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December 13, 2010 / W. Stanton Smith

Let’s stop coddling gen y!

Gen Y expects to be coddled; so say 40% of the 50 or so HR executives in a poll taken during a recent webinar I conducted on behalf of the Boston College Center for Work & Family.  The poll asked participants to choose one of five irritating qualities of gen y. The choices and responses were: ask too many questions (0%); don’t act appropriately in business (20%); unwilling to pay their dues (20%); don’t understand the need for process (20%) and expect to be coddled in the workplace (40%).

I’m sure if we were to ask small business owners and coporate executives, the result would be well north of 50%. One executive praised my newest book, Decoding Generational Differences: Changing your mindset…Without losing your mind...but really believed that it was the job of young people in the workplace to adapt to whatever and however the employer served up the workplace.  Any behavior by managers other than this take no hostages approach  was considered coddling. No further discussion required.

Say no to coddling! OK, but what are we saying yes to?

With this unbending attitude fresh on my mind, I thought I’d look up the definition of  “coddling”. Most dictionaries would agree that a reasonable definition of coddling is to treat with extreme or excessive care and attention There is a connotation of spoiling and indulging, of losing perspective.

Of course nobody wants to “coddle” if this is what it means. But is it coddling to teach someone how to act appropriately in business? or to show them the value of paying dues or the need for process and following it? Further, is allowing an inexperienced employee to stumble around in the dark and calling it OJT, really an intellignet business approach? Is ignoring ways in which the workforce has fundamentally changed really smart business?

We’ll explore these and related questions in subsequent posts. In the meantime ponder this saying attributed to the economist John Maynard Keynes, “I change my mind if the facts change. What do you do?

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