As I was enjoying a much needed three-day weekend, my mind drifted to three recent conversations relevant to Labor Day. I was reflecting on how the world is becoming smaller and increasingly competitive. And, on how we have to raise the bar just to stay even.
When I considered who are best positioned to answer this question, two groups immediately came to mind: employers of young people and school counselors. After all, they’re the respective “consumers” of the nation’s schools and the “focal points” in guiding our students.
And, to a person, they’re concerned and discouraged.
The manager of a coffee shop who teaches “tech ed” at high school vented about the lacking social skills and work ethic of his employees and students and their “entitlement mentality.” He faces an uphill battle because parents are routinely feeding these attitudes, both at work and school—last minute absentee calls and flak over any grade short of an “A.” Even nasty calls to employers and professors when their children don’t get the promotion or grades they “deserved!”
A veteran school counselor shared how the first week has already had its share of student disrespect and parental entitlement issues. Regrettably, this is consistent with a survey of school counselors I conducted a few months ago. Student apathy, “entitlement mentality,” and lack of parental support were among the top five issues they cited…all as the world grows more competitive.
Juxtapose this with a conversation I had with a determined Indonesian high school student after my talk “Developing the Great Leaders of Tomorrow” during my book launch tour.
“Mr. Dennis,” he said, “I’m not as smart at academics as I’d like to be. But, can I still become a great leader?” He gets it. It’s not just about book smarts. It’s about life smarts—without entitlements.
All of us—parents, schools, politicians, and media/culture drivers have a stake in reversing this trend. That means honoring and modeling hard work and ethics and preparing young people for a life that isn’t always fair. It means teaching that failure is part of life and self-esteem is something best earned. It means that as parents, our value isn’t defined by a perfect performance from our children, but whether they are people of excellence who strive to do their best.
So, now that Labor Day is over, it’s time to get to work…on this!
What are your observations about work ethic in young adults these days … good and bad? What are your suggestions for helping to diminish an entitlement mentality and develop an appreciation for and commitment to personal reponsibility and industriousness? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!