Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In Praise of...Praise?

The Gen Y invasion of the workplace has been written about until even I'm sick of it. Apparently, kids today love iPods, won't pay their dues, and sass their managers.

At some point in the last couple of years, an important axis tilt occurred. I used to be one of the youngest people in any given office, now, I am usually one of the oldest. My town has surrendered to the twentysomethings. The average D.C. office looks like Logan's Run, minus the shiny futuristic jumpsuits. Everyone my own age has apparently given up and moved elsewhere.

So what does this mean in my day-to-day life? Mostly, that I receive fawning praise for the smallest of accomplishments. A colleague my own age or older will respond to a completed task with, "well done," "good work," or the always-appropriate "thank you." However, younger colleagues will respond to a completed task with something akin to unbridled joy. No matter how menial the task, I will be treated as if I rescued a tiny furry little kitten out of a burning tree, falling and breaking all four limbs in the process. I have had to forcibly block people from patting me on the head.

I'm all for praise and appreciation, but too much of it is overkill. It's also demeaning. Bouncing with joy because someone typed a letter without major mishap implies that the person who did so is incapable of doing anything more than typing letters.

Is this a generational divide? Do these endlessly studied, coddled, and indulged young professionals respond to everything with the same inflated levels of praise to which they've become accustomed? Or is excessive praise a byproduct of professional inexperience? Or, most likely, am I just a bitter old crank?

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