I help mentor college students … and the current crop is really immature

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

Outside of my regular job I hold a volunteer board position for the local chapter of a national philanthropic organization. A large part of our mission is to provide leadership opportunities and mentoring for college-aged women to help prepare them for life after graduation. I oversee a team of advisors as well as work directly with the students, who come from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. If it matters, I am in my mid-30s and the advisors on my team range in age from 24-65+.

Due to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, almost all of the students currently in our program spent nearly half of their formative high school years isolated at home, and unfortunately it shows. They consistently demonstrate the maturity, communication, and interpersonal skills of much younger teenagers rather than young women who are old enough to enter the workforce. I’m not so far removed from my own college experience that I don’t remember my own catastrophizing and dramatics, but I’m failing to find ways to explain the need for basic courtesy and level-headedness with both friends and authority figures. These women are so intelligent and show so much potential, but if something doesn’t go their way, whether it’s with a friend, a professor, or a potential employer, the default seems to be to totally shut down and ignore the problem, lie about it/spread rumors, blame someone else, or even start screaming and crying. What was promised to be a 1-2 hour per week commitment on my part has turned in to at least an hour per day putting out fires and fielding phone calls where I tell them, no, I don’t think their professors are “morally corrupt” for failing them on an exam when they didn’t bother to study.

Some of the older advisors on the board have told me that they’re giving up on this group of women and have chalked it up to generational entitlement. There has also been talk about removing some of the more emotional or less productive students from the program. I’m not willing to go that route, at least not yet. I feel that I have a responsibility to these students, and as long as they continue to show up, even if they’re not taking my advice, then so will I. I want to see them succeed. What else can I try to help them understand that their volatile behavior will absolutely not fly in a future job?

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 838 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann O'Nemity*

    Current college students missed out on formative professional and personal development during the pandemic. Instead of blaming them, offer them grace. They have some catching up to do! I genuinely believe that they will get back on track if they can get mentoring and support from colleges, employers, and organizations like yours.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yes, THIS.

      I almost always try to err on the side of grace, but it is *especially* pertinent here when we’ve been through a global trauma.

      Even if not, though, there are plenty of interns who’ve had personal traumas. The abusive parent. The chronically ill family member. The untimely death of a loved one. Financial stresses, hunger, homelessness.

      There are SO MANY reasons outside ones control they might lack the experience in workplace norms that might be expected that the kind and thoughtful thing would be to try to coach them through it so they can come out better on the other side.

      1. AnonForThis*

        I can add the perspective of someone who, for biographical/trauma reasons sometime in my late 40s/early 50s ended up in a mindspace where there is only one shot at accomplishing anything. This leads to a mental BSOD — crying, screaming, or being unable to form a single coherent sentence — as soon as something does not go to plan. Because anything that does not go right at the first try is the end of the world, a catastrophe from which recovery will be impossible. (Fortunately, after 25+ years of work, good habits run on rails in that environment. I never lost it at work. I have scripts.)

        TE, if (if!) your students suffer from a similar catastrophic mindset, the first thing to tell them might not be “it won’t work that way”, but “This is not the end of the world and you will be able to work through it and go on, if you do (whatever).” As my therapist said, “between now and the worst possible outcome are a lot of forks in the road”.

        And as I know how horrible I can be when I am in the grip of panic and despair: It’s not fair to you that you should act as their therapist or crisis manager. Maybe your organisation can get a person who is more qualified for deescalating crisis, and you can return to a mentoring role?

        1. Letter Writer*

          This is excellent advice, thank you. Myself and others try to talk the students down from meltdowns and reassure them that most of their mistakes won’t matter at all in a few years, but this is helpful framing.

          1. the cat's pajamas*

            Most colleges have some kind of student counseling center. You could suggest they talk to someone there to help relieve the burden on you. If the students are all from the same college maybe suggest to the organizers that they offer a workshop led by the counseling center, or something like that.

        2. Meat Oatmeal*

          This is a very strong comment. I think it will even help my reframe a few things in my own life!

