and is also a field where there's typically no shortage of people wanting to get into the field and being willing and indeed eager to work for free to do it. That's how I and most people I know working in this field got into it--it's just the norm.

It's also a very task-completion-oriented job, and in fact checking twitter, facebook or other accounts during work hours is (obviously, given what I'm doing right now) not looked down upon when the work's getting done. Sometimes it's even a part of work.

And finally, it's a mission-oriented field--something people do because they believe in it, and one where work-life balance is a given, not something that people are judged for thinking about.

This is really just a question about work style and expectations--I was really just kidding about people being "better" or "worse"--obviously no one generation is "worse" than another. I'm wondering how much people expect to "get ahead" in their respective fields of work or study versus how much commitment they make to it. Oh, and I'm not in any way trying to sell the idea of corporate loyalty. Hope this clarifies.
posted by supercoollady at 11:32 AM on March 21, 2011

I, for better or for worse, am not going to do something just because someone tells me to or because that’s how things have always been done.

Ah, but you see, you will if you have to. And that's a huge difference between the current "youngins" and their parents: the utter lack of social stigma ascribed to heading back to their parent's house after college because they couldn't "make it" in the real world.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:34 AM on March 21, 2011

Combine the last statement with the fact that young people are having children later and later in life, which means the "have to" part of the equation gets muddied. If you're single with no kids, living with the 'rents is No Big Thang.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:36 AM on March 21, 2011

Also how increasingly hard it to "make it" with the current climate and jobless rate. The "making it" goal posts have been priced out of reach for the majority of people without taking on massive debt.

Maybe it's cause I socailize with freelancers, but there is a backlash to the 9 to 5 concept. Most people working in an office environment don't actually work every single second they're on the clock - must things are not super urgent - it can feel like you're being paid just to exist there for a set time and not about what you're actually completing and doing. That never made sense to me, so long as I'm actually doing my job does it matter that I stretch it out over 20 min chunks or finish it at 3am - so long as it gets done?
posted by The Whelk at 11:40 AM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

An interesting counter-theory to the "they've never had it so good the lazy sods" school of argument is UK Conservative* MP David Willetts' book on the Baby Boomer generation: The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Stole Their Children's Future.

Short story: pity the yoof of today. They're up against a large mass of middle aged and older citizens who have no intention of giving up their quality of life. They'll have to work harder to get less than their parents. Don't begrudge them if they don't seem overly pleased about it.

*This is relevant because the bogeymen in Willetts' narrative are, basically, core Conservative voters.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:41 AM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

I think this is to some extent confirmation bias at work.

Also, I used to regularly say about my students, "Geez, people of my generation would never have X'd like they do now" or "When I was a student, we always would do Y." But I'm not so sure "my generation" did work harder or take school more seriously, etc. I think I was assuming my own attitudes and experiences were representative of my agemates when they absolutely weren't.

So the answer would be a) yes, I notice this, but b) the people who notice this overlook the fact that people in general stay the same from one generation to the next, and so c) it says more about the noticer's expectations of themselves and others than it does about the "young generation."
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:42 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is really just a question about work style and expectations

January 2011 - Analysis of Generation Y workforce motivation using multiattribute utility theory. [18-page PDF]

There are some pretty graphs in there and a bit of interesting reading, though the N is just 18. I came across that while trying to find the Washington Post article "Bringing Generation Y Into the Fold" from September 2007.
posted by cashman at 11:43 AM on March 21, 2011

Bringing Generation Y Into the Fold. (sorry about that - https everywhere issue)

"They prefer jobs "where they feel something is getting accomplished" and "don't like jobs where they can't see the end in sight," she said.

Young people also are critical of inefficient organizations, which does not bode well for the government, given popular perceptions, she said. "They don't understand why it takes two hours to get back to them with an answer. They don't understand why we schedule meetings," Erickson said
posted by cashman at 11:49 AM on March 21, 2011

For those of you who have been in your respective fields for a while, are you finding that younger employees/trainees/interns are less willing to work their asses off?


Also, fear motivates less than reward. Too many employers act as if they're doing their employees a favor in this economic client, and act all surprised that their employees seem unmotivated.

Regardless, it's simply an impression - the reality is that the nationwide indicators for worker productivity are at an all-time high. That doesn't happen unless everyone is carrying their weight.

This "kids are so entitled and spoiled" bullshit is about as accurate as labeling Gen X'ers "slackers" - the same generation who pretty much built the modern internet, redefined art, design, music and cuisine, and still had time to read comic books. If you're a Gen-X'er, you need to look hard at yourself for buying into the same sort of slander once leveled at you.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:50 AM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

(economic =climate=)
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2011

Yeah, the entitlement of kids these days is out of control:

"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."

Oh, no, wait, that was Socrates complaining about the same thing 2500 years ago.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2011 [68 favorites]

For what it's worth, my feelings about many Boomers' work habits, lifestyle choices and influence on Gen Y are rather negative, so I have made conscious choices to avoid some of those elements.

I've gone freelance specifically so that I don't have to do busy work for micro-managing bosses, and now I work my ass off, way more than I did when I was sitting at an office desk under fluorescent lights. And like MuffinMan pointed out, all my hard work is for 'less', though I would argue it's for a much higher quality of life.

