The Last 60 Days Have Sure Taken the Shine Off Trophy Kids

I'm in the midst of reading Ron Alsop's most excellent new book, The Trophy Kids Grow Up.

It's a fascinating tome that sheds light on why Millennials (those born after 1980) act the way they do in the workplace. It's chock-a-block full of riveting case studies, anecdotes and "how to motivate them" lists. Alsop dove deep to speak with the "kids" as well as their parents and employers. AlsopFinal

The book's message is simple: employers need to bend the rules and accept the quirky ways and beliefs of trophy kids (who earned the moniker by receiving trophies in their childhood years for simply showing up to a school or athletic event). When a trophy kid shows up at work in flip flops and jeans, or multitasks during a job interview or makes it clear she needs to take a sabbatical to explore her spirituality, employers need to suck it up and say, "OK, well your generation is in great demand and you'll soon be our middle and senior managers so, sure, chill out."

Alsop quotes one Millennial after another who complain about being bored by a project or needing a new work challenge. Most possess so little corporate loyalty that nearly half of the 18- to 24-year-olds Ron interviewed said they planned to job hop in the next year.

The trophy kids may indeed be job hopping in the next year. But, most of it won't be of their own making. Ever since September 15th when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial markets went into their cataclysmic tailspin, the trophy kids' luster has started to fade. 

Now, the "free to be me" kids with high expectations who told Alsop they'll keep job hopping until they find their ideal position are, well, up the proverbial creek.

I wonder what will happen to an entire generation that was brought up to believe it could have whatever it wanted. How do they suddenly change lifetime habits overnight and start toeing the line? Or, do they?

It's a fascinating subject that demands at least a sequel. For now, The Trophy Kids Grow Up, published in the late summer, is about as relevant as a Bear Stearns stock option.

8 thoughts on “The Last 60 Days Have Sure Taken the Shine Off Trophy Kids

  1. Thanks for the comment, Cassandra. As a parent of trophy kids, I’m guilty of doing exactly what you suggest with my kids. I can only hope they wise up as quickly as you obviously have.

  2. When talking about trophy kids, we have to highlight the fact that our high demands are due to the instant gratification we’ve become accustomed to in our hyper-connected world. I’m not sure if bending the rules is a good approach. It’s rather a matter that companies should understand society changes, but not necessarily enforce them.
    After my first internship, I realized that we are raised at a young age to ask questions and receive almost immediate feedback. This is how it works in the classroom and when communicating with our parents. In the workplace, there’s a series of steps to check off before contacting a fellow co-worker, and our every need can not be attended to.
    I was surprised back in high school, when I was one of few classmates who had a job during the summers–more so when I was the only one of my friends with a part-time job during college. I’m pretty sure this was rarely the case for the baby boomer generation. Even if young adults don’t need to work for money in their teens, it was one of the most valuable lessons life ever taught me.
    My point is this, we trophy kids are spoiled. In this super sonic world of communication, we’re actually learning about real life a little bit slower than our parents did.

  3. Lunch, the operative word in your post is “if.” Boomers cannot afford to retire at this point. Most have seen their savings severely impacted and will be around for years, if not decades.

  4. Interesting post. I do see a lack of patience and unwillingness to pay dues with this generation (and I only missed it by 5 years). While we might bend a little for some, I think in many cases the workplace is unfortunately the first place some millenials learn that sometimes they have to put someone else’s agenda before their own. Thanks for the post — will try to pick up the book.

  5. Clare and ___________, just wait for all the Boomers to go out to pasture (if they can afford it) and some jobs opptys will be back.

  6. Love this post Steve. I’m a “millennial kid” who, much to my parent’s disgust, received participation trophies. I agree with Clare and I’m shocked to see that Alsop encourages employers to bend the rules. We are a generation with parents who would rather be “friends” who overlook improper behavior; I’m surprised to see this mentality slipping into the workplace.
    As you said, my parents raised me with the mentality that I can have whatever I want if I work hard enough and put in the time. In exactly one month I will be in need of a job and will join my fellow recent grad peers on the hunt. Every part time job I worked, organization I held an office in and class I have taken has led me to this beginning stage of my career and the job market is not exactly greeting me with open arms. Why would someone want to hire entry level when there are so many unemployed candidates right now with years of experience? My age bracket has taken a drastic turn for the worse when it comes to employment and I too am fascinated (and disheartened) by the subject.
    Would love to borrow the book when you finish! :o)

  7. I think the focus of switching jobs for my generation is less to find the perfect position, but a position with the opportunity to create one.
    Most of my friends and family who have job hopped do so because they are not being challenged, as you stated. However, by putting pressure on supervisors and pushing the status quo, we are in fact creating an environment where we thrive, therefore an “ideal position”.
    Loyalty comes when opportunities arise. However it’s doubtful a supervisor could win much respect by allowing rude behavior in meetings or letting someone break the dress code. That reminds me of the “cool professor” in high school who everyone loved, but no one actually learned from.