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          I really like that last bit of advice (and your whole post!)

          The LW has spotted an ongoing problem that needs resolving in order to provide these young women with the kind of coaching they signed up for, but she’s not in the position and doesn’t have the training, like a therapist would, to manage it. It’s a great idea to recruit a person who has professional, ongoing experience in this area as part of the team in order to give the trainees the kind of valuable and applicable program they should have.

        4. Pets Banshees*

          Helpful perspective! I work with preschoolers, so meltdowns are a common occurrence. If you need more wording, our favorite phrase is “You are a person who can do hard things.”

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            Slightly darker, but my grandboss has a pin on her lanyard that says “No kittens died”. It’s her motto for when things don’t go well and everyone just needs to take a step back and a deep breath.

            1. BikeWalkBarb*

              My mom wasn’t a dark person in the least but she gave me the line “Will little children die as a result of this?”

              The catch now is that I work in transportation policy and sometimes the answer is yes.

              1. Mmssaa*

                My favorite line is “we are not doing pediatric rocket surgery” to remind myself the consequences are not life or death.

            2. Princess Sparklepony*

              I don’t know if that is worse or better than my standard – Did you die? No, you did not die. With the added – You will figure this out or go on from this and be fine.

              Now I’m worried about the kittens.

            3. londonedit*

              A few years ago I had a boss whose mantra was ‘it’s just books’. Yes, it can feel like a complete disaster when something’s running late and a demanding author is screaming – but even if a book somehow misses its publication date and has to be pushed back, it’s just books. No one died.

              1. UnderwaterShoe*

                There’s a classic one in my industry, “It’s PR not ER”. It’s always useful to have a bit of conext when clients can make things FEEL like the end of the world.

                1. iglwif*

                  Love this.

                  One of my bosses in my last job used to say, “There are no product marketing emergencies.” (I would add, “… no matter what the product manager says.”)

            4. Fishsticks*

              One of the best bosses I ever had, and someone I consider a personal and professional mentor, used to say, “Nobody dies because of this, so it’s not that serious. Let’s fix it.”

              It did so much to help me when I was prone to turning every tiny thing into a catastrophe in my early twenties. Now in my late thirties, I still find myself sometimes settling an incipient panic by thinking, “Okay, so I screwed up, but nobody died. Let’s fix it.”

            5. Lala762*

              One I got from my mom, “We’re not curing cancer here.”
              I’ve amended it to, “We’re not curing or causing cancer here.”

          2. What_the_What*

            But…. a 20 year old shouldn’t be having meltdowns that one equates to a preschooler. I’m not sure others read the same letter I did. These young women aren’t upset that they failed at something. They’re upset that someone failed them. “I failed a test, so my professor is morally corrupt!” Is not the same as “I failed a test and I feel like *I* am a failure because of it. If that were the case–they were internalizing failure or whatever as a fault of THEIR OWN, I’d be 100% on board with the comments advocating for more counseling activities, but what the LW’s issue to me boiled down to was a lack of maturity and taking responsibility for one’s own mistakes/failures to act (e.g. not studying and then blaming a professor! Like WHAT THE WHAT?). Loving a lot of the “nobody died” framing, but I don’t think it works with people who are presenting as self-centered as in the LW’s post. Just my reading of it, and YMMV, but… my two cents.

            1. Pickwick*

              +1. A lot of great general advice that doesn’t, I agree, quite seem to fit what LW is describing.

            2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

              In my experience, a lot of people with underdeveloped or overburdened self-regulation and coping skills, use blaming others to escape feeling more personal responsibility/failure/shame/helplessness than they can handle.
              It’s a sort of self-protective wishful thinking, reframing the undeniable Something Went Wrong from the threatening And It’s My Fault And My Responsibility To Fix And I Can’t, to a less threatening It’s Not My Fault And I Don’t Have To Fix It I’ll Be Okay.

