Fortune Mag Journalist Lacks Facts, Behaves Like Pompous Jerk

Rarely, in the few months I’ve been posting to this blog, have I been so motivated to react to an article than to the one recently featured on the Brazen Careerist homepage. The title of the article, Gen Yers lack confidence, behave like idiots, is not only blatantly untrue but offensive enough to merit not just a response, but moral outrage that something like this could even pass for professional journalism.

Reading more like a high school newspaper, the article opens with this:

After a Gen Y talk recently, an audience member shared an interesting story that went something like this: He — an Xer — was running late for a meeting, and he called down to tell the other employees, all younger, to start without him. Only nobody answered. So, thinking the line was tied up, he ran down to the room, only to find the seven Yers looking at each other, evidently unsure of what to do in the presence of a ringing phone.

Now there are a lot of reasons for this behavior, not the least of which might be stupidity, but I think it may have more to do with something that’s been obsessing me lately: confidence. For all the talk of our narcissism and unrealistic expectations, we also seem to lack a certain go-it-alone bravado that’s characterized many great leaders — bravado that just can’t be cultivated when you have a whole universe of parents, coaches, nannies, teammates and Facebook friends ready to rescue you at a moment’s notice. Like any toddler whose mother runs to him every time he falls, we’ve just learned to cry for help (really loudly), not pick ourselves up.

All I can say about this is, “Wow.”

Aside from the fact that this one example should not a stereo-type make (Were the members of the team equipped to even lead the meeting? Why was the boss late? Is he, as a manager, setting a poor example for his employees?), the most shocking thing about the article was not its content but the fact that a member of Gen-Y actually wrote it! Her name is Nadira A. Hira. Her bio is included with the article and you can feel free to email her at

The article continues with the “toddler-calling-for-mommy” metaphor for several more paragraphs:

What is that about, if not confidence? At least that’s what the folks at Hayden-Wilder, a firm that counsels recently minted college grads and rising seniors through the entry-level job search, told me when I spoke to them last year about the emerging Gen Y persona. “These young people don’t understand that they need to distinguish themselves,” says D.A. Hayden. “It’s almost wrong to reach out and say, ‘I’m a leader,’ They’re trained to work in teams — in school, in extracurriculars — they travel in groups of people, they don’t date singly. Everything is in this touchy-feely team environment. That’s all fine and merry when you’re a very junior candidate, but when you start moving up through the ranks, you have to put a stake in the ground…

“Because this generation has been so coddled,” says Michael Wilder, pointing to Yers’ ever-present boomer parents, “when they do have to make a decision on their own, they’re looking for affirmation. They have no basic experience to allow them to be confident about the decisions they’re making.”

If Yers are too afraid to distinguish themselves, why are so there so many young business/career bloggers in the blogosphere? Why does Generation Y have more entrepreneurs than any of the generations before them? I hate how professors, managers and older workers seem to have completely written off our generation (many of whom will not even enter the workforce for another decade) before we’ve even had a chance to get our bearings. And how can we present a positive image when members of our own generation seem hell bent on sabotaging us in an attempt to move their own careers forward?

Members of Gen-Y are given mixed messages by our bosses, peers and the media. First we’re told we’re narcissistic and demanding but then that we also lack assertiveness. We’re told we’re the most educated generation ever but then also that we’re idiots.

Is it no wonder that maybe we’re lacking a little confidence? Who wouldn’t under these circumstances?

And members of Generation Y are afraid to be leaders? I highly doubt that. Maybe you just don’t see many young people in leadership positions because management deems them too young and immature (thanks to articles like the one above) and refuses to put them in those positions. I’ve blogged about my very own troubles with being promoted to a leadership position. How can we say that Generation Y are not leaders, when they haven’t yet been given a chance to lead? How can you ignore the outpouring of young entrepreneurs and claim that Generation Y cannot work independently?

