One-Third of HR Pros and Managers Say Young Workers Lack Professionalism

Professionalism in young workers has decreased according to one third of human resources professionals and management. That’s according to a new survey from the Center for Professional Excellence at York College.

The obvious question becomes – have attitudes and ethics standards slipped or are they just different and reflect different times.

According to David Polk, whose firm, the Polk-Lepson Research Group, conducted the survey, “Current business leaders and HR professionals do not believe that the definition of professionalism should change over time. (They) say young employees need to learn to conform to ‘current standards’ of professionalism rather than the standards be modified in response to larger society changes.”

Hmmm, do I sense a bit of hypocrisy here?  Assuming most if not all the HR pros and managers are Gen X and Baby Boomers, aren’t these the same generations that tested, challenged, and changed the standards?  Generation Y – the Millennial Generation – wasn’t even born yet when casual Friday, then casual attire every day, hit the workplace.  There was a time when men weren’t allowed to wear long hair and facial hair, not even a mustache. Women had to wear skirts or dresses, hosiery, and heels, none of those open-toed, open-backed, sandal-like shoes. And we won’t even get into men with piercings and women with tattoos!

Are these managers suggesting that it’s time to go back to the good old days of our parents and grandparents?

If so, then memories can’t be selective.  With those fond memories of higher standards of professionalism comes smoke-filled offices, terminations for pregnancy, and racially and gender segregated workplaces.

Admittedly, there are a lot of workers who lack professionalism.  They feel entitled, dress like they are headed to the beach, and misuse technology.  This group of workers share many bad attitudes and other less desirable work traits except one – AGE. 

Age has little or anything to do with it.  Just look around and check out your workplace.  Who is arriving late on a regular basis? Who are wearing piercings and tattoos? And when it comes to technology, undoubtedly there is a fixation with digital devices but is that distraction any worse than taking a smoke break every few minutes?  And speaking about technology, isn’t it an abuse of technology when older workers refuse to adapt?

And I can’t help but laugh at the one-third of respondents who agreed that “not understanding the urgency required for completing assignments,” is the worst mistake new employees make.  Really?  This is a generational issue.

The results of this survey shouldn’t surprise anyone. For many managers, I can hear and see them declaring “I told you so.”  But I urge everyone to take a step back and look around.  Think back to when you entered the workplace and how things changed.  Before using the good old days as your standard of professionalism, take off the filters.

Other key findings in the survey include:

33.1: Percentage of HR professionals who believe that the presence of professionalism in new employees has decreased.

36.5: Percentage of managers who believe that the presence of professionalism in new employees has decreased.

50.5: Percentage of HR professionals who said younger employees feel a sense of entitlement. That’s down from 60.9 percent in 2009.

97.1: Percentage of HR professionals who said IT misuse has stayed the same or gotten worse in the past year.

26.9: Percentage of managers who reported that electronic devices and social media contributed to employees being less focused at work.

39.9: Percentage of HR professionals who said not dressing up for a job interview is a mistake. Other mistakes include being late for the interview — 29.1 percent — and not knowing about the company — 25.9 percent.

32.6: Percentage of manager who cite “not understanding the urgency required for completing assignments,” as the worst mistake new employees make.


Ira S Wolfe