We’ve all heard it. Over and over again.
“Participation trophies have created a generation of greedy, entitled assholes who think they should be handed a 30-hour work week with 25 days of PTO and a free nacho cart every Friday, right out of college!”
The Millennial Generation has a less than favorable reputation. And although there have been greedy, entitled assholes since the beginning of time, this generation’s stigma appears to be linked to the idea that participation trophies are the number one cause of assholery.
As a part of this generation, I can attest to the fact that some of my peers are entitled. Mostly the ones who grew up in wealthy families. Which makes sense, considering spoiled rich kids have historically had a knack for making unrealistic demands (golden eggs mostly). And while the little rich kids probably received participation trophies, so did the not-so-rich ones. And that’s the point. Here’s the thing that everyone seems to forget. Every child on your team and the other team got a trophy. And when I was presented with my trophy, I saw everyone else receiving theirs. The argument that millennials think we’re special and entitled to our dream job when we graduate because our trophies (and mommies) told us we were the best when we weren’t, doesn’t make sense. Because although getting a trophy seems like a grand gesture for kicking other kids in the shins for two hours, I wasn’t special. The definition of special implies uniqueness, and – to paraphrase some advice from our friend/nemeses Syndrome – when everyone is special, no one is.
Additionally, since when has “I got a trophy” ever equated to “I get my dream job?” Are six-year-olds walking away from their final t-ball game, plastic trophy in tow, thinking, “T-ball today, top executive at a fortune 500 company tomorrow. No, make it fortune 100. I deserve it.” I got a trophy like everyone else and now I should have a job that few people ever have. Because being rewarded for participation voids all basic logic and paints a world of possibilities that we never knew existed until one day, someone came along and showed us the light.
That ‘someone’ being our parents, coaches, mentors, the same people depicting the Millennial Generation as self-serving, lazy, entitled bastards. So… you give us trophies for participating… and then tell us how they made us terrible people… sounds like someone has accountability problems. But they do deserve accountability. Accountability for raising a generation that still cares about a world with less jobs, lower salaries, and higher mortgages. Leigh Buchanan writes in Meet the Millennials, “almost 70 percent [of millennials] say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.” And these priorities are estimated to shape the workplace as millennials continue to make up a large portion of the workforce.
If participation trophies helped shape this generation, maybe they aren’t so bad. But I’m not saying they did. I’m saying they’re a piece of plastic and nobody cares about them. Nobody.