A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
June 1st, 2013 by William

The Unique Paradox

In his May 2013 CNBC article “Overqualified yet Underprepared, Graduates Face ‘Unique Paradox’ Study,” author Jermaine Taylor details the challenge that upcoming graduates will have in both finding a job in their field of choice and in enjoying what job they do get.

As Taylor tells us, “As close to 2 million college students prepare to graduate, a study finds that many of them face what it calls a ‘unique paradox.’ While the young people are qualified–even overqualified, in many cases–to enter the workplace, most of them feel ill-suited to tackle the harsh realities of an evolving job market. The wide-ranging study was conducted by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and it involved more than 4,900 graduates, most of who finished college between 2009 and 2012. The study suggests that graduates are growing increasingly disillusioned with the employment outcomes of their education.”

The generation that Taylor is talking about is what’s called the Millennials–those born between 1977 and 1992. The problem is that the new millennial graduates can’t find jobs in their field and the jobs they’re forced to take don’t allow them to use all the skills and theory that they learned in school.[1]  While this revelation isn’t necessarily breaking news it is important to take into account when plotting the future of the modern workplace.

What we have is an upcoming workforce that’s both in debt and unhappy about their career and where it might be headed. When we add to that the fact that most young graduates entering the workforce for the first time have no idea what they’re in for “workplace culture” wise, it’s no surprise that that there’s trouble brewing. By this I mean the culture shock they’ll experience when they find out, the hard way, how the workplace really works.

There are a few profound reasons why the Millennials are in for tough time. In his 2012 Forbes article “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme — Millennials in the Workplace,” Ty Kiisel sheds some light into this second aspect of the “Unique Paradox.” Kiisel tells us, “The youth of today have very strong opinions about the workplace–how it should be run, and what their place should be in it.” Kiisel cites a recent poll conducted by MTV which reveals some insight into what Millennials are looking for in the workforce

Kiisel lays the groundwork by telling us that, “The generations preceding the Millennials are sort of like cowboys, a rugged, individualistic lot. In general, these Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers believe in a command-and-control management approach, value working individually, view managers as experts and look to their employers for career planning. They like clear boundaries and have a generally inward-looking perspective as compared to Millennials.”

Since it’s estimated that by 2020, nearly half (46 percent) of all U.S. workers will be Millennials, herein is where the rub exists. Command-and-control management approach, working individually, viewing management as experts, and relying on their employers for career planning is not at all the workplace that will play well to the millennial generation. If you could boil down the key traits of the Millennials it would include: the need for instant gratification, having a much deeper technology focus, valuing (and expecting) mentoring and a need for constant feedback. These fly in the face of how the typical modern workplace is currently run.

As Kiisel tells us, “This generation has been working in groups collaborating with each other since they were in elementary school. The immediacy of the social media technology they use has made it possible for them to interact almost instantaneously. They are unlike Boomers who want their objectives and to be left alone to execute. Millennials want an almost constant stream of [information and] feedback.” Millennials won’t fair too well with the current business practice of annual reviews and annual pay raises.

According to Kiisel, “…80% of Millennials said they want regular feedback from their managers, and 75% yearn for mentors.” They will be sadly surprised when they suffer their first yearly performance review. They will be surprised to find that this scourge of modern business typically is only negative in focus–they relish “constructive” criticism, not being told only of their shortcomings.

Also effective mentoring is another practice that’s copiously missing in the modern workplace. No, having a cadre of sycophants doesn’t count as mentoring.

Kiisel also points out, “What’s more, the survey suggests that most Millennials think the boomers could learn a thing or two from them.” It will be interesting to see the Millennials try to tell the sociopathic fringe, that’s in power in modern business today, that they know more about how to run the business.

Kiisel also tells us that Millennials prize transparency and a flat organizational structure in which they can enjoy a high level of accountability and collaboration. The traditional hierarchical organization, command-and-control management methods, protected fiefdoms and interpersonal gamesmanship will not work with Millennials. Millennials embrace a leadership ideal that is significantly different from that of current modern business organizations–more of a servant leadership model.

Kiisel also points out that Millennials have a difficult time making decisions since they have had their parents making decisions for them for most of their childhood, so when they must make decisions–that no one can really help them with–Millennials will flounder. This is a huge difference from Baby Boomers and Gen X, who thrive on making their own decisions. Millennials probably won’t score high on the performance review skill of “decision making.”

This rise of the millennial generation and the friction that their ideals and work-ethic will cause on the modern workplace is covered in detail in my book Puttin’ Cologne on the Rickshaw and is why I encourage all newcomers to the workplace to read my book. It will provide them the backdrop of what they’ll experience once they get out into the real world of business. Being overqualified for the job is really the least of their worries.

What’s the answer to this upcoming dilemma? To me we just let nature run its course as I believe that modern business is in for a perfect storm as the Millennials start infiltrating the workplace in greater numbers. The good news is that once they become the majority they will change the workplace to fit their ideals and thus the management system that’s been in place for the last 150 years will finally face a well-deserved ignominious death. Maybe then servant leadership, true accountability, true teamwork and collaboration and a cessation of all the games people play for their own gain, will take hold.


[1] That’s not the way it was when I graduated back in the late 1970’s. I was able to pick and choose between jobs that were all in the exact field I had been preparing for. Of course I didn’t get a degree in “Bohemian Underwater Basket-Weaving” either.


One Response to “The Unique Paradox”
  1. Giselle Branham says

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