In all seriousness, I wonder if the young people at your workplace see their time at the non-profit as a resume-padder, or as something they're expected to do following years of accruing required volunteer hours (such was the case for my high school, and my college strongly encouraged it), etc. What are some specific examples of behaviors you're seeing?
posted by lhall at 11:57 AM on March 21, 2011

I work in an office where the average age is about 15-20 years younger than me. This is the first time I've been around so many "young" people (er, not that I'm old!) and the one thing I find appalling is how messy they all are. Our communal kitchens are filthy all the time, not just with dirty dishes but empty containers and wrappers on the floor and counters instead of the trash can, spilled liquids not wiped up, etc.

So yeah, I think this speaks to some sort of entitlement - my guess is they all grew up with maids taking care of their family homes, but who knows.

The other thing that always throws me is that none of the under-30s say "thank you" when I'm the first out the door and I hold it open for them.

Oh yeah and - hey you kids, get off of my lawn :)
posted by chez shoes at 12:04 PM on March 21, 2011

What I have seen, working on projects with people in the 20s and 30s: most projects have had moments where there are lots of different ideas on which direction to go, and after discussion, a decision is reached. For those in their 20s, if the decision isn’t in the direction they were lobbying for, there’s a marked decrease in their engagement in the project: less responsive to emails, lower quality and less timely work, more of “I’m going to be late/have to leave early today.”

Another thing I’ve also seen is people bail on projects mid-way, well after they’ve committed to them and you’re relying on them because something better/more satisfying/more interesting comes along. This is obviously not a new thing, but what is new is that they’ll justify it to you by telling you that they’ve found something more satisfying. In my world, backing out of a project midway is acceptable in some circumstances, like family emergencies – duties which one is obligated to attend to that override one’s commitments at work or school. There are some situations which are understood as unfortunate contingencies – “It can’t be helped.” What’s new about 20-somethings is that losing interest in a project is one of those unfortunate contingencies. For them, following your dreams is an obligation that transcends all other commitments, so that they can say “I know I’m leaving you in the lurch, but don’t worry, it’s not for trivial reasons! What I’m doing instead will be so much better for me!”
posted by AlsoMike at 12:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like cashman's answer. More students seem to have jobs, even in high school. Way back when I was in college, many fewer students worked. And it's even more so since the Big Recession. More students will drop classes, and more of the traditional students seem to take 5 years to finish.
posted by theora55 at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2011

I've gotten used to the multi-tasking, Hulu-watching, earbud-wearing (OK, I'd really rather not have to tap at your shoulder, what the hell?) twenty-somethings for whom I am responsible. What I don't like, and see pretty often, is a sort of intense need for personal support ("I moved this weekend, I'm exhausted, can I leave at 3?") constant praise ("I'm only a week past the deadline, high-five!") and my encouragement just to Get The Job Done ("You did a great job last week on the project plan -- can we keep it updated for this week too?"). Going above and beyond the scope of what's required pretty much never happens. And yes, manners and neatness and courtesy seem to have fallen by the wayside.

On the other hand, I am very happy to be among young people for whom race, gender, religion and sexual orientation are level playing fields. That's rad!
posted by thinkpiece at 12:42 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, I have not seen this. The new grads where I work work like crazy, soak up new stuff like sponges and are super-smart.

If I had to hate these people, I'd hate them because they're super competent and make me look bad. But I love them like fluffy little puppies. Yes I do!
posted by GuyZero at 12:43 PM on March 21, 2011

Let me turn this around. From a young person with a finance/sales perspective, I see it thusly: the problem here is that older generations think looking busy somehow equates to being actually busy.

I'm 26. I get into work and do everything that needs to get done as quickly as possible. Then I have nothing to do until more work accumulates. I work my ass off, but I have a lot of downtime and I'm not really motivated to do (arguably) pointless busywork because it's demoralizing and my company doesn't pay me enough for the work I do now. I know it looks like I'm slacking off. I don't care. I was never in the workforce during those golden years where people didn't get laid off or fired for no good reason and thus people were able to trust and feel loyalty toward the people they worked for.

My (recently-retired) father had this crazy Irish Catholic work ethic. For the longest time, I thought he was working himself to death because he always talked about how incredibly busy he was. When I saw him at work, I realized that "busy" actually translates to "puttering around all the time." My father, bless him, somehow never learned how to prioritize. He treats a clip art email forward with the same attention and urgency as a call from a customer.

I don't know about other industries, but in finance, where we have a bunch of old school guys, this sort of thing happens a lot. Not just "oh I'll read this fake virus warning for 20 minutes," but giving full, undivided attention to things that don't seem particularly important to a young person like me. Older salespeople chat on the phone for an hour about the Red Sox and call it work. They go for two-hour lunches with friends in "the business" and call that work. If I get lunch with friends and we talk about business while we're eating, I call that a lunch break. If I chat with a coworker about weddings or kids or whatever, that's a break.

So my suggestion to you is to see if the work is actually getting done in a satisfactory manner. If it is, then you need to let this go - it's a generational difference and a pet peeve, but not something worth fighting over.

My dad actually isn't a boomer - he was born in '44. But most of his colleagues are boomers.
posted by giraffe at 12:46 PM on March 21, 2011 [36 favorites]

I just had something typed up about the lessened importance of "hard-working" as a character trait in and of itself, but giraffe summed up most of what I was going to say. Gen Y works hard to get something done, otherwise working hard at nothing would be wasted effort. And isn't it? There is really nothing praise-worthy in someone incompetent and inefficient who never gets the task completed. They may appear to be working hard, but to us, there is more virtue in knowing *when* to work hard than having no prioritizing capabilities and pushing ahead blindly and steadily.