              Even mature people who are well-adjusted and socially skilled can experience the impulse sometimes when we’re in a situation that tests the limits of our cope — we just have more developed ability to restrain that impulse and use other ways to manage our emotions and address the situation productively.

              Grown people who are struggling with this for almost any reason — developmental delay (internal, such as neurological difference; or external, such as personal or societal trauma or lacking social education) or temporary crisis, or whatever — benefit from being given similar social-emotional-learning supports as young kids, just presented in adult language, not condescending kid-speak.

              Presume people are do as well as they know how to.
              Reduce demands to meet the person’s ability to meet them most of the time.
              Presume emotional-regulation involves learned skills and practice more than innate character.
              Explicitly teach and model the skills, give guided practice at a level where success is achievable and constructive feedback that directly and nonjudgmentally addresses needed changes, and acknowledges growth.
              Increase demands/fade out supports as the person demonstrates success.

            3. ExhaustedInAccounting*

              I definitely read the same letter that you did. The behavior described, in my opinion, goes deeper than just a lack of maturity. I see this same thing in my middle schoolers and teens in high school. I feel like something about the generational trauma of the Panini has really messed with these poor kids.

              1. Michelle*

                “the generational trauma of the panini….”

                I think I’m just going to start calling it that.

              2. The Editor-In-Chief*

                I think your phone autocorrected, but I am taking “trauma of the Panini” as a personal-use phrase, thanks.

                “I’d love to go to your dinner thing, but unfortunately I am coping with the trauma of the panini. Next time?”

                1. porridge fan*

                  It has become common in some circles, maybe out of superstition, to replace the word “pandemic” with something else that starts with “pan-“. Panini is the one I’ve heard most commonly.

        5. Resentful Oreos*

          This is a great comment and very helpful advice in all kinds of situations. Thank you.

      2. Reed Weird*

        Yup. I graduated college in 2021 and now volunteer as a coach for a club sport at my college. It has been absolute havoc trying to get people to stay committed past the first month or two of practice, but only some of it is actual flakiness. The students are just dealing with more medical crises, mental health burnouts, family emergencies, and so much more than when I was on the team or in the 15 years the other coaches have been with the team.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      This.

      They have a lot of catching up to do, and honestly, even in the long-ago-pre-panini times, we still caught an intern or two that had to be told point blank that “This is the working world, you cannot behave in a manner befitting the Mean Girls Movie or other high school level behavior, and yes, your behavior is unbefitting of an adult in X, Y, Z ways.”

      Remember that they didn’t ask for the pandemic, and they may have had parents who responded reasonably to all the asks of the time, or not (to either extreme).

      1. Seashell*

        I thought you were referring to times when paninis didn’t exist or weren’t common, but I’m guessing that’s an autocorrect error.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Clarifying that this is absolutely what I meant to do. I had tweens during the early part of the pandemic and lord knows I needed something to crack me up. “Panini” did it.

            My autocorrect is weird. It certainly never throws “ducking” out there because it apparently has heard me at work before!

            1. Lenora Rose*

              I’ve heard and read the Panini enough to start skipping over it. I am going to be so confused the next time someone actually discusses bread varieties…

              I’ve taught my autocorrect to autofill itself as autocarrot. But it removes apostrophes from it’s as in “it is” and adds them to normal plurals (plural’s). And it is convinced I talk about someone named Don a lot instead of trying to say don’t.

            1. Elle*

              Seconded re: pandemonium. “Place of all demons” just about sums up the current world state.

          1. Freelance Bass*

            My favorite is “the *gestures broadly*” to indicate the state of global affairs

            1. firefighter (metaphorical)*

              I love the “gestures broadly”. I also heard “the roadworks” in early 2020 but that didn’t catch on…

        1. Petty Betty*

          There are some areas of the interwebz that outright banned the usage of the word “covid” or reference to c-19, pandemic (or the conspiracy word “plandemic”). So, substitute words popped up in its place. Us rennies decided to be historically humorous and started calling it “the plague”. I even have a cast shirt with reference to “the plague year” for 2020 since that was the year we couldn’t perform.
          I also enjoy the term “pandemonium” to describe the situation. One kid I babysat used to call it the “pocket demon”.

