I’ve written in the All-In Blog before about our society’s current obsession with taking offense. Calling out someone else for making you feel uncomfortable has become both a badge of honor and a litmus test to discern how committed you are to the stances of the group with which you’ve aligned yourself.

In other words, “being offended” is the new bumper sticker.

This offended mentality has hit the youngest generation currently entering the workforce especially hard. I call them Generation ED (emotionally deficient): born in the late 90s, these kids developed their emotional intelligence during the first decade of the 21st century. They are the offspring and products of emotionally immature parents and educators. Told over and over again how special they are and asked how situations made them feel, Generation ED was conditioned to believe that emotional states are determined entirely by what others do and say to you, along with outside events and circumstances––unlike their grandparents, who were taught that they have control over and are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

A bit has been written about these young people and the harm that comes with sheltering yourself from ideas that make you uncomfortable––even before the recent deluge of stories discussing the therapy being offered on college campuses after Trump’s win.

something_we_dont_likeWe hear and read a lot about Millennials and the fresh ideas and devotion to a cause they can bring to an organization. But more discussion is needed about their other characteristics––especially Generation ED’s stunted emotional development.

The reality is that more and more business leaders are asking how they can avoid hiring Generation ED candidates altogether.

So, as Generation ED enters the workplace, we’re faced with a new set of problems. Employers are quickly recognizing the threat they pose to healthy corporate cultures and a company’s bottom line. Leaders report disturbing increases in unsubstantiated accusations of abuse and hostile workplace claims. Managers are increasingly citing “the emotional immaturity of new team members” as the reason for downturns in performance and rises in team relationship breakdowns.

One leader put it bluntly to me in a recent conversation: “If just one of these applicants slips through our hiring process, they can do untold damage to a heretofore well-performing team or organization.”

Understandably, employers are beginning to ask how to keep individuals who represent the worst of Generation ED’s shortcomings from joining their ranks. Hiring processes are being re-evaluated. In a sense, leaders want to know how to separate the emotional wheat from the chaff, and to identify those rare young applicants who possess the emotional intelligence required to contribute to a company’s mission and goals.

In response to this cry for help, I have developed a simple three-question process by which leaders can quickly identify where a Generation ED candidate stands.

Generation ED Identification Quiz

Question 1: Has another person ever done or said something that offended you? If so, what was your response?

Emotionally Intelligent Response: No. I own and control my emotional state and determine how I think, feel, and act. Having said that, if I observe a team member doing or speaking in a manner detrimental to the team, I would approach them privately, share my observation, and hope that they would be mature enough to listen to and consider my feedback.

Typical Generation ED Response: Yes. I’m not sure how to respond when people are so insensitive or outright offensive. When at school, I would report them to the Student Misconduct Board. I guess here at work I would report them to Human Resources.

Question 2: Who was your favorite teacher or professor and why?

Emotionally Intelligent Response: That would have to be Ms. Johnson, my freshman physics instructor. She helped me see that there are many solutions to a problem, that all of them fit some situations, but that none of them fit all situations. She once told our class, “Listen to the problem before choosing the solution to apply. Take the time to be with the problem and understand it fully. If you do, the appropriate solution will become obvious to you.”

Typical Generation ED Response: That would be Mr. Johnson, my pop culture politics professor. He was so intelligent and helped me see how unfair our society is, and how I must always be willing to fight against the unjust culture in which we live. I left his class a different and much stronger person.

Question 3: What makes you happy and why?

Emotionally Intelligent Response: Contributing to the well-being and success of another person, a team, an organization, or maybe even a worthwhile movement. I feel that’s the reason we are here––to make the world a place where everyone can reach their full potential.

Typical Generation ED Response: Being with my family and friends, especially the ones who like me and make me feel special. My condo and my new car. A job where my boss appreciates my uniqueness and understands that I am special––that all of us are. But to be honest, it’s difficult to be happy today, given all that’s wrong in our society and the world as a whole.

Obviously, individual answers will differ. Use these mock answers as a guide, and begin giving this quiz to all applicants––especially members of Generation ED.


Quick takes:

I’ve become a regular contributor to The Business Journals. My latest piece––”How Heresy Fuels the Best Modern Businesses”––explores the ways in which heretics move industry forward, as well as how you can commit to becoming a heretic yourself. Read it here.

800-CEO-READ–an excellent resource for worthwhile books on leadership––published my Change This Manifesto: “Wake Up, Heretics! We Need You.” You can download the manifesto here.

Let’s go All-In.


I also sat down recently with Dave Kirby for his 1 Simple Thing podcast to discuss Heretics to Heroes, the tenets of All-In™ Leadership, why business needs heretics to succeed, and more. Listen here, and as always, let me know what you think.

Lead illustration by Daniella Urdinlaiz. Used with permission via CC by 2.0.