Younger workers believe they can multitask and remain productive, the human-resources people told the York researchers. Thirty-eight percent of respondents blamed multitasking for the lack of “focus” among younger workers. The authors of the study explained that the younger generation “believes that it is possible to multi-task effectively” and that using social media, for example, is an efficient way to communicate. In interviews, the applicants check their phones for texts and calls, dress inappropriately and overrate their talents.The article offers a mixed evaluation of the role of the education system in enabling irresponsible behavior.
Let’s agree that everyone is at fault, more or less. The burden falls heaviest on the workplace. High-school teachers have few direct incentives to toughen up their classrooms. The steady drag of uninterested students and school bureaucracy beats them down to the point where using higher grades and lax discipline are the easiest ways to make it through the week.There's another dimension of the school dynamic that might reward careful study. Is there more than anecdotal evidence of coaches, whether in high school or college, seeking special treatment for academically marginal yet athletically talented people? The coach gets to screen for focus, for proper performance, and doesn't have to negotiate standards. Why not apply that model more generally?
College professors, too, have no direct incentive to raise the bar on behavior, given the influence of student ratings of their performance and pressure from administrators and parents. Most of all, poor behavior by students doesn’t immediately threaten the livelihood of teachers.
A bad worker, however, jeopardizes a whole unit’s productivity, and a manager can’t simply pass a low performer to the next level. Teachers who allow delinquent students to slide merely compromise their own integrity. Dereliction in the workplace puts profits at risk.
This, then, is the real transition into adulthood in the U.S. today -- not graduating from high school, leaving home or learning how to succeed in college, but performing full-time work for bosses who can’t compromise, and all too often must say, “Your work isn’t up to par, you’re not as great as you think, and if you don’t improve, you’re fired.”