          1. Switz4219*

            I usually use pandemic, but I have been known to call Covid “the plague” and often refer to anything prior to early 2020 as “the Before Times”. Because it amuses me amd goodness knows we need all of that we can find these days.

            1. Middle-Aged IT Guy*

              I do this too, both references to The Plague and The Before Times. The 2020s have just been the *longest* decade, and we’re not even halfway through it.

            2. Cats Ate My Croissant*

              My go-to is ‘the zombie apocalypse’. I also use ‘the Before Times’, or sometimes just ‘BC’.

      2. Artemesia*

        The key here is that you can’t expect them to just ‘pick up on’ mature professional norms — it has to be explicitly taught. When I worked with college interns we devoted some time to this but it was nothing like people face now. But even then, inexperienced people were inexperienced; they were clueless about professional norms. I remember 60 years ago when I was entering the workforce some of the doofus behaviors I exhibited, often trying to be my idea of professional — with no experiences that would teach. me what that was.

        I would think through the information you think is important for them to know and then teach them in the frame of ‘workplace norms are different from what you are familiar with in teen social groups, your family or school — and it takes a while to learn these appropriate behaviors. ‘ And then be very explicit about the half dozen most important things you want them to know.

        If you are working with a group — a group workshop where you have case studies that showcase inappropriate behaviors and have them apply what you have taught them to these cases might be powerful.

        I used to stress the importance of observation when working in a new setting — identify who has influence, look at the norms of greetings and socializing, etc. But observing is not enough when you have people who have not been socialized to more mature behavior.

        1. Chick-n-Boots*

          I think this is such a great, concrete suggestion and a really thoughtful and nuanced response. I agree with everything – well said!

          1. Zweisatz*

            Yes I agree as well!

            A more overarching approach might limit frustrations on both sides. “Here are some core principles to keep in mind.” and then next time “Remember the principles we talked about last week? Instead of y (what they’re doing) z would be more in line with those principles.”

        2. Nihil Scio*

          This! Just like teaching students formal dining etiquette (something I learned during weekly ‘formal’ dinners at home) you can teach them workplace norms in controlled settings.

          Talk about consequences of certain undesirable behaviours, learn the expectations of their bosses, how to achieve results, and how to react to feedback in a way that benefits them.

          A fun lesson might be had on the topic of ‘work-speak’.

        3. Middle-High-College Teacher*

          I’m a middle school teacher and college adjunct professor, and this is exactly what I was going to say. The students don’t know what they don’t know, and explicitly teaching them the social norms of the workplace is the most productive way forward.

          It can be super frustrating to deal with out-of-line behaviors, because a lot about behavior is just learned through interactions. That implicit learning masks how complex social rules are, though, and it makes it easy to forget that these rules can be explicitly taught. At school we’ve started thinking about actually teaching behavior just like an academic subject. A saying we use to help us think about our own reactions to out-of-line behaviors is “if people don’t know how to read, we teach them to read. If they don’t know how to do math, we teach them to do math. If they don’t know how to behave, we punish them.” It kind of puts into perspective that even if they should know something, the fact is they don’t, and we can choose to help them learn it.

          Covid has made behaviors across all the age groups I work with (8-young adult) so. Much. Weirder. It’s tough out there. Sometimes I want to pull my hair out. I believe in my heart of hearts that we can teach these skills, though, and I really hope I’m right.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            Yeah, I remember one time some years back our “behaviour support teacher” (who takes kids with behavioural problems out to work with them on their behaviour) was absent and the deputy principal asked me if I could take one of their groups in with the class I had at the time, as I am a learning support teacher and only had two students or so at the time.

            One of my students, a boy with mild general learning difficulties who struggled quite a lot academically, asked one of the boys from the other group what they should have had at that time and the other boy said “behaviour” and my student asked “how can you learn behaviour?” and while I didn’t say anything, I was thinking “well, you don’t have to because you know how to behave. These kids genuinely don’t.”