I do think that many younger people lack manners and neatness, to some extent, but I don't think there is any solid evidence it's worse than when the previous generation was young. A lot of manners is just knowing the socially acceptable reaction to every possible environment, something one hasn't had much experience in at a younger age. And, conversely, many of the older generations seem to lack manners, courtesy, and "neatness" in cyberspace, as much as I shudder to use the term. There are all sorts of conventions and mores for texting, social networking, and web sites that we shudder to see older generations blithely ignoring (or not understanding in the first place). To us, having a secure, aesthetically pleasing web site is much more important for many of our professional endeavours than wearing slacks and dress shoes to work. I think the generations have just chosen to be "polite" and "neat" in different ways that aren't always obvious to the others.

(And as far as undergrads, I've worked with them off and on for over a decade, and they've remained identically clueless throughout.)
posted by wending my way at 1:01 PM on March 21, 2011

I have to say that I'm a 20 something and that I don't get the older generation. My workplace has shown us quite explicitly that they don't care about us and would sell us down the river in an instant. But everybody constantly clocks out for lunch, then works through their lunch. Then they all clock out at night and proceed to work for another hour or two. We are hourly and do not get commission. I refuse to do that. In part because it's illegal and they can't make me so it feels good to resist them, in part because I have a second job, and in part because I don't want to give the company and extra 10-20 hours of work for free. They should hire more people or pay people decent money on salary if they expect this kind of sacrifice. I hear grousing about my work ethic from my co-workers sometimes, but I don't understand their life ethic. Don't they have anything better to do?
posted by Garm at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2011 [20 favorites]

When the company doesn't have any qualms about laying me off without any human considerations, there is no reason for me to go to great lengths to keep the corporation happy. You get what you pay for, nothing more, nothing less.


While I disagree completely with your notion that "todays kids" of Gen Y are worse workers than previous generations (see the Socrates quote above), I would like to play devils advocate for a moment and ask what exactly are we (I am in my late 20s) working for?

The halcyon days of the United States were in the 1950's and 1960's and it was during this period that the work ethic handed to us was inked. Given the world we live in today it seems hopelessly outdated. Job security today is an illusion. Gone are pensions and dwindling are decent benefits packages. Fewer and fewer companys are matching for 401ks, and many of the 401ks offered are limited to small baskets of tax and fee inefficient mutual funds. In my work experience, health care has been either shitty or non-existant (and this is coming from someone making a high income).

Adding to that, our generation is more aware than ever of the health related consequences of endless work. Gen Y are the benefactors of new research, and study after study demonstrate that my health suffers from sitting in a cubicle. That working more than 55 hours a week (which I do regularly) lowers cognitive ability, could cause dementia, and is bad for my heart. Meanwhile, the cubicles we work in are actually shrinking, and in this context we find that a bad job is just as bad as no job at all in terms of mental health.

In that context, US workers are putting in MORE hours than ever before (perhaps exacerbated by the recession).

Looking to Europe - countries like France, Germany and the Scandanavian countries, we see stable flourishing democracies with more social benefits and fewer working hours. These countries that work less harbor people that are happier and healthier. In light of this, many of us see that the American type-A "work, work, work / get the job done / team spirit!" ideology that gets trotted out is bogus. What, then am I working towards? A house I can't afford to fill with things I don't need? We already know that buying things won't make us happy. So what is the end game, exactly?

It can be hard to keep up appearances and be a "team player" when work output booms while wages practically stagnate. Trickle down doesn't work and more money is going to the top while people at the bottom or in the middle do progressively worse. The income disparity in this country has done a good job of breaking me out of the American Pathology that "I too can be rich!" Especially since if you were lucky enough to start work during the recent recession you will be working just as many hours for 10 percent less on average income after 15 years of work.

So while I don't think todays youth are particularly lazy, I do think the prospects they face are less rosy than they were before. The promises made to incentivize us are ringing hollow.

Personally, age wise I might be representative of the cohort you speak of. I am a 28 year old freelancer / contractor lucky and thankful enough to pull in a large amount of money each year...but I can honestly say that I hate work. I do not identify with my job. There are other things I would rather be doing than sitting in an office while contracting for 60 hours a week. I get no kick out of a "job well done." I would rather spend time with my girlfriend and visit my family and friends...perhaps be home in time for a relaxed dinner in the evening. I do the work I am paid for and not an inch more, and I don't necessarily understand why anyone else would. Perhaps this is just the tide of culture changing, or perhaps I am a dick. Either way what I am genuinely curious about is what does the OP expect from her unpaid interns and students? Is it an "earning your stripes" sort of thing?

I have to say that I'm a 20 something and that I don't get the older generation. My workplace has shown us quite explicitly that they don't care about us and would sell us down the river in an instant. But everybody constantly clocks out for lunch, then works through their lunch. Then they all clock out at night and proceed to work for another hour or two. We are hourly and do not get commission. I refuse to do that.They should hire more people or pay people decent money on salary if they expect this kind of sacrifice. I hear grousing about my work ethic from my co-workers sometimes, but I don't understand their life ethic.

Yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times Yes.
posted by jnnla at 1:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [53 favorites]

It might not look like we're doing much, but consider that most of the things you interact with online are invented and developed by members of the generation who's work ethic you disparage.
posted by smithsmith at 1:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't think that "people are getting worse" (though I know your headline is tongue in cheek!) but I think several folks here have made some apt observations about generational shifts in opportunities and expectations.

