Whenever some richly experienced factotum begins a rant with, "Now, in my day …," it is all I can do to not jump into his grille, screaming, "If your day has passed, what are you doing taking the chair of someone who might actually get something done?" Sheesh!
The descent into senility is rapid, like the first plunge on a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Dementia. It seems that the principal annoyance is the rising generation, its sass, lack of work ethic, absence of common sense, and permeating self-absorption.
Never mind that this generational friction has been with us since the beginning of recorded history, the insult and disrespect is fresh and new to the Codger Cadre. The latest incarnation of imminent signs of the Apocalypse lies within the so-called "Millennial Generation."
In our supply chain management and logistics Milky Way, a large chunk of the business universe, the generational challenges and the management of expectations and senses of entitlement are real, looming, and becoming more critical to survival, let alone to success.THE RAP ON THE MILLENNIALS
Pop psychology maintains that each generation presents its own set of identifying behaviors and attitudes. The millennials are said (and I really don't know how much of this is harrumphing opinion of those who know better than the rest of us, and how much is genuinely research-based) to require or demand the following: immediate and continuous feedback; rapid organizational elevation (with respect to position and compensation); freedom and autonomy; a steady stream of meaningful work; recognition and respect for insight, conclusions, and observations; technology tools, supporting continuous multitasking; and collaborative leadership and acceptance of their confidence and optimism.
They are often characterized as the "Why" Generation, or the Trophy Generation. The conventional wisdom holds that they've been conditioned to receive rewards for ordinary outcomes and that they have not learned well how to lose or fail.
But here are three news flashes: The generational differences are largely superficial. Research around style and preference assessment tools shows that the basic categorizations and/or reflections of the human brain's wiring continue to identify the same distribution of styles as they always have. Further, within any set of generational attributes, significant numbers of individuals do not map to the generalities usually presented.GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Much is made of unrealistic expectations and an entitlement mentality in the current rising generation. It could be time to climb down from our high horses. We—many, if not all—are shackled by dependence on entitlements and expectations as well. That's right. Baby boomers, gen "X," traditionalists, millennials, and all. How so, you ask?
Start with Social Security. What began innocently as a bailout for older folks, who typically did not live much longer than the eligibility date, has become a massive public subsidy. What was once an augmentation to retirement income has turned into the primary (or sole) retirement income for many. Plus, it provides lifetime income, irrespective of contribution, to the physically or mentally/emotionally disabled. And the elderly are living nearly a decade longer than before, the total benefits eclipsing the working lifetime contributions.
Then, look at Medicare, a sinkhole into which dollars disappear to no particular purpose. That is, the system is vulnerable to abuse both by users who have no idea of what health care costs, and, exponentially, by providers who do and really know how to game the program. It has become a "right," near-impossible to take away long enough to repair it.
Moving on, unemployment compensation, originally a temporary safety net to buffer the impact of economic shifts, has become sufficiently comfortable that many unemployed have no incentive to find work. Pandering politicians then extend the benefit period, feeling sorry for those out of work. Of course, the longer a person is not employed, the tougher it is to find employment.
The minimum wage is another scam. Overriding the voice of the marketplace, local, state, and national governments can mandate an earnings floor for what were once temporary, entry-level, or supplementary income jobs, with agenda-driven pressures to transform any and all occupations into more comfortable middle class earning positions, irrespective of value delivered or skills required.
A push to force employers into higher entry wages for low- to no-skill jobs, e.g., $13 an hour at Walmart, is a companion evolving entitlement. The impact of all these forces is destined to be catastrophic. The price of every product or service involved will have to increase, and we will all be paying more for the same things we are purchasing today. As for the impact on our corner of the universe, the entire supply chain community will have to pay floor associates more—a lot more—to attract and retain enough talent to do its basic job (with no added value whatsoever involved).
Transferability of power and position is another entitlement trap. The person who has spent a goodly chunk of the career in an insular environment, then gets caught up in the sooner-or-later cutback, rightsizing, merger/acquisition, or reduction in force, expects to find a new job that pays the same and confers the same perks and powers. After all, "XX" years of experience (or one year of experience "XX" times) must surely define universal value, right? Wrong! First question is, was there really any value involved? Is the value in a new setting, new company, new industry, whatever, actually relevant? Who else, with what attributes and value contribution potential, is in the market? The near-universal reaction to the new reality is that the problem is with the overall economy, or age discrimination, or dirty capitalists taking advantage of someone who has already been betrayed, or—the list of improbable possibilities goes on.PRE-EMPTIVE FIGHTING BACK
So, it's not just the millennials; it's all generations who have expectations for entitlements. The malaise afflicts all industries, not just the supply chain management community. We have been evolving into an entitled society, with expectations for others (governments at all levels, programs, behavioral incentives with tax and other implications) to meet our expectations, which we clumsily position as needs, requirements, and rights.
In an era of generational conflict, unmet expectations, and denied entitlements, here's how to rise above the fray, set yourself apart from the whiners, and better position yourself for moving up and out—winning in the long haul. Doing these things just might propel you from management in a supply chain context to leadership in a corporate context, with confidence enough to come out of turmoil and change to succeed in a new venue, as well:
Master these, and expectations and entitlements will take care of themselves.