Generation Cry: Why I Can (Kinda-Sorta) Defend Gen Y

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gen y narcissistsIs my generation—Gen Y—insanely entitled as the Time cover story seen round the world argues—or hopelessly misunderstood? A little bit of both, if you ask me.

The world has sold us a bill of goods from the time we were placed in the arms of our loving helicopter parents, and now we’re all a little disappointed that we are no longer getting awards and trophies just for showing up.

We’re also sure our path to greatness is one blog entry, tweet, or LinkedIn connection away, and it won’t come from climbing the corporate ladder, and certainly not fetching coffee. (Woe to those Baby Boomers who want to teach us otherwise.)

Born in 1984, I, too, am a brand ’guru’ and shameless self-promoter who, upon being given this assignment, promptly asked my editor if her web developer would please embed my Google authorship code.

I once stunned a recruiter years back by suggesting she pay me $6,000 a month for an internship position when I was fresh out of college. (Oops.)

I ”microblog.” I do check my Twitter follower count daily. I have a Facebook business page. But I explain to anyone who listens to that I legitimately do such things for others, not just myself, and that’s where a lot of the misunderstanding comes in. Allow me to explain. (And while I do, please do follow me on Twitter.)

gen y narcissism

Andrew B. Myers for TIME

Defining Narcissism

A few months back, I finished Jean Twenge’s  “The Narcissism Epidemic,” a myth-busting tome by the clinical psychologist whose main area of clinical research has been the me-me-me-ism of narcissism.

Twenge explains that narcissism at its core is not the mere asking for things or even belief in oneself, but that it is over self-entitlement and an ingrained belief that you’re superior to others.

Most people afflicted with narcissism, she says, are the ones whose entitlement goes too far and who are never actually going to be aware of this, since they’ll simply justify their actions.

So is there an ‘epidemic’ among my kind?

The Problem With Gen Y

The problem—as this 29-year-old sees it—is that too many of my fellow millennials were taught that they should not be afraid to speak up and ask for things (and, yes, that they can accomplish anything since they’re so damn smart). Now they’re taking that premise and running with it, public opinion be damned.

So let’s focus squarely on careers, which, let’s be honest, seem to be the biggest source of pain with Gen-Y for everyone. I mean, no one seems to mind our behavior at the local multiplex, but a common lament I hear amongst Gen X and Baby Boomer professionals alike is that of Gen Y’s haughty attitude in the workplace.

Envision this scenario: The average 25-year-old sauntering into an interview late, underdressed, cell phone in hand, and then not even thanking the prospective employer for the interview itself, at a company she didn’t bother to research before showing up.

So whom do we fault for this crappy behavior?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/enovia.bedford Enovia Bedford

    Love this, it speaks volumes. I know those described above and I also know the exact opposite.Albeit our generation (I am also 29) is an amazing generation to be a part of. We understand the world, environment, challenges and problem solve in completely new ways. There is so much to take advantage of, especially as a start up, I’m proud to be part of the what I like to call Generation Make a Difference.

    • http://twitter.com/BradHines Brad Hines

      I like the positive spin on it. That’s what I wish I got into more in the piece, is the “let’s not let the bad apples spoil the bunch”

      • http://www.facebook.com/enovia.bedford Enovia Bedford

        Exactly. What was failed to mention is that when that 25 year old rolls up to the interview phone in hand (which holds their resume and million dollar app they have probably created), most likely they are interviewing at 1. a co working space with a start up, 2. someones tiny NYC apartment with a dog running around or 3. If it’s a tech start up (since we know they get all the funds) a dope office space with be bean bag chairs.

        • http://twitter.com/BradHines Brad Hines

          Well on the other hand. That is the downside to entitlement. Having made X amount of dollars, for anyone, doesn’t entitle someone to be rude, which having your phone out in an interview is :/

  • crucial_bbq

    As a Gen Xer, I am tired of hearing about Gen Y and social media. My generation built social media, amongst other Internet activities, up to where they are today and we remain very active with it, too. Get over your sense of entilement; We did all of this before you.

