College commencement speakers have been praising graduates for their technological capabilities and sensitivity toward social causes. These young adults were even proclaimed "the next Greatest Generation" in a recent Des Moines Register editorial. But the business world is finding that today's entry-level workers lack the work ethic of past generations and expect to be rewarded just for showing up.

Inexperienced bosses and teachers are easily enamored with these sweet-talking "Millennials," who, according to the Register, "value teamwork" and want "the common good." But veteran professors and employers have seen a dramatic change in young adults over the years. Today's "entitlement generation" wants jobs where they can relive their childhoods with fun group activities, flexible schedules and entertaining shared assignments.

This attitude pervades the classroom, where many students see nothing wrong with copying material verbatim off the Internet or turning in work late. If they receive poor grades, they blame the professor for failing to help them enough, or if they miss a deadline, they blame others. This is all part of the "teamwork" mentality that says they don't need to be held personally responsible for their actions.

It has led to a dramatic increase in plagiarism. Until this year I had only five or six cases of flagrant cheating over the past couple of decades, but recently I caught seven students committing plagiarism in a single class. Three apologized immediately, but four did not and seemed indignant that the cheating would affect their grades.

Also this semester, two students in another class turned in almost identical copies of a creative piece, and when they received bad grades, they complained that they were just helping each other. One girl had an internship supervisor do most of the work for a class assignment, and after earning an F, she objected, saying that she had not been told that she couldn't have professionals help complete it. Then there was the student who failed a course after he didn't show up for the final exam, and later said he should not have been penalized because his girlfriend had just broken up with him.

Cheating, tardiness and complaining are nothing new in higher education or the workplace, but what has changed is the number of young people who have no conscience when it comes to doing what's right or completing original work. When I ask the seniors in my career seminar class what they want in a new job, they often respond that they want to have "fun" and to work with "nice people." They are looking for another childhood experience instead of adapting to the demanding world of business.

Many of them were raised with excessive praise and rewards from adults who would help them do their work. Now those grown kids crave constant positive reinforcement and expect to be served by the very people they are supposed to be working for. Instead they should learn from the original Greatest Generation that the path to true workplace satisfaction includes self-discipline, sacrifice and responsibility, and that hard work will eventually bring its own reward.



Stephen Winzenburg is a communication professor at Grand View College who has worked in the broadcasting business for 37 years.