I’m Entitled…

So the other day, I came across this link while reading an essay online.  It’s a Wall Street Journal article from 2008 about our generation… and frankly, it doesn’t seem to like us very much.  According to the writer, we “Millennials” (which the article defines as people born between 1980 and 2001) are a force to be if not feared, then certainly one to be complained about.  We represent an impending workforce of soft, entitled dandies who put our needs before those of the company, who want everything we can get our grubby little hands on, and are one bad progress report away from a tantrum.

So Sayeth the Article:

“More than 85% of hiring managers and human-resource executives said they feel that millennials have a stronger sense of entitlement than older workers, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.com. The generation’s greatest expectations: higher pay (74% of respondents); flexible work schedules (61%); a promotion within a year (56%); and more vacation or personal time (50%).”

Now, I’d like to pause here for a moment.  The article goes on and makes a wealth of other points (most of which are, from my perspective at least, just as stodgy and cantankerous as this), but when I read this article, this was the segment that caused the greatest stir in me.  Let’s say that these statistics are true – that we are a generation who wants to be paid more, wants a flexible schedule, promotions, vacations, etc.  Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Did I embody the ugliness of my generation when I stared blankly into my computer screen and responded to these statistics with a hazy, “Well… duh”?

On the one hand, this intellectual impasse is certainly an issue of audience.  I’m a 29 year old college adjunct with long hair and occasionally tight pants.  My interest in the economy is social, not financial.  This article is clearly written for someone unlike myself – someone who owns more than two ties.  I envision a silver-haired gentleman in a three-piece suit who’s a complete grouchpants.  I’m sure he read this article back in 2008 and groused all afternoon about how this country’s going to Hell in a handbasket.  Silver-haired suit man would glower at a guy like me.

But there’s something deeper than an audience gap going on here – there’s something bigger that conjures this article’s duh-ness for me – and it’s entirely generational (N.B.: I use that term very loosely, considering my race, gender and socio-economic status).  Because absolutely, these statistics bespeak a tremendous sense of entitlement that I and many others like me have been born into.  Thanks to the hard work and rough choices of those who came before, many of us can afford (both figuratively and literally) to be picky in our work – to find a job that feels right, rather than just getting one to ward off starvation.

From the earliest age, people like me have been asked by our parents and our teachers what it was we wanted to become, and then if we were lucky, we were helped along the way toward that end.  The whole of our early lives was a giant machine designed to make of us whatever it was we desired.  That’s a pretty entitled lifestyle right there.  It’s a part of us.  And that’s why it feels so natural – that’s why when reading that article, I found myself nodding rather than shaking my head.  Because the article is right: I am entitled.

So here’s my question:  Is that a bad thing?

Isn’t entitlement what we as a people – hell, as a species – are essentially striving for?  The ability to have greater choice – the freedom not to have to do something we find distasteful?

More bliss.  Less toil.

It sounds good to me.  I think everyone should get to be as entitled as I was.

Or might things have gone too far?  Have we as a people grown so ripe, so heavy with entitlement that we’ve gone soft and mealy.  Are we bad apples, like the Wall Street Journal seems to be suggesting?

It’s a complicated subject, I think.  So I ask you, lovely reader, to debate it here with me, and with each other.  Post a comment.  Take a stand.  Share your opinion loudly – if for no other reason than to annoy the Wall Street Journal, which seems to find our ease at self-expression quite bothersome.

Personally, when it comes to expression, I think you’re entitled…

(see what I did there?)

Andrew Panebianco holds a BA in English Literature and a MA in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Antioch University.  He is the nonfiction editor of The Splinter Generation, and is a regular contributor to The Nervous Breakdown.  He lives in New Jersey and works as a higher-education mercenary at several Philadelphia-area universities.} else {

3 comments for “I’m Entitled…

  1. ccnyc
    August 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    well, i will admit i read that article when it was first posted in 2008. and, unfortunately, it rang true for me. because the one guy i worked with from the author’s generation was like a poster boy for the article. i’m being kind here – he was irresponsible, whiny, unreliable save for rare flashes of brilliance (i.e., when he felt like it), egotistical, absolutely unable to take criticism or to see that he should be criticized at all, and yet, somehow, was always gunning for his own advancement. he was also utterly full of shit, and convinced of his own ability to snow everyone around him. now, perhaps he was just a worthless sot, and not representative of his “generation”. but he required endless coddling, which was not at all worth the effort. and when that article came out, we, who ended up firing him, felt it was oddly well-timed.

    yes, we all want to live in bliss. but we also just need to do our effing jobs.

  2. Andrew Panebianco
    August 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Oh no doubt. I knew a guy once who didn’t take a job because he found it, “emotionally unsatisfying.” Clearly that guy’s got something up with his brain. That’s entitlement gone mad.

    I think your closing point is a very strong one. Yes, we need to do our jobs. But I guess I wonder what relationship that job should have to our lives.

    Yes, we should work. Yes, we should work hard. We should take pride in what we do. But I reject any system that tells me that my job should be the center of who I am. If success is to be gained only though the denial of an actual life, of family, of the glory that is spending a day on the couch, watching a Law and Order marathon, then success is not success at all.

    Despite the good points that were brought up in this article (and there were a few), I still wonder about the paradigm from which this argument was made. One where to want more time, more entitlement, more freedom is a liability. A sign of weakness, or worse: solipsism.

    I’m no apologist for the dingbats of my generation. But I’m not sure I can throw in with the grouch patrol, either.

  3. August 20, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I’m in Generation X, I believe, and I remember being quite aggravated with the way I was treated by my manager because of my age. He had all these pre-conceived notions about what someone of my generation was like. He was stereotyping me. I try not to do that.

    I like the question you are posing about entitlement. Is it necessarily a bad thing? I think desire and drive is a good thing but when you feel you have earned the extra vacation etc before you’ve even put time in, that does make me pause. Maybe I’m getting too old 🙂

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