Maybe it’s because I just spent the last two years of my life studying workplace behavior and motivational theories while completing my master’s degree in organizational leadership.
Perhaps it’s because my nearly 40-page final thesis included dissecting the five generations in the workplace and how different cultural events impacted their worldviews sand workplace habits.
It could be that being a product of a preacher and a probation officer substantially impacted my desire to render my best effort in my endeavors.
I’m not sure what it was, but as I was walking through the card aisle of Target this morning, I saw this card in the Encouragement section and became slightly enraged:
The front of the card had a short, dull, #2 pencil and read “It’s Okay To Be #2.” The inside stated, “It Gives You Something To Strive For.”
Pause — What? I have some questions.
- How did this card make it from concept to comp to design to print?
- What account executive approved the purchase of this card?
- What district manager didn’t catch this in planogram?
I immediately did what anyone under the age of 35 with an opinion does and took to Snapchat to voice my stance regarding, “Why it is not okay to be okay with being #2.”
Now, I understand the concept the card vendor was going for, because losing is part of life and SOMEONE has to be in second place. I even wrote a blog for Millennials last year about how not winning a single scholarship I applied for motivated me to be relentless during the next round of applications (you can read it here on NOIRECity.com). Additionally, you don’t have to become obsessed with being number one – I don’t believe that either.
However, after studying the generational gaps between the five cohorts, I know that my generation is coined “The Trophy Kids” for the very belief that is subliminally intertwined in the copy listed on this card. I cannot sit back and allow us to pacify the next generation who is even more extreme than us. I described them as such in my final thesis paper:
Merely on the cusp of employment, Generation Z is suggested to have been born between the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s (Strauss, William, and Howe, 1991). Heavily influenced by
technology, this generation has never experienced life without the internet and thus experiences a vast world view of social, economic, and relational experiences (Turner, 2015)…Arguably one of the most important aspects of Generation Z is their use of the internet, technology, and cellular devices. The newest kids on the block use electronic devices, digital mediums, and social media at an extremely intense rate compared to other generations. Literature suggests that while former generations use technological devices as supplemental social engagement tools to interact with others, Generation Z is the most proficient in its use, often operating multiple devices and platforms simultaneously (Loveland, 2017).
In a world where analytics rule everything from vanity metrics on social media to sales goals in recruitment, stating “It’s okay to be #2” is a seed that, when planted in the minds of Gen-Z, can potentially send the message diminishing the grit needed to remain creative, ruthless, and savvy in the workplace and personal endeavors.
I know, I know – it’s just a card (and I still love Target)! But I am a Millennial who has been ranked in standardized testing pools since elementary school, participated in all the extra-curricular activities to become a “well-rounded applicant” for colleges, garnered plenty of awards and recommendations throughout life, and trained interns and mentees while being the youngest tenured employee. I am also a young, African American, and female – which can sometimes be perceived as a triple handicap when facing older, male, Caucasian counterparts.
I’m not perfect, and I do my best to own my own lane. However, I am not okay with settling for #2 when I work like a #1.
I can confidently attest from experience and research that a balance between quantifiable metrics and #MOXIE matter in the workplace and beyond.
Years ago, I was in a cross fit workout class (near death), when an instructor yelled, “Come on! You don’t train to be runner up!”
My beloved Gen-Z, don’t let the mass messaging fool you. If you continue to train at your highest potential, sooner or later the first place will be yours for the taking. Will you be ready or will you still be holding your greeting card from Target nursing that #2 spot?
Darby, V. (2017). GENERATIONS AT WORK: A REVIEW OF GENERATIONAL TRAITS AND MOTIVATIONAL PRACTICES IMPACTING MILLENNIALS (Unpublished master’s thesis). Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN.
Loveland, E. (2017). Instant Generation. Journal of College Admission, 35-38. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.nacacnet.org/news–publications/publications/journal-of-college-admission/instant-generation/.
Strauss, W., & Howe, N. (1991). Generation Z.
Turner, A. (2015). Generation Z: Technology and social interest. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 71(2), 103-113.