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HR Survey: Younger workers act ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unprofessional’

Jenna Charlton|

Entitled, lack professionalism, and unfocused; this is apparently how human resource professionals and company managers describe recent grads and young workers, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania. (Read the full report – Opens in a PDF.)

That seems a pretty harsh description, but according to the survey of approximately “400 human resources professionals,” professionalism over the past five years has declined. The survey asked HR professionals and managers “about their experiences recruiting and hiring recent college graduates in a variety of industries and roles.” Unprofessional behaviour is defined as “inappropriate appearance, lack of dedication, poor work ethic, sense of entitlement, disrespect, poor communication skills, unfocused, and a poor attitude.” New recruits and young employees are described as exhibiting many of these attitudes and characteristics– increasingly so throughout the last 5 years.

IT abuses and misuses are also reportedly on the rise. Young employees, according to the survey, are more likely to misuse facebook and twitter. The study also reports that new employees will “text co-workers instead of sending emails or talking face-to-face”–although that I’d argue is simply changing technology. The same thing was certainly once said about email (I’m sure the words “these young employees don’t know the value of face-to-face meetings” accompanied by a winger wag, were at one time uttered).

The research primarily focused on young American workers, and mentions that further investigation outside the U.S. needs to be conducted to draw conclusions about attitudes and characteristics of young workers globally.

The sentiments increasingly expressed by HR professionals and managers only contribute to the uphill battle that many young workers are encountering. Recent graduates are already faced with a tight economy. Many have felt pressure to pay off debt while trying to stand out and be selected out of hundreds of applicants, just for an interview. Perseverance is a valuable quality that certainly puts a sense of entitlement to rest. It is hard to believe that once a young candidate who finally gets through the application, interview and selection process would walk into a new job expecting anything but to work hard, considering what they’ve gone through to get the job.

The professionalism survey results demonstrate just one more potential obstacle for young workers. Once you get a job, there’s added pressure to alleviate any concerns about ‘entitlement’ that your employer might be wary of.

In a tight job market it’s hard to think that any employee, young or seasoned, would approach current employment with a sense of entitlement or abuse reasonable workplace policies. Regardless, if these results do reflect the sentiments of HR professionals, it’s up to recent grads to proven them wrong.

What do you think? Has unprofessionalism and entitlement become an issue in the workplace? Is one generation less professional than others?


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  • Mark

    I see a lot of unprofessionalism amongst the HR personnel who come up with all this nonsense about ‘entitlement’. The real sense of ‘entitlement’ is often in the HR personnel themselves who expect top talent to work for very little money after completing a gruelling selection process.