            Despite my student’s learning difficulties, he had an implicit understanding of what was considered “good” and “bad” behaviour and if he ever did bend the rules a little, like taking the long way around on the way to my classroom, he’d come in with this half-embarrassed smile on his face like he was half-nervous but fairly confident he could get away with it because it was a mild transgression and he had a generally good reputation.

            But some of the students getting behavioural support genuinely didn’t have that understanding, sometimes because the rules at home were so random and confused that they didn’t associate cause and effect. I had one student respond when I warned him that I’d report his behaviour to his year head with “well, what if I told the year head you wouldn’t let me talk?” (in the sense of keep talking out loud to the person beside him, talking over me while I was reading). He genuinely seemed to believe that the year head would be annoyed at me for expecting my students to pay attention in class. I had to explain the “teacher look” to another student who I overheard whispering to the person beside him, “why is she looking at me?” genuinely confused. I had to explain, “when a teacher looks at you like that, it’s a warning to stop what you are doing or you are going to get into trouble.” They didn’t know. They thought I was just staring at them…I don’t know…being creepy or something. It didn’t occur to them it was an “I’m watching you and I can see you are breaking the rules, but I’m giving you a minute or two to stop before I say anything.” These were teenagers and those are rules we generally expect much younger children to have internalised. I can’t remember when I grasped the “if you are messing and the teacher looks at you but doesn’t say anything, stop immediately,” but I know I realised that you were supposed to stay quiet when the teacher was speaking or reading back when I was in junior infants at 4 or 5.

            We assume these skills are innate, but in reality, they are taught by parents and teachers, often without their even intending to teach them. My mum always says she has no idea how we learnt not to touch or take other people’s things, that she never told us not to and one time I said to her, “well, maybe you didn’t explicitly say ‘don’t take other people’s things,’ but I bet you said stuff like ‘that’s grandma’s. I can’t let you have that. We’ll have to ask her‘ or ‘you can have the sweets I’m buying you after we’ve paid the lady/gentleman. They’re not ours yet.'”

            We learn these things from experience and interactions with others and if children grow up in environments where those things aren’t taught, where they see the adults around them breaking the rules, how would they learn them?

            In the case of the LW’s situation, it sounds like it’s less about being around people who didn’t follow the usual norms and more about…not being around people. Covid changed a lot of the usual rules, some permanently, some just temporarily, so it’s hardly surprising if young people don’t know where they are or which rules are still in play.

            1. Rainy*

              I have a cousin who spent ten years in the classroom and at the point she realized that slowly but surely every year, every kid with a behavioural problem was being shuffled into her class because she had the skills to help them improve and the patience to not just run screaming through the halls every afternoon, she started spending her continuing ed credits on that exact thing. Now she’s a behavioural specialist and she works with kids with serious behaviour issues to get them to a point where they can be re-integrated into their original classroom. Hard work, she says, but really rewarding, and with long-term effects on the kids she works with. I honestly think she’s been the difference between kids successfully making it to graduation and kids being shunted into the school-to-prison pipeline. I’m really proud of her.

              Also her own kids are *really* well-behaved. :)

              1. the cat's pajamas*

                That’s wonderful. I was really worried the ending was going to be “and then she burned out because all of the problem children got dumped on her.” This is so much better!

            2. Resentful Oreos*

              This is another really good and thoughtful comment! It goes to show how much learning takes place without us really knowing it. It’s a patient, day by day, setting an example process (like your example of not just taking grandma’s stuff, but we have to ask permission first, and maybe she will say “no,” and that’s OK). Kids who grew up in chaotic families don’t learn that from *family*, but at least formerly they could learn from friends’ families, teachers, neighbors, etc. But the pandemic meant that everyone was in their little “pods,” and heaven help the kids stuck in a dysfunctional or abusive pod.

