by Taylor Nichols
As a member of the young adults of the American middle class, I believe the youth of the U.S. has a significantly weaker work ethic than those who came before us.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where, while we weren’t exactly rolling in the Benjamins, there was food on the table and I didn’t have holes in my shoes. We got to go to Disneyland for spring break. It was not by any means the seemingly exotic trips to Mexico my 12-year-old classmates were taking, but my family could afford to go places and do things.
My parents never encouraged me to get a job as a teen, and it wasn’t until I graduated high school that I realized I might want a thing called money at some point in the near future.
Since I didn’t really learn how to work very hard in my youth, I was in for a rude awakening when I got my first truly difficult job, and I know for a fact I’m not the only person in my age group who felt like that.
For every person in my generation that grew up in poverty or in a lower-class household, there’s someone who had everything handed to them and didn’t have to work hard to get ahead. Developing a strong work ethic doesn’t happen overnight, but for some people it might not happen at all. If you don’t have someone pushing you and holding you to higher expectations, you have no real reason to work hard.
I once had to teach my best friend, who is 20 years old, how to do her laundry. She had never had to do a chore like that in her life.
The kids of the upper middle class will eventually have to get jobs and become functioning adults at some point (hopefully, anyways) and if they have never been taught how to do things, shockingly enough, they won’t know how.
I’ve seen countless coworkers and peers be lazy and get away with it, be it at work, in school, or at home. I’ve had to pick up someone else’s slack thousands of times, and it isn’t fun.
Likewise, I learned how to work hard by being pushed by bosses and teachers to do better. I realized that I don’t want my coworkers to have to pick up my slack.
Now that’s not to say that every job I’ve had and every class I’ve taken has been difficult. Looking back, many adults over the years let me get away with mediocre work and never bothered to challenge me to do better. I think that we as a society have completely forgotten the reasons why our lives have become as comfortable as they are, and we in turn have become complacent.
I may have fought tooth and nail against the challenges in my life when I was younger, but they made me a harder worker and a better person. While I love to be validated and praised for my good work, I also expect myself to do well and am often surprised when people tell me they appreciate me doing what I expected of myself.
The baby boomer generation has created a monster: the young adults of today have been coddled, and have thin skin and a bad attitude as a result.
I’m a huge fan of positive reinforcement, don’t get me wrong. But rewarding people for fulfilling expectations gets kind of pathetic. Rewards should be reserved for going above and beyond, not for completing basic tasks and adhering to general expectations. We’re a self-entitled generation that thinks we’re bigger, better and wiser than everyone else.
Even worse than our laziness and lack of ability to perform basic tasks is the fact that bosses, teachers and parents all over the country are enabling us to continue being so. The abundance of service and sales jobs that make up the vast majority of the job pool for young people with no special trade or skills means that hundreds of people all over the country are being taught that you can spend a good amount of time doing nothing but standing around and get paid for it.
To be fair, there are people my age that surprise me with their willingness to go above and beyond, and to do what is expected of them. When I see people do what they say they will do, when they say they will do it, I’m surprised almost every time.
I hope that, whether we learn it the hard way or the easy way, the young Americans entering the work force can still come to understand the value of hard work. We might not have to trudge three miles uphill in snow to get to school every day (and if you haven’t heard a similar story from your grandparents, consider yourself lucky), but we can still strive to succeed and will benefit from doing so.