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October 6, 2010 / W. Stanton Smith

Gen y and schadenfreude

The German language has a very apt word for one of the least attractive traits we humans exhibit; that sense of joy that sweeps over us when we hear that someone(s) we do not like experience(s) hardship.

Why the unrequested German lesson?

Because the word captures the essence of this trait very economically-in fact in 11 letters. Schaden (damage) and freude (joy) becomes joy at the damage someone else suffers. I believe that if we reflect even for a moment on the concept of schadenfeude, we would be less likely to indulge in it.

What’s the problem with schadenfreude?

Isn’t it a typical emotion? Whether or not it is, this attitude is destructive in particular when it comes to an older generation taking glee at the problems of another (usually younger) generation.

To the extent business people are identified with statements that appear to take joy in gen y “being taken down a notch” by the difficult economy is the extent to which already the well documented suspicions of business people and the businesses they run are further reinforced. We in the USA are confronted with at least two major competitors in India and China where their young people are more interested in business careers than our young people.

Decoding generational differences

I expand a great deal on this challenge for USA business in my upcoming book, “Decoding Generational Differences: changing your mindset without losing your mind.” Watch this blog for details on how to order the book. Our target is early November, 2010.

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