An Entitled Generation Hits the Workforce
By Jamie Spruyt
July 1, 2009
Despite younger workers earning significantly less than the seasoned professionals in the business place, they are more likely to be canned during lay-offs. On May 19, the Wall Street Journal reported that the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 25 and 34 was 9.6 percent in April 2009. Workers over the age of 55 experienced an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent. While there are several factors driving the disparity, one glaring issue is our “entitlement mindset.”
The entitlement mindset is a cocktail comprised of one part materialism, one part media depiction mixed thoroughly with three parts pride. The mindset is contrary to biblical teachings, harmful to our careers and leads to higher dissatisfaction and stress in the workplace. Northwestern Mutual’s report in partnership with HarrisInteractive, “Millennium Generation Studies,” describes this generation as eager but anxious. The anxiousness was found to be a derivative of growing up quickly, political pessimism, dissatisfaction with American leadership, and grappling with our own beliefs and values.
Some of the attributes of the entitlement mindset are quite positive: higher self-esteem, the ability to openly speak our minds, and willingness to take on risks and start new ventures. These attributes can still be exhibited, but, as Christ-followers, we must strive to avoid the negative aspects of entitlement.
In Matthew 25, Jesus shares the parable of the talents. It is a depiction of how a good employee achieves success. While the parable is directly speaking to how we should use the gifts and resources God has given us for spiritual things, it is equally as applicable to our business lives.The parable tells of a master that leaves town and entrusts his resources to three of his servants. The first two servants take the resources and double them. The third servant is fearful of failing and just holds on to the resources to ensure that he has them when the master returns. Upon the master’s return, the first two servants are entrusted with more resources and praised, while the third is scolded and sent away.
There are several lessons that can be learned from this passage. First, don’t expect to be rewarded until you have proven yourself over time and through strong performance. The expectation of rewards in the form of raises, autonomy, bonuses and praise should follow the proof of performance, not precede it. Many times we expect that because we graduated from good schools, are savvy networkers and have the ability to multi-task, we are owed something before we show how great we are.
The second lesson learned is that we need to be good stewards of the resources we are entrusted with, regardless of the scope or scale. Whether we are entrusted with company cars, credit cards, client lists, relationships, intellectual property or simply our time on the clock, we are called to be good stewards. Being faithful in small things leads to bigger and better responsibilities (and eventually beefier paychecks).
Lastly, we learn that our responsibility is to make our boss successful. Even if your boss is a jerk (see Luke 19), your time is his or her resource. If we make sure our bosses are successful, they will help us be successful as well. While this sounds easy, it can truly be an exercise in humility. The line is thin between self-confidence and pride. We as young professionals like to show how great we are. Humility is a rare commodity in business.
While there are three glaring issues that we can learn, there is an underlying lesson in the passage in which we are generally excelling. Our generation is characteristically well-equipped to take a risk. The rebuke in the passage was reserved for the servant that lazily hid away his meager talent. We are expected to step up, but to do so in a respectful and humble way.