    • http://twitter.com/BradHines Brad Hines

      I recall around my pre-teen years, almost wishing I were Gen-X because I wanted to be involved in all that was going on with the Internet. I for one do tip my hat to the X’ers who trail blazed. Which isn’t to say there haven’t been countless Y doing the same now. I do suppose we stood on your shoulders :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/enovia.bedford Enovia Bedford

      Absolutely, you built it, we continue. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? The previous generations lend to the next? Gen X is considered started around 1961 until 1981, I just miss it by a few years. I consider the 70′s and 80′s babies in a different class by themselves. Growing up in the 60′s as my mother did, communication with parents, each other, anyone for that matter was completely different. I think we are all fortunate now with any contributions that any generation made to this world. A lot of people have sense of entitlement for different reasons and different things, so classifying a sense of entitlement to a whole generation, the only way I can put it is pretty wack.

  • http://www.perezfox.com Prescott Perez-Fox

    Any Baby Boomer who criticizes our generation needs to take a good look in the mirror. Remember when you were the flower-children of the hippy revolution? Remember when you entire high schools and universities were built to accommodate your swelling numbers? Remember when the 401(k) was invented because you didn’t have a better plan for retirement? Remember how selfish you were, and continue to be? Maybe turn on the tv and see how many ads there are for boner pills. How many life insurance scams are aimed at your hard-earn nest eggs, and how many McMansions now dot the landscapes of suburbia because you had to own your own home!

    Our generation grew up during recessions. 2001, 2004, 2008, and who knows what’s next. We have more in common with our grandparents, born and raised during the Great Depression and fighting WWII. We understand thrift, repair culture, quality of goods, low-tech skills like sewing and home repair, and the enjoyment of a good cup of coffee. Yes, we also rock twitter and smartphones and that.

    Everything we are, it’s because we have been created. Blame yourselves, parents, we just got here.

    • JenInBoston

      Well, that was a “youthful” response. It IS actually possible that a Boomer could criticize your generation for something or other and…have a valid point. You guys aren’t perfect saints, and you haven’t saved the world (yet!) any more than any other recent generation has. Also, you seem to have conflated Baby Boomers (is 2-3 generations older than you, grew up during post-WWII boom and became the “me” generation of Wall Street yuppie fame) with Gen-X. Gen-X is one generation older than you. They are the children of Boomers less often than they are the children of War Babies. They grew up in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, under stagflation and Reaganomics. Their dads were Vietnam Vets, their grandparents were WWII vets, and they themselves enlisted heavily in the military during Gulf War I and after 9/11. They are the first generation of Americans to have a lower standard of living than their parents and they face a lifetime of paying into Social Security with a minimal promise of a payout). They’re not the same generation as Boomers. Gen-X is not a selfish generation. They put in a lot more than they took out, and now they’ve got their noses to the grindstone figuring out how the heck they’re going to finance their kids’ college educations and their own retirements. They have largely enjoyed watching your generation grow up in the first post-industrial era, and they appreciate the incredible technical advances that unfolded and changed ordinary living during the course of their own lives. Gen-X is inheriting a heavy load from the Boomers, and are pretty much trying to shoulder it without a ton of complaining. =)

    • brad hart

      Whatever, every generation has had obstacles to overcome. Quit blaming boomers, and just get over it..my God the ranting and hate.Why can’t we all get along and work together to try and make this place we call earth a better place.

    • August

      This post is too absurd to be a legitimate perspective and, as such, does not warrant a legitimate response. To address it as a piece of
      trolling however…

      Trite.

      Unimaginative.

      Lacking in substance and appeal.

      The troll takes the expected position of an entitled, ignorant child who can only blame their parents and the world for an unanticipated lack of fame, fortune, and panty-dropping good looks. Boring. We’ve heard it all before.