As a teacher of college undergraduates, I noticed a shift over the course of the 00's to what one might call a "fee for service" model of education. My students saw their job as to pay tuition and show up. In return, I was expected to provide them with good grades to assure their professional futures, admission to law school, etc. I'm also not the only one to notice the increasing emphasis by universities on high-end facilities- especially gyms, dorms, and dining options- as an incentive for students to choose a particular school. College- even at private institutions- used to be far more about dilapidated dorm furniture and subsisting on ramen, whereas now students at many schools have certain expectations about lifestyle.

But is this shift really the fault of students or a reflection of constitutional virtues? I don't think so. A college education has become vastly less affordable, even since when I was a college student in the mid-90s. Admissions at elite colleges have become vastly more competitive even as institutions compete far more aggressively for top candidates. And in an economic environment in which a college degree is no longer a guarantee of opportunity or prosperity, who can blame students for feeling like their teachers and their institutions owe them a living?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:19 PM on March 21, 2011

I work in a not-for-profit field that depends heavily on interns and students--and is also a field where there's typically no shortage of people wanting to get into the field and being willing and indeed eager to work for free to do it. That's how I and most people I know working in this field got into it--it's just the norm.

People were willing to work hard for free because they felt it would lead to higher earnings later on--they weren't really working for free, they were working for money in the future. These days (economy) they feel like they'll be replaced by other unpaid people next year, they really feel like they're working for free. People who get paid less work less.
posted by anaelith at 1:20 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Absolutely not. I TA and sometimes teach undergrad classes, and kids today work WAY harder than I ever did. Admittedly a lot of that effort is misdirected, but once you've talked to a few dozen kids who have been sleeping 4 hours a night and memorized most of the damn textbook it's hard not to be impressed. Of course this is computer science, where you can actually expect to make a middle-class income if you graduate with good grades. In areas where the money isn't there... why would anyone put in the effort?

(I've met a number of older folks who don't understand inflation and think $20 an hour is a GREAT INCOME. Maybe this is part of the OP's problem?)
posted by miyabo at 1:25 PM on March 21, 2011

Also should be mentioned that we "youngs" are generally more technically adept. Just because it takes me 15 minutes to do a task that would take my boss 2 hours to do doesn't mean I'm not applying myself or not working hard, it's that I know how to use shortcuts, type fast, google/gchat/e-mail to find the correct answer instead of calling someone, etc. Luckily, my company completely subscribes to the "if it takes 6 hours to finish the task, we don't care if you mess around on Facebook for the other 2 hours" instead of the more old-school "busywork" model.
posted by coupdefoudre at 1:29 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: jnnla and anaelith, since you asked I work in journalism, and the people who work for us for free (to be accurate, my current workplace actually doesn't really have many unpaid interns--although they're quite common in my industry and I certainly started out as one) are doing it as sort of an apprenticeship--it's how people tend to learn the practical, ethical, and technical skills to do this work. If you're interested, just google my real name and you can find out more about what I do and where I work.

There's very little possibility of high earnings in my field, anaelith--it's not-for-profit. I know that when I started I was just so enthused to actually be there I would have done more or less anything to be allowed to stay--I realize that's not how everyone feels about their chosen profession, or one that they're exploring through internship. But journalism does tend to have a relatively high proportion of true believers, I feel like...
posted by supercoollady at 1:29 PM on March 21, 2011

I worked for a government agency once and all the older people just did the minimum and didn't want to improve things to make them more efficient (I'm not saying they're lazy, but it seemed like they'd basically given up on caring), and the younger people kept trying to make changes to make things work better, but none of the older people in charge wanted to bother with it (also knowing that they were inching up on retirement anyway). And those people will get pensions, while the younger people probably won't (or at least not ones that are as generous). Bummer to be a young person.
posted by elpea at 1:32 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I want to throw in here a comment about productivity. It is now so much easier to do more in less time thanks to technology. Compare snail mail with carbon copies with fax machines with email with ftp and dropbox which automatically updates the team when I file has arrived. What once took weeks takes minutes, even seconds. And given the fact that so many young people are tuned in to this technology and eager to seek out ways to do things in the most efficient way possible this frees up time... for slacking. But there has always been slacking at work. Always.

Also, I know that you say that the positions at your job are very coveted but maybe the value that you offer there is just not so valuable anymore. People take those jobs for promise of future benefits -- a job, a salary, a direction, etc. Are you sure you're offering that? Maybe the motivated people look at what you're offering and say, "I can't wait around for a 'maybe' opportunity, I need to get into productive earning work now." Maybe what you're offering is only attractive to those candidates who don't really need to earn -- maybe they have a super-cush safety net.

