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#83 The Young Are Restless

by Steven Cerri on February 10, 2009

“Young People Want Everything Now!”

Hello everyone!

Is it a bad rap?

I often hear managers and training departments in corporations complain about how young people don’t want to wait for their career advancement.

They want to get pay raises after 6 months. They want to be managers 1 year after graduating from college. They don’t want to work 5, 6, or 7 years in one position to earn the “right” to be promoted to the next career level.

This last weekend, in my class I heard it again. One young person said that after joining a company, they found that they were given more and more work, and working longer and longer hours. They were also doing the same work as others who were getting paid much more and who had been with the company many more years. When this person asked for a raise, the manager said “No”. The person subsequently left the company.

Another young person told me that even though they had not yet graduated from college (they would soon) and even though they had been an intern with a large company for several summers, they wanted to be a manager upon graduation. They didn’t want to wait the seemingly standard period before promotion to management…7 years as an engineer.

Equal pay for equal work.

For most of my career I have believed that equal pay should be given for equal work. Although, during my career, I was usually focused on equal pay for women who were doing work equivalent to that of men, my first response to young people who want equal pay for equal work has been to agree with the young people.

And yet, this weekend, when I heard my students talking about their perceptions, their expectations, and their experiences, while I initially responded that it was reasonable to expect equal pay for equal work, on the way home, what I had said just didn’t seem to sit well with me. Did I really believe that equal pay for equal work was always the correct yard-stick? My head said “yes”, but my gut said “no”. I felt that it was more complicated than that.

Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

You see, when the baby boomers began their careers, most of them began as “employees” of companies. They even expected to stay employees for most of their career. They expected to get health benefits, paid vacations, and even fixed benefit retirement plans. AND they expected to “work their way” up the organization.

You see, “in those days”, when an organization hired an employee there was an unwritten agreement that the company would do it’s best to keep the employee. That might mean that you might be moved around a little and that you’d do jobs you might not be perfect for, but in return, you’d do the work, you’d gain experience and that experience would actually come in handy over the long haul because you’d be even more flexible and capable of doing other jobs.

And then along came… technology.

The last generation to feel this way and to have this unspoken agreement with the company was the baby boomer generation.

With their children everything began to change. You see, technology began to put a lot of the “organization” into the hands of individuals. For baby boomers there were secretaries who wrote memos. For their children, they wrote their own memos. And so it went, on and on.

The upshot of this gigantic shift was that work became something that could be “packaged” into much smaller and smaller, quantifiable packets. With the emergence of the global economy this trend only accelerated.

At this point, equal pay for equal work took on a very new meaning. If I could pack my task into a tight, neat package, and define it well enough, I could send it to a variety of workers and now experience wouldn’t matter. The only question that mattered would be, “Can they do the job?”. Experience didn’t really matter. Knowing who was doing the work didn’t even matter.

It didn’t matter if the person doing the work was a 12-year-old kid working in her bedroom after her parents thought she was asleep. Experience just didn’t matter… only competence at doing the job at hand.

Thus emerged the profound and newly defined category of “contract worker”.

But not the contract worker of old. A contract worker who was told they could be “independent of the man” (i.e., the corporate boss).The flip side of course is that if you are not beholden to the corporation, then the corporation doesn’t owe the contract worker anything in return.

So where do we go from here?

Corporations and baby boomers and older employees (in general) still accept that companies hire “employees” and when you are an employee, experience matters.

The children of baby boomers and all those children right up to those born today, have been raised, without any of us or them realizing it, to believe that contract labor is the way all people are being judged.

Here comes the class!

So now we’ve got young people who have been raised on “only performance matters”. Experience doesn’t matter.

These young people are entering a “corporate” and business structure (in most, but not all, cases) where performance is only part of the equation of success.

Is it any wonder that we have a clash?

If you want to read more about this topic, you can get it in my Ezine/Newsletter at: Steven’s February 9, 2009 Newsletter

Be well,

Steven Cerri

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