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Tuesday, February 22, 2005


What's Up With The Kids These Days?

Don Blohowiak at Leadership Now has a post today called Coddlers. He writes about how twentysomethings just entering the workplace are not truly ready for its demands. He calls it the generation influenced by the evil twins called Needy and Fragility:
The managers lament goes something like this: These kids don’t want to take responsibility. They don’t want to do anything that’s hard. They want positive stroking for the littlest accomplishment, and literally cry at the slightest hint of criticism.
While I take sharp offense by the tone of the post (guess I'm having lunch with Fragility), I can't help but think that there is some truth to his message. I've had this article form MSNBC bookmarked for a couple of weeks and it seems to support at least part of Don's argument: Prep your child to become an adult. It has an extended excerpt from the book Ready or Not, Here Life Comes by Dr. Mel Levine. He argues:
We are in the midst of an epidemic of work-life unreadiness because an alarming number of emerging adults are unable to find a good fit between their minds and their career directions. Like seabirds mired in an oil spill, these fledgling men and women are stuck, unable to take flight toward a suitable career. Some are crippled before they have a chance to beat their wings; others have tumbled downward in the early stages of their trajectories. Because they are not finding their way, they may feel as if they are going nowhere and have nowhere to go.
So Don's probably right, there is something going on. But rather than instantly assuming the parental (or perhaps more appropriate paternal) role that traditional managers seem to hold fast to, today's managers must first understand and attempt to empathize with what's going on with their younger employees. Consider this from perspective from Mel Levine:
There are dramatic differences between the unwritten rules for growing up and those governing careers. For one thing, a child is encouraged to be well-rounded, while adults are permitted (even required) to commit to specialties. So long as grown-ups are effective within their chosen niches, the world will overlook or even fail to notice their gaping flaws elsewhere...

A sizable hunk of a child's success is measured by her ability to comply, to learn what she is expected to learn, and to do what she's told to do. An adult must be able to chart her own road maps. The odyssey leading into adulthood can be a lonely and harsh voyage, especially if a startup adult is naive and uninformed, if he's never learned to be a mapmaker.
Mel Levine's book is intended more for parents and those who care for our children than it is for managers. As a parent and a coach who works with emerging professionals and leaders, I understand the deeper issues of what's taking place right now. I also see where we need to refocus our work as parents. If our children are not ready for adulthood, that's our failing and no one else's. One of the chief responsibilities we have as parents is preparing our children for what comes after being a kid. We need to look for opportunities in which they can experience the fact that being an adult can be challenging, arduous, lonely as well as fulfilling, exciting, and fun. That way, when they encounter managers who complain about "kids these days," they might be able to smile and say, "Yeah, tell me about it..."

Categories: c.Career; c.Leadership; c.Management; c.Parenting

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