Career Advice

Are The "Entitled" Generation Right After All?

Lisa Johnson Posted by Lisa
min read

I think this is just about the funniest thing I have read all week (well this is not true, but I am not allowed to espouse my hilarity at the political policies of that ‘please explain’ woman on a work blog).  But it kind of ties back to my previous blog about the woman in the UK sent home because she refused to wear high heels to work. On the odd chance you don’t want to read the article, basically it’s a story about a four interns in a company in the USA who decided to put a petition together because they didn’t think that they should have to adhere to the very strict dress code.  

They felt some justification after seeing a permanent employee who wore non-regulation shoes; and after being told verbally that there would be no deviation from the dress code for them, they decided to put together a formal petition asking for the right to wear all sorts of different shoes (and actually they don’t want to do that suit thing either). They get called into a meeting, where gleefully they believe that management is about to discuss their ‘rights’ with them.  Only they were fired.  Because of their ‘unprofessional’ conduct.  Oh, and by the way…that permanent staff member with the non-regulation footwear?  Yeah, she was a former soldier who had lost her leg and had permission to wear whatever shoes she could actually walk in.  

The interns were nonplussed.  How could this be fair?  Their petition was well worded.  They felt it was reasonable and if they had known about the missing leg, they could have factored this in to their argument.  What to do?? It seems we live in interesting times.  Where employees (or God forbid, unpaid interns) feel that they have the right to demand change to dress code policies (for a start).  In the article, a commentator blames the education system for not preparing young people for the real world: “Not only are basic office procedures and politics (such as following the dress code) not taught but students are getting the idea that if their voice is the loudest, then change will happen,”  Clearly there is continuing pressure from Gen Y and Millennials to change the status quo.  

This is reflected in the dramatic change in the political landscape (globally) and it’s starting to come through in the workplace.  Young people want to do things differently and are not about to accept things without protest.  Do they have a lot to learn about affecting change?  Yes.  But then again…my parents were active in the 60’s; another period of time where young people protested against the establishment and demanded social and political change. How perturbing it is for me that I am the old school generation now, the conservative, rule following, curmudgeonly ‘older’ generation; when I am the offspring of the children of the hippie generation!  Perhaps the young people WILL change the machine; they will effect progress and leave us suit wearing, polished shoe types flummoxed in their wake.   

But a word of warning to the young: protesting a dress code when you have been in the office for a matter of weeks is a terrible idea.  Nobody wants the new kids to tell them what to do when they still don’t know how to use the photocopier.  So take your time; pick your fights and use a little respect for us oldies. We get it.  And a lot of us wish we were you.