One of the biggest concerns I hear from executives in several different organizations is a perceived lack of commitment and an inflated sense of entitlement on the part of their younger employees. The older generation sees the younger generation as coddled, lazy, and socially inept, while the younger generation sees their predecessors as old fashioned, out of touch, and technologically inept. Although there is some factual basis in these perceptions, the over-generalization has become an easy way for both sides to dismiss the other as irrelevant. If we consider the following we begin to see that the problem is contextual rather than generational.
Waning confidence in the current and future job market
American society at large is accepting the reality that “jobs,” as we have known them, are not returning. We are in a state of overshoot and collapse, and our modern market mentality cannot work without unlimited resources or potential for growth and opportunity. Despite various reports stating that the economy is growing and we are not at risk of another recession, the vast majority of citizens remain skeptical.
The “great society” myth exposed
The job market as we know it continues to decline as inflated prices, over-valued commodities, and cost-of-living are colliding with the reality of limited resources and limited growth. Markets are based on consumer confidence. If there is a collapse in confidence, then all institutions, beliefs, and models created by this great myth will also collapse.
Dwindling confidence in the value of traditional education
Over 80% of college graduates are returning home unable to find work. However, college tuition continues to increase. We are seeing the framework of an institutional premise with little to no future relevance if it remains in its current state.
Rising skepticism among the younger generation
The 2008 economic collapse accelerated the shift from a quantity value to a quality value as Gen Y watched their parent’s retirement investment accounts diminish after a lifetime of hard work and dedication to the “American Dream.” As a result, many young people refuse to subscribe to the historical constructs that have defined success, happiness, and quality of life.
Job competition is global
The global competitive market has been alive and well since the late twentieth century and, for the most part, concerned only large import and export businesses. The events of 9/11 and the policies that followed accelerated global interdependence for security as well as market stability. This new reality affects every institution, as business, government, and education must realign itself in order to remain relevant to a larger playing field.
Four Key Principles
The world we live in requires us to drastically rethink our strategy for navigating a volatile and uncertain future. The best strategy will most certainly require the cooperation of both generations, aligning the experience and wisdom of the older with the innovation and ingenuity of the younger. In order to do so, we must remember that:
  1. The challenges we face are “our” challenges not “their” challenges.
  2. Failure is in the system rather than each other.
  3. “Old school” models and solutions are insufficient for solving “new school” challenges.
  4. “New school” resilience requires “old school” experience.


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