At the last firm I worked for, my peers (actually a bit younger than me on average - mid 20s - given that that this was a new career for me) were more than willing to take pay cuts/hour cuts to help out the firm in the downturn. I really was not willing to do that and discouraged people from volunteering. Why? Because they already paid us crap wages and I had two excellent reviews and was told that they didn't have money for raises and that I should be really happy to be earning what I was earning. So, it pissed me off that they might cut my meager salary. They had a lot more meat on their own bones. But, all those young people? More than willing to sacrifice themselves.
posted by amanda at 1:33 PM on March 21, 2011

I've been hiring young-ish people to work in various t-shirt shops since the late 80's and I don't see this at all. I'd say if you're a manager with a bunch of sulky, lazy kids wasting your payroll, you're not doing a good job of disciplining or motivating them, or as a last resort, firing them, so that they can learn a life-lesson about doing a lousy job. I have had plenty of lazy employees over the years, but certainly haven't seen any uptick at all, generationally.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:37 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually, after thinking about it for a minute, I'd say a little bit the opposite, really. As I've striven to get better at hiring, training and motivating employees, I've had less of a problem with slackers in the last ten years than previously. Discernment at the hiring stage is really key, I think, and I wasn't very good at that when I was 25.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:47 PM on March 21, 2011

I think journalism explains a lot. If you want to do that these days you blog (or vlog/podcast in this case). The idea that you would need to join some kind of organization in order to do that just doesn't make sense. If you want to see young people who are dedicated to the field, check Google.

And even if it's not huge money, there was some expectation that a career would pay for food and shelter. As opposed to not knowing anyone who owns a radio and fully expecting radio to go the way of the VCR (sorry).
posted by anaelith at 1:53 PM on March 21, 2011

Prof here. I see this daily. College students seem to think grades should reflect their desires rather than their intellectual achievement. I can't tell you how many people have come to my office hoping to change a B or B+ exam grade to an A, and the only reason they can come up with is "I REALLY REALLY WANTED an A in your class." Um, sorry, that's not how it works.
posted by philokalia at 2:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Regardless of how diplomatically you try to phrase this question, and I do appreciate the attempt, I can't help but find the premise a little grating, if not offensive.

I am 25 years old and live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I went to a very well-respected college and did quite well, as did most of my friends. We all moved here and mostly proceeded to be offered either a) dead-end jobs paying barely a living wage in fields we were uninterested in long-term or b) unpaid internships in fields that we were interested in. We all did those things. The dead-end jobs stayed dead-end jobs or turned into layoffs; the internships sometimes proceeded to low-paying actual jobs, if you could afford to work full time for free for a fucking year or two. The luckiest of the people I know got low-paying jobs with some limited upward mobility in fields they wanted to be in. And, okay, a couple went and became I-bankers.

And we are the LUCKY ones because we have good degrees which we could generally afford due to some combination of parental largess and the financial aid that good schools offer. I don't know what people do without those advantages.

I have proceeded to a very highly-respected graduate school in a field popularly portrayed a gravy train, where I have also done reasonably well so far. I had to scratch and claw for the opportunity to work FOR FREE this summer while continuing to accumulate debt.

I fail to see how anyone in their 20s, living in a major city, and keeping their head above water could possibly be suffering from a sense of outsized entitlement. Every step along the way is humbling. There are few clear career paths to the lifestyle our middle-class parents enjoyed, other than, maybe, just maybe, if you're lucky, through professional school, after you borrow a hundred grand or so and hopefully find a job afterward.

So yes, as others have mentioned, there may be an attitudinal element here –– having a good work ethic at times appears to be irrational, frankly. Why work hard? Educated 20-somethings are basically a fungible commodity these days and you're only as good as the next. Maybe you love the work, or maybe you think hard work is its own reward, and that's fantastic, but a) was there ever a generation that really truly believed this, or did they just think hard work would pay off materially, eventually? and b) even if you do think it, there comes a point where you only want to give so much of yourself for no money down and no promise of future employment, let alone career advancement.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [19 favorites]

The "kids" at Google work pretty hard. In fact, hours-wise they probably outwork a lot of the older folks (no family, lots of their friends are also at work, etc). Of course, we still offer what many above rightly point out is lacking elsewhere: generous pay/benefits, a company that more or less cares about its employees, etc. And we target people who are excited about what they do.

On the other hand, those who come straight out of college to Google _do_ have massive entitlement. "What do you mean there's no more free sushi on Friday? We always had sushi before! This is bullshit!". That sort of thing. Those of us who have worked at a wider range of companies have a different attitude, by and large. To some of these people, this is just normal (they'll be in for a surprise if they ever leave :) ). And to be fair thats not everyone by any means, just a subset.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:24 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

As someone who has taught at five different colleges/universities in the last seven years, I can say that each group of students was so different from the others that it strikes me as dubious to try to generalize more broadly.
posted by umbú at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2011

Mod note: folks, question is already in MetaTalk, please directly answer the question don't just use it to complain about who you want to complain about, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:21 PM on March 21, 2011

There's very little possibility of high earnings in my field, anaelith--it's not-for-profit. I know that when I started I was just so enthused to actually be there I would have done more or less anything to be allowed to stay--I realize that's not how everyone feels about their chosen profession, or one that they're exploring through internship. But journalism does tend to have a relatively high proportion of true believers, I feel like...

They weren't "true believers" in the sense that they wanted "nothing in return." They thought they were going to have glamorous jobs and become famous and do "hard nosed journalism." They now know that journalism is eternally low-paying and that lots of scut work is involved and that they're lucky if they can hold down a low-paid job at all in the field. So you get what you pay for: people who do the work, enjoy it, but realize that there aren't really that many "rewards" at the end of the tunnel, so they're not really going to do above-and-beyond underpaid work now in the hope of future rewards. Even more so for a non-profit where there isn't much "moving up" unless you're a big money-raiser. They do their jobs. What do you want for free/low-cost?

