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How Do You Work With The Participation Trophy Generation?

Whenever I speak to an audience, I typically ask one question before getting into the presentation.


What comes to mind when you think of young professionals?


The answers are almost always the same, and the number one answer is “wants a trophy/recognition for everything”. Mind you: I hear these on a weekly basis, so I’m never offended, but I do like to throw a few lines in there myself, often responding with “Who gave us the participation trophies?!” That usually gets a few chuckles, but what’s important to note here is that to understand one generation, you can usually find what you’re looking for just by looking at the parents (i.e., Baby Boomers gave us those trophies!).


But, this blog post is not about Baby Boomers. It’s about the members of the GenZ and Millennial generations that have been classified as what we like to call “The Participation Trophy” generation. The latter have often been criticized for their sense of entitlement and their need for instant gratification, and GenZ (up to 26 years old, currently in the workplace) also fall into this category, but more likely due to the instant gratification that comes from growing up as digital natives.


Let’s back up a bit: the “Participation Trophy” generation grew up in a time where everyone was a “winner”. We were given participation trophies for simply showing up to events, regardless of whether we won or lost. This has led to what many members of other – more experienced – generations view as a sense of entitlement among where we expect to be rewarded for simply showing up.


Here are a few behaviors to acknowledge when it comes to understanding young professionals in the workplace:

  • Growing up with instant likes, comments, and re-shares on social media is starting to impact how they act and communicate at work.
  • We now see young professionals seeking – and even expecting – higher titles and job opportunities early on in our careers. As noted earlier, social media has certainly played a significant role in the need for instant gratification at work. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat provide immediate feedback in the form of likes and comments, which has led to a culture where individuals crave immediate feedback and validation. This is significantly different from our parents’ generation, and you can look at generational data and behaviors to prove it.
  • They expect immediate feedback and validation from their superiors, and they are not afraid to voice their opinions. This can be seen as a positive trait, as it shows that they are confident and assertive. However, it can also be seen as a negative trait, as it can come across as entitled and demanding.

You could argue that the “Participation Trophy” generation’s use of social media has impacted their communication skills. They are used to communicating through short, concise messages, such as Tweets and Instagram captions, and this has led to a lack of patience when it comes to communication. In other words, they expect immediate responses to their messages and emails in a work setting.

However, rather than bashing this group for how they grew up, what can business leaders do with this knowledge to be better equipped when communicating with young professionals? At the same time, it is equally as important for the younger generation to grow more self-aware of their behaviors and how they transfer to the workplace.


Did you like this week’s post? Then you might like these posts below!
AI From A Young Professional’s Perspective
How To Keep YoPros Engaged In The Workforce
3 Ways To Bridge The Gap Between YoPros And Businesses That Hire and Retain Them

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