Generations X and Y were taught to believe they could get whatever they want. Gen X, growing up before the Internet, interpreted that lesson as putting your head down and getting to work. An overlooked and forgotten generation, Gen Xers didn’t really rebel against anything or stand for much in their youth. Sure there was the Cold War, but it was the nicer, gentler version of the Cold War that existed in the 1960s and 1970s. Gen Xers didn’t grow up practicing drills at school in case of nuclear attack. Growing up in the 1980s was a good life. The 1990s and the new millennium saw even more boom years. Dot-com. E-commerce. E-mail. E-dating. Free overnight shipping. No waiting. Get it now!
Generation Y is said to have a sense of entitlement. Many employers complain of the demands their entry-level employees often make. But I, as one observer, do not believe it is a sense of entitlement. This generation wants to work hard and is willing to work hard. What we perceive as entitlement is, in fact, impatience. An impatience driven by two things: First is a gross misunderstanding that things like success, money or happiness come instantly. Even though our messages and books arrive the same day we want them, our careers and fulfillment do not.
The second element is more unsettling. It is a result of a horrible short circuit to their internal reward systems. These Gen Yers have grown up in a world in which huge scale is normal, money is valued over service and technology is used to manage relationships. The economic systems in which they have grown up, ones that prioritize numbers over people, are blindly accepted, as if that’s the way it has always been. If steps are not taken to overcome or mitigate the quantity of abstractions in their lives, in time they may be the biggest losers of their parents’ excess. And while Gen Yers may be more affected by this short-circuiting because they grew up only in this world, the fact is that none of us are immune.