Hiring Consultants as surrogate parents

July 1, 2007

Firms in the US are hiring consultants to help them manage “needy” workers. Apparently the Generation Yers are so used to persistent parental praise that they have become a demanding demographic in organisations. NPR has an interesting story on this that’s worth listening to (click here for the download).
What’s fascinating is how “demanding” the 20 somethings appear in the piece. Daily affirmations of a “good job” are a prerequisite for loyalty to the organisation and HR departments are having to invent ways of complimenting workers daily on a job well done when “well done” means doing the job that was meant to be done in the first place. The option of choice appears to be hiring consultants as surrogate parents to ensure adequate ego management.
The NPR story doesn’t take on the real challenge here, which is the degree to which this narcissism is being encouraged and promoted by hiring consultants to assist in the persistent praising. The “no” is missing and it will just fuel incessant and unreasonable demands for “more” that can never be fulfilled.
It reminds me of that great quote from Laurence Oliver who quipped “Dear boy, it’s called acting.” – upon seeing Dustin Hoffman’s “method” acting by not sleeping and making a mess of himself to get into character while shooting “Marathon Man”.
Update: Have a look at Matt’s take on this …

4 People reacted on this

  1. What a world we have waiting for us, if we don’t watch out. But, there is a slightly different related issue: people want their work to be appreciated. And too many managers aren’t good at showing that they appreciate the work staff do. That’s what I’ve heard from thousands of staff, at all levels in organisations in several sectors across many countries. ‘They are paid to do that’ is one defence from managers… ‘they shouldn’t need me to give them praise…’ And those same managers say about their bosses ‘they don’t appreciate me enough’.
    Given that people contribute perhaps 25% of their skills to the organisation that employs them (gross generalisation based on my 30+ years working experience), there is a huge reserve fund at stake… eh?
    ps by the way, have you set the blog so that it is no possible to add a comment to a post after a certain time has passed: I tried to add a comment to the post you wrote after the ‘blogging and the art’ session in dublin.

  2. Omani I agree with you about needing to praise workers – my issue in this instance was with the demand for instant and daily gratification which I thought was a bit excessive!
    (and yes about the comments, I close them after a couple of weeks to deter the spammers!) but feel free to leave a comment here…

  3. This is very sad. I agree with Omaniblog that people’s work should be acknowledged and appreciated – but this is to excess.
    I also wonder if school is partly to blame. Because school strips all fun and interest and autonomy and choice out of learning, learning is no longer valued for its own sake. So children have to be bribed to learn, with praise and gold stars, and ‘good job’ stickers – and so that’s what we’re teaching people to except for their production.
    If that’s how they’ve been trained, then we can’t be surprised if they can’t validate their own worth once they reach adulthood.
    My son is home-educated, and while genuine achievement is celebrated, most of his learning is just part of life. A few years ago, when he was about six, he had obviously picked up something from somewhere, because he asked me, “If I read ten pages, will you give me a reward?” I said, “Absolutely not! The reward for reading is reading.” He thought about it and said, “Twenty pages?”

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