I think people have more rational expectations, now, and their dedication to their jobs is in line with their future expectations of what their jobs offer them. If a job offers low pay and little chance for advancement, how much can you expect out of them? The "privilege of working for us" only goes so far in terms of compensation.
posted by deanc at 3:25 PM on March 21, 2011

I can understand the 'free work' as 'apprenticeship' thing completely. In some industries it is an effective back door in, or sometimes the only way in. To hazard a guess as to why you might be experiencing less enthused trainees I can only piggyback on anaelith's comment.

Perhaps the rise of blogging can account for it? I don't know much about your field but it certainly seems like an appealing route for a young, savvy, intelligent wanna-be-journalist would be to establish a presence as a blogger and either a)profit directly (through money or prestige) or use their blogging platform as a way to get "absorbed" into an already established machine. Perhaps the sharpest tacks are utilizing new technology to leverage their abilities?

Its also possible journalism just isn't the draw it once was.

I know that when I started I was just so enthused to actually be there I would have done more or less anything to be allowed to stay...

Recessions have a way of changing peoples attitudes towards work...I think it would be fair to say this has some effect on young peoples optimism going forward.

Either way...I think what you are seeing is either a cognitive bias on your part, a confluence of myriad conditions, or a combination of the two.
posted by jnnla at 3:27 PM on March 21, 2011

I work with a 25-year-old who is fresh out of graduate school. She works extremely hard and will go far in her chosen profession. I wish we had more people like her.
posted by marxchivist at 3:28 PM on March 21, 2011

I am writing from the perspective of a millenial in a specific field, publishing, so granted my insights may be limited. I completely understand and respect the notion of paying my dues. I entered here at the bottom of the totem pole with hopes of learning from bosses who would hopefully be mentors to me, and eventually growing and climbing the ladder. I would find great books and edit them and help writers make them better.
However, while I have learned many things from working in this field, unfortunately this is what I think the take-away will be: My superiors are not HAPPY.
They are terrified of the slow but steady advent of electronic media and of the decline of the business model in which they were trained. They are fearful for their jobs and (unfortunately) sometimes respond by being a little too mean and nasty to those of us who rank lower. They take three-martini lunches after which they reveal too much about their regrets and insecurities. And these are the one who have not been laid off! It is demoralizing, and disillusioning.
They are extra petty because, as people often say about academia, the stakes are so small. I have learned, sadly, that I do not aspire to be them.
OBVIOUSLY, YMMV here. But I think my years in the working world have taught me this: Unless one is extremely lucky to find a livelihood that can incorporate one's passion, work is NOT the most important thing there is. The things that sustain and fuel me - friends, family, boy, faith, my volunteer work - will be the things that last when I turn off the fluorescent lights and go home. The people I've met who have truly inspired me have been the ones who have maintained their sense of humor, kindness, and humility, not the ones who have achieved external "success" in the form of paychecks, titles, or offices.
Now, this does not mean that I have license to slack off at work. I work hard and get the job done. And perhaps I have just not yet found the right field for me, which is ok! I am young and still searching.
But am I going to come in on weekends to impress my boss? Skip family events for work? Agree to not be a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding because it would mean missing a day? (True story.)
Sorry, folks. It's called life.
/rant over
posted by bookgirl18 at 3:39 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Seconding every single thing that jnnia said.

Also: The world is in this really weird transition time right now (overlap of industrial age and information age), and this is especially true for industries like journalism and publishing. The top online newspaper is HuffPo, and most of their content is borrowed from AP, and/or citizen generated. Journalism, as it was in the 20th century, is dying. Baby boomers are still working. There are not enough jobs to go around.

The same can be said for publishing. I recently did an internship at a literary agency, and there is desperation in the air. New contracts are smaller than they used to be. Publishing companies are relinquishing distribution to third parties like Amazon and Barnes & Noble because they aren't hiring computer programmers to put DRM on their files themselves, and booksellers are taking over. People.are.freaking.out.

Young people are the first to know and understand that the glamor industries are not changing fast enough with the technology. Really, that can be said for almost all industries that are not tech-based. Young people also probably have tons of peers, like I do, who have had amazing internships that turned into...nothing. No job. No salary. No contract. Just nothing. So then they get another internship, amazing, and it turns into...nothing. Internship after internship, and then they just start temping, because at least they are getting paid...

People begin to feel like cheap labor, which is exactly what they are, rather than apprentices to some fantastic future career, which they aren't...because there literally IS NO future fantastic career. Realizing this, understanding this, can really make a person think twice about putting in longer hours or having any semblance of corporate loyalty.

Also: When you have no health insurance, and you are working for a corporate model that you know is untenable, why not leave work at 5 and go have dinner with your friends and enjoy your life? Why not? I think Millennials are being handed a world at war, with limited resources, and a bunch of old folks at the helm who have no fucking clue how much the game has changed. Of course they're not working hard on the previous generations' terms. They want to have a good time before the horror really sinks in.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:49 PM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

You know, I was harrumphing upthread in solidarity with the OP, and after reading and re-reading, I'm here to say: I've changed my mind. I think giraffe and jnnia and many others have made compelling cases for working smarter, cutting corners that don't need to be there, and phoning it in when one can these days. Corporations do suck; they don't value employees except in the c-suite; and living your life counts for waay more than clocking in at the cubicle only to have your job "eliminated". Consider me enlightened, and thank you.
posted by thinkpiece at 3:56 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

I answered the question, but then my answer was deemed to not be direct enough. I will make a more direct answer:

Older people think that younger people are more "entitled" feeling because they are mistakingly attributing their own feelings of entitlement. They feel entitled to have young people work very hard for them for little or no pay. Indeed, one could argue that the unpaid internship is immoral, because it uses someone's desire to get into a field to coerce unpaid work out of them. They feel entitled to have a young person's hard work and effort and committment, though the organizations controlled by older people will not reward this committment or hardwork with loyalty or often even adequate pay.