Folks need to open their eyes, get the facts, and stop relying on anecdotal evidence provided by some bitter old farts (said with all due respect to you older folks out there). While I can agree that my Generation isn’t perfect, whose generation really is?

And by the way, I was once in a meeting where the conference room phone rang­–and guess what? I answered it. How’s that for confident leadership?

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13 responses »

  1. The author of the original article is Japanese? (Guessing via her name: Nadira A. Hira). If this story comes from Japan, and is based off of Japanese culture, I can actually see this as true; or at least having merit. Otherwise, it’s pretty bogus.

  2. Many school programs today seem to favor the “team work” approach to solving problems which is fine but any project requires a leader who, in that scenario, draws out the best ideas from the group as a whole.

    Readers are invited to visit my blog:
    KindredSpirit Kaleidoscope that has a chess theme but also critical thinking subject matter.

  3. Wow. Generation Y and whatnot. And I’ve been accused occasionally of over-generalization. A lot of the assumptions of classical sociology in particular are based on an income level that excludes “The Lower Class” [income wise, and approximately the lowest 24%]. There is a whole sector of society which doesn’t exist, nearly, in the minds of the ordinary scholastics. Fascinating. Thank you.

  4. Dude, same crap the boomers were saying about the Xers 15 years ago – hence the nickname ‘slackers’. Probably the same thing the old have said about the young forever and ever. Only problem with Gen Y I can see is that we need to get a name (Millenials? meh.) of our own – who wants to be named in reference to another generation?

  5. I am mad at the team environment opinion that the Brazen Careerist has. Working in a team is EXACTLY what they should be teaching. We are not in a manufacturing economy anymore where you work in a line, it has become a service economy and you need to know when to be a leader, and when to be a supporter.

    Organizational Behavior
    Time Studies
    Management Leadership

    All these things explain this. If the kids in that room didn’t answer the phone and no one was “brazen” enough to do so might be the fault of the leadership in the company. Someone should have answered the phone and the fact that no one did might be indicative of the company, not the people in that room. If thy worked at Google would they have acted like that? If they worked at Yahoo would they have done the same thing? If they worked at MS or IBM or News Corp would that have happened?

    Developing leadership is not just a school issue or a parental one, it is also the companies issue as well. Doe YOUR company promote from within? Does YOUR company develop leadership?

    What the Brazen Careerist is NOT getting is that we are currently going through a career shift. No longer do we have the “lifetime jobs” we once did. There is no “guarantee” that you finish school and get a job that pays well or even keeps you. Dead end jobs are abound and most people I advise, I tell them think of your career as a business, because you are no longer just an employee, you ARE THE BUSINESS and what you are really doing is creating a business relationship with your future employer. You are no longer just an employee.

    You are now Knowledge Workers and as such you have to conduct yourself likewise. I think kids are confused because you have the “careerist” vs what is really moving more toward “self employment” movement.

    Every generation has its own “personality traits” but due to what is going on and what is open (or closed) to them. We need to address those issues.

  6. Besides, it’s hard to stay motivated in an environment when internal promotion seems to be a myth or antiquated practice. These days promotions are self-delegated by job change and so the only reason to really push to exceed expectations comes when you’re trying to prove your candidacy for a new position with a new employer.

  7. related anecdote:

    our meeting was scheduled to run until 2:00 today and another team had the room booked at that time. at 1:50 someone poked their head in and said that they were expecting a phone call from someone that had to be part of their meeting; our meeting facilitator assured her that we’d be out of the room by 1:55.

    at about 1:58.30, the phone rang. everyone around the table gathered up their things and started leaving the room, leaving the phone ringing… I looked around the table incredulously (I’m the consultant in this situation, not an employee). I went to the phone and answered it on behalf of the next meeting, putting the person on hold. everyone else would have been just fine with leaving the room and probably having the caller hang up, possibly never getting connected to their meeting.

    for the record, there was not a Gen-Y’er in the room. I was probably closest (GenX); others were pushing Social Security…

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