Sonya Sorich: Is Generation Y really that bad?

September 23, 2013 

This column deserves an award.

I guarantee the following paragraphs warrant national readership. Because, after all, I got out of bed, showed up to work and did something moderately productive. Which makes me totally special.

If you think I sound pretentious, blame my generation.

Maybe you've already rolled your eyes at us in the office. CNBC cites recent research suggesting "Generation Y managers are widely perceived as entitled, and score significantly lower as hard-working team players."

The news surfaced during the same month that a Huffington Post piece titled "Why Generation Y yuppies are unhappy" made the Facebook rounds. The piece quotes a University of New Hampshire professor who says Generation Y has "unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback."

The Oxford Dictionaries Online define Generation Y as "the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, comprising primarily the children of the baby boomers and typically perceived as increasingly familiar with digital and electronic technology."

Research bashing the generation isn't new. But it became column inspiration when it intersected with one of my favorite hobbies: running. A recent Wall Street Journal piece suggests that in road races, younger athletes have lost some competitive drive. So much, in fact, that the article bears this title: "The slowest generation."

The writer cites the rising popularity of The Color Run and Tough Mudder -- two athletic events that emphasize camaraderie over time results -- as evidence suggesting a competitive spirit among runners now coexists with "a growing embrace of mediocrity."

Let's recap: We crave recognition, but we don't want to compete for it. What could possibly go wrong?

The light at the end of the tunnel is a belief that reports of my generation's self-centeredness might be widely exaggerated. When Time magazine called Millennials "the Me Me Me Generation" earlier this year, The Atlantic countered with this headline: "Every every every generation has been the Me Me Me Generation."

Maybe criticism of Generation Y is unfair. Amid a shaky economy, we're told to promote ourselves -- particularly online -- with a confidence and uniqueness that separates us from the rest of the pack. When a random tweet serendipitously leads to a job connection or national exposure, outsiders say we advanced without hard work.

If our expectations seem unrealistic, it's because our understanding of reality has blurred boundaries. We've watched animals secure book deals and slackers achieve pop culture prominence.

Sorry if we're skeptical of your traditional work ethic.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.

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