I recently worked for an organization which predominantly hires new graduates for temporary contracts. There is no pre-training required for the work, and yet the work itself is not unskilled; it requires very rapid learning and a lot of intellectual effort. And yet the organisation continues to pay just above minimum wage and offers no guarentee of employment beyond 1 month, and even the few full-time staffers rarely see recognition of their skills or the benefit of yearly profits in the forms of bonuses, etc. It's very unsurprising that this organisation has a problem retaining people and that the capable people currently employed increasingly "phone in" their performance, preferring to seek satisfaction outside of their work because there is no satisfaction to be gained in the work.

Similarly, college professors complain about how students don't pay enough attention, don't work hard enough, or only care about grades. However, they fail to acknowledge that those same students are paying more for their education than their professors did, working longer hours outside of their education, and facing a stiffer job market.
posted by jb at 4:20 PM on March 21, 2011 [19 favorites]

I remember in college some professors complaining about this same thing, 35 years ago. I work with young people, a lot of young people. I really donʻt notice a change. Assholes come in all ages. I do find that as I grow older, they bug me more.
posted by fifilaru at 4:42 PM on March 21, 2011

I hope that like me personally, younger kids tell companies and corporations to F* You when it comes to working for free, working for less money or benefits, and, in general, I hope they are REFUSING to get on that silly hamster wheel because it makes nothing in this world "better."

I'll have to take a look at this and get back to you. Most younger folks I know seem pretty dedicated, but sure, I think their expectations are changing.
posted by jbenben at 6:07 PM on March 21, 2011

Heh, every word you wrote was written about my generation (X, go slackers!). I work with a diverse group agewise and there are hard-workers and teamplayers in every age group, just like every age group also has it's share of entitled slackers. This article is fifteen years old and talks about how gen x was miscast. Michael Adams book Sex in the snow from 1997 also looked deeper into the myths about the work ethics and values of various generational groups (Canadian, but some can be applied to the US as well).

I recently attended a seminar on "Managing Millennials" and honestly, it was such a load of rubbish. You simply cannot generalise about such a large group of people; their lived experiences, what class they were born in, their cultural background, education level and financial stability, and even geographic location affect who they are far more than the year of their birth.

It is pretty common though, for people to get set in their ways and wax nostalgic about how much heard things were back then and remember themselves and their peers and much harder workers. When I think of boomers, I think of the workaholics and the dropouts I know, two extremes from the same age group.
posted by saucysault at 8:25 PM on March 21, 2011

There's nothing wrong with young people as a group. They're not a monolith. Some are niughty and some are nice.

It's more likely that you've gotten older, and as you have done so, your perspective and expectations have changed. People often don't remember what it was like to be young.

Alternatively, you may not have been a lazy jerk when you were young, but I'm damn sure other people in your generation were. Now you're coming up against the lazy asshole segment of a younger generation. That doesn't mean they're all bad. No generation has a monopoly on douchebags.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:55 PM on March 21, 2011

My employers, if they had the opportunity and the desire, would grind me up into protein mush and sell me to a catfood factory if they thought it would improve their bottom line.

I'm 27 and I'm not going to bust my ass for them or anyone like them. I'm okay with that.
posted by Avenger at 9:04 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm wondering how much people expect to "get ahead" in their respective fields of work or study versus how much commitment they make to it.

Hmm... you seem to assume that working harder means you move higher and faster up the ladder. Also, you're assuming that there still is a ladder. Hah! You really *are* old-school!

My guess is that, thanks to today's economy and dwindling career prospects, your younger colleagues' definitions of "hard work" and "success" are simply different from your own. Doesn't mean they're wrong, or slackers. If you believe they could benefit from what you've learned on your own career path, share with them and be a great role model. They're watching and will remember, even if they don't change their behavior immediately.

I'm a Gen Xer w/a husband, FT career, and 2 kids, and it drives me insane sometimes that my MIL still assumes my husband's career is primary and my own is secondary. We share kid duties, and we're both kind of stuck at our current jobs because our kids are small and we don't want to rock the boat (or work 60 hour weeks and travel). We're fine with that, we expected there would be tradeoffs, and we feel better about sharing that rather then having one of us completely drop a career. We still work hard and take pride in what we do, don't get me wrong - but it's not always about the long, relentless climb to the top.

Last but not least - I'm serious about the "there is no ladder" thing. When I entered my field, everyone was talking about how jobs would open up in 5-10 years as the generation ahead of us started retiring. That hasn't happened AT ALL (a down economy changes everything), and there are a lot of us floating around dressed up in degrees with nowhere to go.
posted by hms71 at 9:16 PM on March 21, 2011

This whole thread reminds me of this blog post I read a few weeks ago- an open letter from Gen Y yo the boomers and Gen X addressing these views of us.
ABC The Drum
posted by cholly at 10:18 PM on March 21, 2011

Yep, I see this all the time with the young med students and residents I work with. Much of this is attributable to the work ethic imparted by the local medical school as well as recently implemented work hour restrictions and I don't get how someone who is learning something as broad and complex as medicine can work fewer hours than someone like myself who has been in practice and getting ahead for a decade.

