Wiser Organizations

 

Leading an organization full of self-righteous hypocritical (i.e., normal) people has always been difficult. We think it's going to get a lot more difficult in the next few years, unless leaders take careful and thoughtful steps to prevent safetyism from taking root in their organizations. 

The Coddling of the American Mind focuses on events on college campuses, and then traces the problems back to younger ages — mistakes made by parents, and in K-12 education. As we were finishing the book, in early 2018, we considered writing a chapter on how these trends were beginning to affect organizations, particularly companies. We had just begun to hear stories from businesspeople about how safetyism was showing up in industries that hired primarily from America's most elite universities  industries such as journalism, media, the arts, and technology. But in early 2018, all we had was a few anecdotes, so we decided we could not yet write such a chapter.

The first members of Gen Z just began to graduate from college in May of 2017, or 2018, depending on how you count it. And just in late 2018, the trickle of anecdotes began to increase. Working in a company requires very high levels of cooperation, and an ability to submerge your own concerns for the good of the team. Such norms are incompatible with the callout culture and safetyism that some (just some) recent college graduates are taking with them into the workplace. We predict that the spread of safetyism into American companies along with the moral dependence and constant conflict it engenders will be a major theme in the business world, and in pretty much every organization, including churches, synagogues, and non-profits. We'll say more about the problem, and how leaders can minimize it, as we learn more about it.

In the meantime, here are a few articles in the popular press about Gen Z and safetyism at work:

A) On the rise in anxiety among young employees:

B) Advice for leaders and managers, about integrating Gen Z into the workplace

C) Advice for members of Gen Z

D) Conflict, callout culture, and social media in the workplace

E) The Great Awokening

A rapid shift in the values of white progressives happened around 2014 in the United States. This is a part of the story that we did not know when we wrote The Coddling. Research from Pew and the GSS (General Social Survey), and research on changes in word frequencies in the New York Times only became widely known in early 2019. This part of the story is NOT about Gen Z primarily, but it is affecting American companies in many (but not all) industries. Anyone trying to improve corporate culture in our age of rising political polarization and omnipresent social media needs to know about it. If we had known about The Great Awokening back in 2017, we would have added it to Chapter 6, The Polarization cycle. Here are some of the main essays about it: