The Truth About GenY and Blue Ribbons

GenY Goes Crazy for Blue Ribbons


“This GenY, Millennial generation is so entitled. They grew up receiving blue ribbons their whole lives — no matter if they won or lost.”

This blue ribbon lingo is becoming the go-to. Catch-all. Rub our face in our awards like a puppy who has peed the carpet, phrase when describing the GenY, Millennial generation. Apparently we carry entitled-ness with us like Richie Rich and his thick wad of cash. But really, is GenY’s underwear really stitched from all the blue ribbons of the past? And how does affirmation fit within today’s work environment? Well read on kind person and you will be rewarded. (ironic, no?)

GenY Goes Crazy for Blue Ribbons

Photos via Creative Commons and Jason Hargrove



We’ve been talking a lot lately on All Groan Up about GenY with 31 Ways (and Growing) You Know You’re a GenY 20something, Why You Don’t Know GenY Like You Think You Do, and a lively discussion going on right now on Our Favorite (or Least Favorite) Aspects of GenY.

But what about all these blue ribbons? Really? We all grew up receiving blue ribbons? Huh, funny. I have slightly different memories of my childhood. Memories of hanging on the pull-up bar mercilessly like a rock climber about to fall to his death, with his entire 3rd grade class snickering behind his back.

Oh yes the blessed President’s Challenge — the day of physical testing that was the only time in my Christian elementary school where they actually tried to prove Evolution correct by showing us survival of the fittest at it’s rawest form.

I could run. I could jump. I could catch. But do a pull-up? Not if my life depended on it — which in the world of the third-grade pecking order it most definitely did. The 50 pound girl with pony-tails busting out 10 pull-ups right after me. With a My Little Pony in her left hand.

I didn’t skip home singing about the Wonders of Paul with blue ribbons whipping behind me like an Olympic athlete carrying his flag. No, I shuffled home, head hung low with the puke green Honorable Mention ribbon stuffed deep into the abyss of my front pocket. Honorable Mention. Thank you for mentioning me in front of all my friends that I was in fact that big of a loser.


So away with you and all this blue ribbon business. It’s just not the case. We grew up with a clear understanding (and vivid daily reminders) of winners and losers. Believe you me. We grew up in a competitive, bell-curve, wait-list society.  GenY doesn’t want your affirmation and blue ribbons because we feel entitled to them, no we want them because we’ve been in a cage-match to win them our entire lives. From our parents. Our coaches. Our teachers. And now our bosses.  We don’t want to be honorably mentioned just because we show up. We want blue ribbons because that’s how we have been trained to win.


So shucks, let me apologize for my generation that we desire to be included in something beyond our pay grade that we will then in turn give our ALL towards with an inherent drive towards excellence, and might just end up creating something beyond expectations.

And golly gosh, you need to tell us good job once in a while (or all the time) and tell us whether or not we’re on the right track. Oh my, the horror.

Call me crazy but I’d rather have an employee that has the desire, talent, and drive to create an excellent marketing plan, a killer website, an appealing brochure, but who also needs to be reigned in from time to time and bought a chocolate chip cookie. Then the employee who clocks in clocks out, will never raise their voice, will never have an original thought or idea, and really stopped working for you seven years ago. You just never knew it.

Why not give GenY blue ribbons? Why not congratulate them for a job well done and look for ways to affirm positive behavior? Why not stoke that creative fire and drive with accolades? In turn, GenY will keep giving you results. I’m no manager but gee whiz, blue ribbons for results sounds like a good trade off to me.

Sure GenY might be higher maintenance, but so are BMW’s.  Keep investing in GenY and I believe their performance will far outweigh the cost.


Thoughts on GenY and Blue Ribbons? How do you see it? Love to hear your thoughts below


  1. Tanya

    I’ve heard all this about blue ribbons my entire life too, and I always think, where the heck was I? I’ve always worked hard for everything I’ve achieved. I agree with you one hundred percent about Gen Y deserving congrats for results (really, doesn’t everyone?). Now there’s the mindset to have!

    Something interesting I noticed growing up too (and maybe this could almost be considered separate from the whole “entitlement” spiel) is that when blue ribbons really were handed off willy-nilly to us Gen-Yers (without the true achievements to show for it), where did it start? Some parents. Some teachers. So if that attitude didn’t start with us, how is that our fault?

    Awesome post as always, Paul! Great food for thought.

    • admin

      Thanks Tanya for stopping by and the great insight. Glad I’m not the only one NOT having blue ribbons shoved in my pockets to my utter dismay. “Congrats for results” Well put! Sounds so easy so why is it practically so hard??

  2. Megan

    HALLELUJAH! Sing it, preacher man!

    Seriously, if I hear one more person tell me that I walked into the workforce feeling entitled, I will explode. Every last hustler I know (hustler as in those with side-jobs, those working long hours, those working when they’re not even working, etc) is Gen Y. Hustlers are not certainly not those who suffer from entitlementitis.

    Entitlement, high expectations, high maintenance – I call ‘bullship’ too. We were raised to have high standards for ourselves and we were graded on everything. Sports teams had stat boards as early as 5th grade. Academics were high stakes as college was shoved down the throat of every Gen Y alive. Everything had a rubric for success in our lives.

    Boomers have to start understanding the concept of give-and-take if they want us to lead the future. Give us feedback and we’ll take you to the moon and back.

  3. Joe Bunting

    This is hilarious Paul, and really true. It’s easy to knock the trophy generation, but my teachers always told us my middle school class was the most competitive they’d ever seen.

    • admin

      Thanks Joe! Completely agree.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You’ve got questions.

We’ve got your-


SurVival PAckAge

A free, super-stuffed care package of resources to help you get through your twenties (and thirties too).

Snag your Twenty-Something Survival Package

  • + "Get UnStuck" Video Series from Paul
  • + Two chapters from Paul's newest book "25 Lies Twentysomethings Need to Stop Believing"
  • + 10 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties instant download
  • + More! (Plus, it's all for free!)