Then I think fuck it, I work way too hard as it is. A civilized compassionate successful society shouldn't operate based on some people's willingness to ignore their families and friends so they can work longer uncompensated hours doing something they don't enjoy. Your heart should be in it, and you shouldn't work one minute more than it stops being worth it to you. If we don't have enough doctors to pick up the slack, then we need to either train more or make the job worth the longer hours. More power to these kids, they can party on my lawn as long as they want.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:30 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

No what I see is kids these days want a premo salary right out of college. Dagnabit when I was out of college I made $19k with a MA and secondary degrees were rare (we're talking 16 years ago). Now, secondary degrees are a given and they all want to start out making $50k+, which honestly, I think is b.s.

Start out with $30k and like it.
posted by stormpooper at 6:59 AM on March 22, 2011

Relevant article in the NY Times: "The Frustrations of the Educated and Unemployed American."

"My generation was taught that all we needed to succeed was an education and hard work. Tell that to my friend from high school who studied Chinese and international relations at a top-tier college. He had the misfortune to graduate in the class of 2009, and could find paid work only as a lifeguard and a personal trainer. Unpaid internships at research institutes led to nothing. After more than a year he moved back in with his parents."

posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:41 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

coupdefoudre hit it on the head for me, actually:

"Also should be mentioned that we "youngs" are generally more technically adept. Just because it takes me 15 minutes to do a task that would take my boss 2 hours to do doesn't mean I'm not applying myself or not working hard, it's that I know how to use shortcuts, type fast, google/gchat/e-mail to find the correct answer instead of calling someone, etc. Luckily, my company completely subscribes to the "if it takes 6 hours to finish the task, we don't care if you mess around on Facebook for the other 2 hours" instead of the more old-school "busywork" model."

It could be noted that I'm not one of the "youngs" referenced, nor do I subscribe to the "kids these days" mentality. I'm in my mid 40s. I've simply learned these and various other work hacks from the internet at large and all the college students I've mentored and had as colleagues. I'm also lucky that while I do work at a rather large corporation, they value quality output much more than quantity of throughput. They do want my ass in the office between 8 and 4.30 simply because for the job I do, there needs to be a live human in place to deal with contingencies. However they don't consider it slacking if things are done competently and on time, and I noodle around on Wired, Lifehacker, MeFi or Reddit to fill up the blank space. Frankly I consider all the tech stuff I learn on these sites generally contributes to my continuing education. If it's liberally seasoned with lolcats, so be it.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:32 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a Gen-X er managing a boomer and a millenial. Both work hard, step up to the plate when there's a crunch, and we all joke around when we have a bit of downtime. The difference between them is the boomer knows her job and doesn't want it to change, ever (she hates change), whereas the millenial is at the beginning of her career and is basically a sponge.

I remember having the same mindset as her when I first started working. So, while I work to ensure that my boomer's worklife doesn't change, I encourage my millenial to tell me where she's interested in learning skills or knowledge, and we work together to come up with creative solutions that will keep her engaged at work.

One is not better than the other. They're just different, because they're at different stages in their careers and their lives.
posted by LN at 2:13 PM on March 22, 2011

I have similar experiences to LN - I manage a (much larger) team that spans across early Baby Boomers to Gen Y (I'm a very late Baby Boomer myself) and, while they often need to be treated differently, the younger members of the team are by no means less productive or less hard-working. The biggest difference I see is that older workers are more prepared to just do what they are told because they were brought up to do what the boss tells them to without question, where younger people want to know why they are doing it. To be honest, my perception is that the younger members of the team are more productive in real terms, because they are more willing to put thought into a task and find the most effective way of doing it rather than continuing to do things the same old way.

I hear complaints about how X was looking at Facebook or texting when they 'should' have been working but, invariably, X is someone who doesn't take a full hour for lunch, doesn't walk out the door at exactly 5.00 pm or arrive at exactly 9.00 am and is prepared to step up to the plate when the shit hits the fan without complaint. The same people who complain that certain team members are 'slacking off' during work time are those who take twice as long to do tasks because they aren't prepared to put any thought into working effectively. They are also the same people who are bitter about younger people being promoted over them and who can't understand that you no longer get promoted (even in the public sector) just because of seniority. If you want to get promoted here, you have to earn it honestly. The cry that 'I've put in my time, I deserved that position' isn't one that carries any weight around here and, if it did, would very quickly lead to a revolt that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

Working with younger people has the benefit of forcing me to justify why we should do things a certain way (or why we should do them at all), which is a positive in my mind because, if I can't justify it to someone else, how can I justify it to myself? As a manager, the last thing I want is a group of people who just do what they're told and my staff all know that they are free to challenge decisions (by offering constructive alternatives). They also know that there are times when 'just do it' will be my response and that there are good reasons for that which I can't explain to them, although this is very rare.
posted by dg at 3:05 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

I work in a not-for-profit field that depends heavily on interns and students . . .

From the NYTimes:
Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.
You say you don't have many people working for free at your office, but you do have some. To the extent you believe they aren't working hard enough for low or no pay, consider the extent to which the very request they work for low or no pay is exploitative or illegal.

Somebody has a sense of entitlement, but I don't think it's the unpaid interns your industry depends upon.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:48 PM on March 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

On reflection, the quotation was a reference to unpaid internships at for-profit companies, and may or may not be applicable to your non-profit. Nevertheless, the point about complaining about the people you don't pay (or pay very little) to work for you having a sense of entitlement stands.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:56 PM on March 23, 2011

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