Is giving everyone a Ribbon bringing up a generation who can’t take defeat?

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Over the past few years I have heard of schools giving every child a ribbon who is in the race and teams playing each other where no scores are taken. I understand the thinking behind this is to make everyone feel comfortable to play in the game and not making players less gifted feel like an outcast. But are we bringing up a generation who will not be able to take disappointment? At what age do we stop giving Ribbons to everyone and start building resilience?

The other day I heard on TV that graduates were not adapting to the work environment like they should and the courses at University are not preparing them enough for the real work environment. I didn’t understand this as business courses are business courses, not much has changed about business principals over the last 10 years except technology.

What they probably aren’t prepared for is being told what to do, how to do it and when to do it by, once they do get a job.  Their expectations are so high that the fall is hard when things don’t go their way. They are used to getting their own way at home, being catered to and receiving money without having to do anything for it. Does that sound bitter? Not my words, just what I am hearing over and over again by disgruntled managers.

I wonder if there is substance to it? I hated it when my parents use to say, when we were your age, we walked to school in two feet of snow, 5 miles away. Good for you, I used to think – now we have cars and you can drive me (I said to myself). We had to clean our rooms and do our own laundry to make any pocket money and by 15 I was working after school. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t have any spending money. My parents didn’t have much money, so work or go without.

I am constantly hearing in the workplace Managers saying that they feel graduates are not resilient. They are finding it harder to train them as when the going gets tough they jump ship in search of something that isn’t there. Also, when given critique, they don’t take it well. Some even say they are worried that their feedback could be viewed as bullying.

One Manager said, I want to help them in their career, but they don’t seem to want to do the basics first to learn. Their expectation is that they should accelerate 2 or 3 times in the first year, which doesn’t give them time to learn the essential skills.  I have heard Managers say, no more, tired of the grads let’s go for more mature candidates. That is great for the older ones, but what about our youth?

When I look back when I left University, I remember being ambitious as well. I didn’t want to stay in one place for long and wanted to accelerate. One difference was that I did know I had to start at the bottom and work my way up. I wonder if that message is being lost in translation these days, or not even being translated?

My teachers at University were not the ones to prepare me for the real world; most of them had never worked in Corporate so what gets taught in University is often theory.  My parents and my first bosses were willing to give me feedback every step of the way and it was feedback that I needed. They taught me the soft skills that I feel are essential skills for any person in corporate life.

Soft skills however are becoming a thing of the past. What do I mean by soft skills? The social graces that were once taught to our children. How to say please and thank you, respect of elders, common courtesies that also carry into the work environment. Don’t get upset with me and say, I am teaching my children these skills, I am sure you are. But not everyone is, otherwise when we get on a bus or a tram, we wouldn’t hear bad language, see fighting, total lack of respect for elderly, and when there were people who needed a seat they were once offered it.

My view is that parents need to focus on resilience and soft skills to prepare their children for the work environment and the world in general.  Schools and work environments are too scared to go down this track so they are not accused of bullying or discrimination. Often managers say to me that they don’t want to say something to an employee about their mannerisms as it could be taken wrong. Instead they find a way to exit them out of the business. Wouldn’t it be better if we could be honest with someone and tell them that others are perceiving them in a certain way and perhaps they should re-evaluate how they are acting. Sometimes people don’t realise their behaviour is causing issues until it is brought out in the open.

In my early career in the 80’s when starting out, I was very grateful for managers giving me advice on how to handle things better. They were just trying to help, and it did. Being honest and upfront should be encouraged not feared.

I do see great examples or young adults who do have all the social skills and as a result they stand out. We had two interns last year in our office, Lauren and Maddy. Both I feel will be future leaders of business. Great social skills and the right attitudes. I know both their parents and know that they have been brought up being taught the right skills. When they go into corporate life they will be prepared, and they will stand out. Wouldn’t it be better if the ones that didn’t have social skills stood out as the minority, instead of the other way around?

I don’t have all the answers for this one and would be interested in your thoughts. How would you build resilience and social skills in the new generations? Regards Judith

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