The Platt’s Perspective – Coddle And Kowtow to the Next Generation? No How!

Mike & Kelly Platt

Mike & Kelly Platt

Let us start by saying that we are big believers in understanding generational differences. We buy into much of what we’ve been hearing for years about the unique nature and characteristics of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976) and Generation Y (also known as The Millennials, born between 1976 and 1998). But we’ve got something to say that has been building up for a while. “Enough is ENOUGH!”

We’ve heard consultant after consultant tell audiences what the next generation and Millennials will demand in the work force of tomorrow. We’ve heard firm after firm describe how they are reconfiguring themselves to fit into the preferences of today’s younger staff. Whether we care to admit it or not, our generation (Baby Boomers/Generation Xers) created and is directly responsible for the actions and worldviews of the “entitlement” generation. In schools today, everyone is a winner. Decades of excess has yielded a generation that doesn’t know how (or why) to work hard to get something. The “you-can-have-whatever-you-want” encouragement, coupled with the aggressive actions of “helicopter” parents who micromanage the lives of their teens, has led to many Millennials not knowing what they want or how to find out without trying a little bit of everything throughout their (many) career(s).

Now, before you start labeling us as curmudgeons and old coots, you must admit there is some truth to what we’re saying. No one is looking over your shoulder right now so you can be honest with yourself. It’s not a truth that we speak about in public because it is not politically correct and would offend. But let’s take responsibility as the generation that created the Millennials and stiffen our resolve to mentor, not coddle; to guide, not enable; to lead, not to protect. Let’s give them the credit they deserve.

The recession is a scary place for everyone in the workplace, but especially for the younger generation that has never experienced an environment of adversity. There were always many options for this generation to consider – and frankly none was terribly painful. Our generation has bent over backward to create a world for our kids where there is no harm, no hurt, no pain and no sacrifice. But now the younger generation has to learn some hard truths and make some difficult choices. Unfortunately, “going without” and sacrificing for a better tomorrow is a new concept for many of our younger staff.

As consultant Sam Allred says, “Thank goodness for recessions – they don’t come often enough.” Maybe now we can see that in our quest to create a pain-free world for our kids we shortchanged them on many of the life lessons we all had to learn the hard way. Maybe now we can employ some of the much-needed tough love to equip this generation with the tools they need to succeed. Maybe, instead of rebuilding our organization out of fear that they won’t choose our firm as their preferred place of employment, we get back to the basics of professional service businesses – superior service, strong client relationships, pride in our work, technical superiority and making a difference in the communities in which we live.

We have a faith in the quality of the generation that is coming into the workplace today and its capacity to make a difference. But we worry that we are handing over our responsibilities to guide them to a brighter future by simply giving them what they want – without the hard work, sacrifice and satisfaction that goes along with a job well done.

Mike and Kelly Platt