A Generation of Gripers...and How They Grew

Profiles the workforce born between the years of 1965 and 1975 as seen through the eyes of writers Lawrence J. Bradford, Ph.D., and Claire Raines in their book 'Twentysomething: Managing and Motivating Today's New Work Force.' First priority is themselves; Feeling cheated; Materialistic; Prolonged adolescence; Slow commitment; Questioning of authority; Loaded with energy and creativity; Five major influences that shaped the values of this generation.

By PT Staff, published on May 1, 1992 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

As the last of the class of 1992 heads off the podium with sheepskin in hand, many are wasting no time hitting the mean streets in search of a job. Companies across the nation are being inundated with resumes, but many just want to ditch the whole lot. "I don't know what it is with these kids," reports Sheila James, human-resources manager at a Chicago ad agency. "They are all completely unrealistic and don't seem to want to work hard."

Her experience jibes with the observations of Lawrence J. Bradford, Ph.D., and Claire Raines, two Denver management consultants who have drawn a portrait of those born between 1965 and 1975. Their book, Twentysomething-Managing and Motivating Today's New Work Force, reflects interviews with managers and with the post-Yuppie, post-boomer baby busters themselves. Here's what they're like:

o Their first priority is themselves. They steer away from "altruistic careers" such as nursing, social work, and teaching; instead they choose professions that offer more opportunity for personal reward and advancement, such as investment banking.

o They feel cheated. They see their legacy as a polluted Earth, a racially fractured society, and overwhelming social problems. Many are worried that America's best years are over.

o They are materialistic. They want money, power, and status. On the lookout for ways to upgrade their value in the job market, they see themselves as martketable commodities.

o Their adolescence is prolonged. They wait longer to marry, live longer at home, and postpone careers in favor of travel and more leisure.

o They are slow to committ Today's college students are less likely to have a steady boyfriend or girlfriend than those of previous generations. They tend to hang out in groups instead. Employers notice the same characteristics--they're not as loyal to companies as older cohorts.

o They bow to no one. Twentysomethings never quit asking "why?" They question authority and have a disregard for hierarchy.

The twentysomethings are plentysomething to manage. But there's a good incentive to master it: They're loaded with energy and creativity.

So how did they get this way? Five major influences shaped the values of the generation now entering the job market:

o Parents. The twentysomethings mostly raised themselves. Not only did 40% come from broken homes, but both their parents went to work and chose to define themselves through it.

o Diminishing demographic clout. When the twentysomethings were born, their birth rate was half that of the early years of the baby-boomers. For the next two decades, the boomers will be at the peak of their earning power. The twentysomethings feel irrelevant.

o Economic turbulence. Raised in the 1970s, a decade blank but for Watergate and a dramatic upheaval in the economy, twentysomethings lived through the high inflation of the late '70s and the recession of the early '80s. As a result, they doubt they will ever have the financial stability to own their own homes, provide their families with a high quality of life, or put their kids through college--fears justified by current costs for these items and declining salaries.

o Instant knowledge. These kids grew up with the TV on, consuming big doses of bad news. By 16, they were jaded witnesses to 33,000 murders on TV and in the movies.

o Stress. The stress level for kids in our society, tracked by the Fordham University Index of Social Health for Children and Youth, has been on a constant rise since 1967. It peaked in 1987, the last year for which statistics are available.

We can't change the past that shaped them, but they will surely shape the future. That is, if managers resist their first impulse--to choke the living daylights out of these disillusioned, "I want an office--now!," hierarchy-hating hotshots.

ILLUSTRATION