Healthy Beginnings

Working Rudely

Over the years, with the onset of 20 and 30 something’s joining the workforce, workplace behavior has shifted. The overall attitude and general conduct of business rarely seems to be team or community-oriented. Unfortunately, the current buzz word “entitlement” has a great deal to do with this movement.

Entitlement, which is defined as “a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract,” goes beyond its generic meaning. It all started with good intention…Baby boomers were raised by parents who witnessed the great depression. Their parents wanted better for their offspring and brought them up with this belief. As the baby boomersraised their children with a similar ideology, they often gave their children more, even if they did not deserve it, or already had “enough” to lead a happy and healthy life. The children of the 80’s and 90’s also believed that they too should find more success than their parents.

The difference: work ethic. When baby boomers were children, their parents often struggled to give them a good home life; and with mom at home that meant long hours and overtime for dad. After the baby boomers grew up, cost of living exploded, technology shifted and the feminine movement created an entirely different view on the family structure. With this in mind, the hard working and responsible baby boomers voraciously joined the workforce with a deeply rooted need to succeed and offer their children even “more” than what they had.

The children of baby boomers (gen X and Y) grew up in dual income homes, where a lot of them fended for themselves after school, leaving a residual “latchkey syndrome” on their psyche. They were given responsibility at a younger age. They were given choices and decisions that their parents never had to make because their moms were generally home to take care of them, and keep them out of trouble.

Even though this model seemed to offer “growth” opportunities for gen X and Y children, it could have actually stunted parts of their character that zone in on work. The responsibility that was passed on had to do with care-giving, not necessarily “work.” They had to be alone, more often. They had to make meals and snacks, and watch their kid brother or sister until mom and dad were home from work. Given the choice, quick meals were the easiest. Given the choice, just making sure your sibling was alive seemed to be good enough in terms of baby-sitting. And, going outside was great and still safe back then, but MTV and the new video game console were frequently beckoning their attention.

Kids will often choose the easier route if left to make a decision on their own. Even if the baby boomer parents left behind chore lists, to-do’s lists, T.V. time instructions and a “make sure to play with your brother” note, this generation seemed to find a way to work around those silly details. They also knew their parents were pretty much exhausted, all the time. So, they could generally get out of things by creatively pleading and making I.O.U’s regarding chores and such. And then, somewhere down the line, those promises would get forgotten by their over-worked and over-tired parents; resulting in gen X and Y’s amazing talent of bull-shitting.

Not only were they good at BS’ing, they were also operating from a false sense of security, a kind of “me centric” psychological mode. When their parents let them walk home from school, get into the house with their own key and be the king or queen of the castle until the real ones got home, it fed into the child’s ego. It led kids to believe, “I could do this by myself,” or “I am totally grown up.”

Fueled with that kind of mentality, a knack for getting their way, a heck of a lot of stuff handed to them by their well-meaning parents and a cultural shift in consumerism, these kids were destined to feel a little entitled.

So, what does that have to do with working rudely? Everything. Not only do gen X and Y employees work from a very self-centered point of view, the older folks around them end up joining in. They either feel defeated, as they try to work from standards and ethics that have long been gone, or they let go of their better judgment and adjust to the new status quo. In either case, it seems the older generations find themselves lost in translation and wind up acting grumpy and resentful toward their younger counterparts.

Now, with this combination of gen X and Y “me” focused employees, working alongside their disgruntled elders, most of the workforce uses ego to drive their work habits. It emanates from all generations, as they vie for the next proverbial rung on the ladder. It is a self serving way of doing business. It is also emotionally motivated, as our ego stems from the emotional view of our self.

Ego pushes us to compete. It calls us to make decisions that do not always effectively serve the team or community. It does not do well with compromise. In fact, ego strives for self satisfaction, not that of the greater good. And when our ego is running off of entitlement steam…it works quite rudely.