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The Younger Generations and why we’re (not) Doomed

NOTE: Originally posted by Chief Steve Allender of the Rapid City, SD Police Department.


The younger generation – the 20-somethings have invaded our workplaces.  You’ve seen them, maybe interviewed them for jobs, hired them and maybe you’ve even seen them quit the place you work already.  By my generation’s standards they are flighty, they have a poor work ethic, they are short-term thinkers and they are too inexperienced to have the opinions they have about life and work and anything else for that matter.  They’re so…….young!

This problem of young workers is only compounded by the managers and supervisors in our workplaces, who are much of the time, older.  We don’t get it.  Why can’t they be happy with the wage and benefits?  Why can’t they just work and not worry so much about vacation time or insurance…after all, I made $1.90 per hour at my first job so today’s jobs are much better!

Here’s the deal – There’s a reason young workers seem different: They are different.  There’s a reason we don’t understand how they think too: because they are free thinkers.  They have hopes and dreams, goals and other things that motivate them that are sometimes very different from the things we are accustomed to.  Let’s look at the facts – if you’re 50 and fortunate to live an average lifespan, you will be (a) retired and (b) dead before the snotty-nose 20-year-old who is questioning the company policy.  The fact is, that 20-year-old will someday be running your company (if it still exists) and no one there will be keeping your old procedures alive in memory of you.

We – the middle-aged and older, have but two choices in dealing with the new generations of workers:

  1. Fight it.  Demand conformity to your way of thinking, your values and principles and your work ethic.

  2. Learn how to accept the fact that the young workers are going to one day rule the world.  Learn how to capitalize on their talents, values, principles and a work ethic in a way that will benefit you and them alike.

If you choose number one, I can guarantee you a life of frustration and a business or workplace that will suffer from unhealthy work practices, poor morale, low profits and low productivity.  If you are stubborn, only the young workers who can’t get hired anywhere else will work for you.  All of your young workers will be unhappy; will look for new jobs everyday; and will be disloyal to you and your workplace.  It can’t be any other way.

If you chose number two, you will have a role in the smooth transition to better times, more productive times, and happier times.

You don’t have to like it or accept it, but you had better learn to tolerate it because the transition WILL happen with, or without you.

The leaders of today should focus on setting a good example for the younger workers, because they too will be faced with this transition someday.

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