      But…

      The line about the grandparents, Great
      Depression, and WWII? Hilarious and completely unexpected. It is the only shining star in a post that would otherwise barely rank above spam.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielVahab Daniel Vahab

    Brad, that’s a Gen-Y rant! And I’d say a little narcissism combined altruism is healthy. And crazy to think what our grandparents, during the Recession, had to go through for us to even complain about a little mundane work.

    • http://twitter.com/BradHines Brad Hines

      I thought so too about a little narcissism’ until I learned (in Twenge’s book anyway) that by definition narcissism of any kind is bad, not to parse words, but I like to put it as, a little self-confidence/self-promotion is good, but some of the stuff I see our peers do Dan, terrible. Things I doubt either of us would do. But I got exactly what you mean otherwise. I would hate for people to go in the other direction, and fail to ask for things that they actually DO deserve for fear of seeming too demanding.

      • JenInBoston

        Brad, lol, you probably had no intention at all of saying such a guy-centric thing. =) We ladies kind of *exist* in avoidance of seeming demanding (let alone “too” demanding). That’s something I would LOVE to see Gen-Y change!

  • James Peterson

    a brilliant article written by a brilliant man

  • Virginia Hines

    Great Job Brad – Nice Article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=424714 Alston Ho

    The digital revolution has brought on a new culture of instant-gratification. GenY-ers seeking jobs seek instant rewards (like $6k/mo during an internship!), and companies seek hires that instantly bring value to the bottom line without the training that GenY-ers need.

    Companies are building intranets that resemble Facebook and have Twitter-style activity feeds for posting status updates about work and projects. These systems have instant gratification “like” and even ♥s that managers and coworkers can give (and ultimately are counted at bonus time).

    I call this generation ADHD.

    • http://twitter.com/BradHines Brad Hines

      That is a great comment. Your intranet example you speak of sounds like “gamification’ to me, but I had no idea it was trickling into companies like that. Interesting to see how that pans out…

      • JenInBoston

        I worked in a large company that was encouraging adoption of Yammer (internal social network, as described by Alston, above). Immense time-suck, IMO, but that’s just my take on it.

  • http://twitter.com/SouthShoreVend South Shore Vending

    haha @ Snooki

  • CrankyFranky

    recently I shared holiday accomodation with a couple of young guys who seemed to spend all day on the couch staring at their laptops – I figured they were freeloading loafers

    until I asked them what they were doing – and they said they were working on their internet business – which was growing well and already had 500 customers around the world for their monthly delivery service

    so – OK – what looks to me like small-screen addiction may actually be running a business.

  • aclinkman

    I’m always divided when a coworker or client mentions that we’re part of the microwave generation – we want things done quickly and painlessly. We owe it to the baby boomers that we can be that way (in a good way). We didn’t need to walk both ways up hill to school and we have tools at our disposal that were completely futuristic to our parents generation.

    While we don’t appreciate everything we have, I think we’re also more likely to not accept a dead-end job merely because it’s there. We see the Mark Zuckerbergs and David Karps, not as just celebrities, but as career possibilities. That desire to succeed is worth its weight in gold.

    Great article, Brad.

    • http://twitter.com/BradHines Brad Hines

      Very nice thoughts, much agreed-there is both arguments to say about the generalization of Y’s behaviours.

  • chumpmaster

    How about all you F****** boomers, give us our next generation jobs? Late Gen X/Gen Y those born from 1980 onward get to get F***** in the A** for all this country’s problems. Where the F*** are all the good jobs in this country? Instead were the LEFT BEHIND Generation, who are stuck with burdened debt loads, live in their boomer parents basements, and throw cheap keg parties and get high just to deal with the oncoming train wreck this country is about to destroy us with. Who’s going fund our future jobs, our education and our F****** RETIREMENT??? Does anyone ever think about how much sh** their kids have to go through for a future that may be out of reach?? Go smoke a joint, and think about that for a while… chumps, and while your at it you can play your damn hippy guitar, and sing kumboyah around your f****** campfire.