We used to hear our elders say this, referring to us. And now we hear ourselves saying the same thing about the generation next to ours.
Are we growing old, or are they really all that different?
It’s a common line among us GenXers, for instance, to characterize ourselves as humble, uncomplaining and diligent. If our parents told us to do something, we did it. They scolded us, we took it all in. We finished school so we could work and earn money, and we saved for the rainy days.
If we land a job, we are thankful. We do our best because we are lucky we have jobs to begin with. It’s a bonus if it’s a job you find meaningful, your boss is someone you can respect and your colleagues are awesome. If you happen upon your dream job, you stay on it for years, even decades, until you retire.
I have heard many conversations about the new generation of workers displaying a patently different attitude from the one their elders had. One government agency, for instance, which has been found to have a shortage of employees given the sheer volume of work it is mandated to do, now finds itself at crossroads when it comes to boosting its manpower.
Back in the day, as an elite agency, it admitted only professionals with a decent Board exam rating. But that batch of the cream of the crop, so to speak, has aged out and are now reaching retirement age—by the bulk. Meanwhile, the demands of the job are as daunting as ever, given the focus on transparency and good governance. How, then, can the agency find young people who are passionate about serving the country, often for less competitive compensation, and who are willing to stay put, in good times and bad?
Another company characterized today’s batch of manpower similarly. Younger workers, it said, are restless and always on the lookout for better opportunities. They tend to ask “what’s in it for me?” rather than what they can contribute to the whole. And if they find just the slightest reason to be dissatisfied, they leave, believing they will be able to explore more, and better, opportunities for themselves.
Even younger kids display the same kind of entitled attitude. When we were younger, we took what was given to us and made do with what we had. Today, the latest gadgets seem to be a measure of self-worth, and only the really well-brought up ones are able to separate their possessions—or the number of their friends, or the number of likes their recent selfies generate—from the source of their self-esteem.
A Time magazine cover once depicted this generation as narcissists —it was all about “me, me, me.” We make it sound like feeling entitled is such a bad thing. Is it, really?
* * *
First, there is no use fighting the wave. Of course, the younger set are different. It’s called evolution. Believe it or not, these emerging trends and patterns are unstoppable. Resistance to change and pining for how things were in the past are not going to do us any good.
A sense of entitlement is not altogether bad. We can be comforted that the younger generation will not take silly talk from anyone, and will not allow themselves to be taken advantage of. Is this not a welcome development from the lessons in sacrifice and (sometimes, faux) humility we were bombarded with as kids?
It is not necessarily being rude or arrogant. Members of the so-called “selfie” generation just think highly of themselves. This does not have to mean they think less of others. Great things, after all, are accomplished by people who are actually convinced they can do it.
As parents and elders, it is not for us to choose whether to suffer or to tolerate these entitled kids. It is our role to guide them when they step out of bounds. In the natural progression of things, our offspring are supposed to be better than us, more capable than us, more competitive than we ever were. Aren’t we happy they are putting themselves out there, getting to know what works and what does not for them, and deciding for themselves?
Is it not a good thing that they use critical thinking instead of just saying “yes” to everything they are told? Do we really want our kids to be yes men and women? I wouldn’t!
This is a generation that’s bound to achieve great things. Let’s temper the entitlement, trim its excesses, and channel it so that it benefits a cause bigger than any one of us.