A Generation Gap – Entitlement vs. Empowerment

I was talking to a female executive who has been working in finance for 30 years. She was outraged.

“This young whippersnapper comes right out of a good school, not a great school, mind you, and we are interested in hiring her for a pretty great entry-level position. When we were going over the terms, she says, ‘I have to leave a little early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to go to yoga.’ I almost fell off my chair! When I was starting out I worked for 14 hours a day. I would leave to go get dinner and come back to the office. That’s how I made it. And now . . . kids are coming into their first jobs — which, mind you, there aren’t that many of— and they want to leave early go to yoga??? I just don’t understand.”

When there is a generation gap like the one we are facing today between Boomers and Millennials, things can seem a bit unfathomable. From the story above, it is so clear how our cultural priorities have shifted. Hard work is, of course, still respected and rewarded, but an emphasis on self-care, adventure and personal development lives alongside the desire for success and making money. Since corporate culture is ever-evolving, many of today’s companies would value leaving early for yoga or exercise and include it in a job package.

In addition, Millenials can be very proactive about self-care and skilled at asking for what they want. This is a good thing.

However, in the financial executive’s rant there is more to be explored than a personal issue regarding a shift in corporate culture, and the values and priorities within a generation gap. The question that lurks within the conflict is:

Empowered behavior comes from the desire to live in accordance with one’s values, AND includes an awareness of the environment.

Entitled behavior demands something simply because one believes it should be so.

I was talking to a man who started dating. He was irritated because when he took his date to the restaurant, she said, “I can’t eat here. It’s not vegan.” He didn’t mind her food preferences and thought there would be some options for her at the place he chose. But her declaration had a tone of entitlement. He claims he would have felt more open if she took him into account, by saying, “I prefer to eat in a restaurant that serves mostly vegan food. Is that possible?”

A woman recently stated, “A man should pay for me on a date,” as if that’s the way it should be. Entitled. A more empowered stance might be, “I really enjoy being taken out on dates, it makes me feel cherished.”

At work and in love, we are empowered when we have the attitude: I will give my best because I that is how I stay connected —to myself, first and foremost, and then to others. We are entitled when we believe: I deserve the best because I’m special.

And so, I wonder. If the young woman had said “I have a yoga class that helps me stay balanced and focused that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I know it would keep me on track at work. Would it be okay if I came in and left early on those days?” do you think she would have gotten the same reaction from the exec? Do you think she was hired? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 responses to “A Generation Gap – Entitlement vs. Empowerment”

  1. Jon Mertz says:

    Blair,

    I believe you outlined this situation in a very thoughtful, engaging way. Context is always helpful, as you point out in how this Millennial could have framed the request.

    To add into the context angle, back in the 1950s and earlier, I believe most people left their workplace at 5:00 pm every day to spend time with family and other activities. With Millennials, the desire to do more than just work may reflect a return to the “Golden Age.” In some ways, this shift could be a wake-up call to Boomers and GenXers to be more aware of where they spend their time and how they live out their higher calling.

    For older generations, we need to exercise empathy, asking questions to gain a deeper understanding into the “why” of the requests. For Millennials, framing their preferences in a more relevant way will be a skill to develop and use.

    Again, love the way you outlined this. Well done!

    Jon

    • Blair Glaser says:

      You make such great points here, Jon.
      In a way we are harkening back to older values as we move forward.
      Thanks for stopping by and for your wisdom.
      Blair

  2. Rita Harris says:

    My immediate thot was, “No. HELL no!” Then I read further. I probably would’ve asked her this instead – “If you want to leave early on Tues & Thursdays, which days do you intend we schedule you to arrive earlier, or which evenings will you be staying later? Would Fridays work for you as it does for me?”

    I think we have raised a whooooole lotta ill-mannered young people and we have only the 40-60 yr old population to thank. I come from an entrepreneurial, hardworking family who came to America from Europe after WWII. It would simply never have OCCURRED to me to be this brassy. I think my mother would smacked me hard had I tried to pull this stunt at home, let alone in a job interview.

    Nope. Second thot, the kid doesn’t get the job. I’ll hire an “old” person because I know what I’ll be getting. By the time I retire, they will be too. At least in the meantime, I’ll have a steady workforce who doesn’t Tweet, need yoga, days off for mental health days or the like.

    Stand up America. And pull up your damn pants…. (wink)

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Rita,
      I love your passion!
      Clearly you are not alone in your thoughts!
      Thanks so much for bringing your experience and perspective.
      Blair

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