            3. MM*

              Absolutely. We can just tell them! My niece went through a phase when she was maybe 3 or 4 where she really liked walking up behind us and poking us in the butt. (She only ever did it to me, her mom, or her grandma, at least.) Unfortunately, a lot of her best opportunities to do this where when the poking target was cooking, so it was actually pretty unsafe–nobody needs to get startled while using a knife. She’d gotten some “not now, Name” and similar indirect discouragements, but it wasn’t sinking in. Eventually I just squatted down and looked her in the eye and calmly explained that there are some body parts we really don’t like other people to touch without permission, even people we’re very close to and touch a lot, and our butts are one of them. As far as I know, she never did it again.

              (Her parents are great, so I’m not really sure why they hadn’t done this themselves yet, but her mom just muttered “well that was easy,” and then walked after her reinforcing the point.)

            4. Anon Y Mouse*

              So much of this is true. I was an autistic child (undiagnosed, it was the 80s) who was deeply baffled by a lot of the rules of classroom interaction and had a lot of difficulty going from the specific to the general. Which is to say that if you, the teacher, said to me, “I know you know a lot about this topic, but it’s time to write our answers now, not to talk,” I would NOT be able to generalise this to “Don’t monologue when everyone else is trying to write. Not even if you have something really interesting to say.” And many other examples.

              Which is to say that even with examples, some kids – and some adults – will struggle to formulate rules for behaviour from examples, even if everyone else’s is consistent. They may need to be told; even then, some may need an explanation of why the rule is there (which Alison is so good at).

            5. Fishsticks*

              My mom used to say, “Look with your eyes, not with your hands,” constantly – I am very tactile when it comes to learning and will pick anything and everything up, even more so as a child. And my mother used to say that my older brother and sister never needed that specific thing to be said out loud – but I did.

              It came in handy when my younger daughter is also a “pick everything up to learn about it” child. I find myself saying, “Look with your eyes,” over and over and understanding where my mom was coming from more and more…

          2. bringing kites to the picnic*

            “If people don’t know how to read, we teach them to read. If they don’t know how to do math, we teach them to do math. If they don’t know how to behave, we punish them.”

            This is such a great point!! Being taught how to handle frustration and disappointment, how to communicate well, etc — those are incredibly valuable skills. In my family, the way to express frustration was by yelling. Training on how to express it more constructively would have been SO helpful.

            That said, there is a limit to how much time a company can invest in teaching these skills. If an intern couldn’t read, the company would probably end that person’s internship and suggest that the person connect with a literacy org instead.

            1. Jldlaga*

              Exactly this last part.

              While yes, these students need to be taught how to behave, the situations as described are not part of “teaching professional norms”. These student need to be taught basic life skills and emotional regulation. I think it’s perfectly logical for some volunteers to conclude that the issues described are far beyond their mentoring abilities and honestly I question whether the LW is equipped to help these young people. The option of suggesting a qualified counselor is great but I’m reading this to say that would be a pretty fundamental departure from the original purpose of the organization. It’s not a terrible thing to admit that some people need a more remedial type of help and the LW and her organization are not the best place for them to get that help.

              Sitting down with the students and offering resources (I assume their schools have counseling offices?) kindly could be an option. But those fundamental emotional issues need to be addressed before professional coaching will be useful.

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            I’ve seen many comments in general on the interwebs lately about how easy it is to “go feral;” that is, to just shed a lot of societally-useful behavior in a very, very short amount of time.

            I talk to people on the phone for a living, and it’s definitely gotten harder for many of the customers to convey, verbally, what they want. They simply aren’t used to conversing with other humans anymore, on all sorts of levels.

          4. Veryanon*

            Agreed. I am the parent to two young adults who lost out on valuable socialization time (high school and college) during the pandemic. It can be very tough sometimes to have to explain things that I think should be obvious, but then I have to remind myself that my son’s college education was basically blown up in the middle of his second year, and my daughter basically lost two years of high school. So yes, socially they are behind where they should be. I think we will be seeing the fallout from this for many years to come.

            1. iglwif*

              I have a 21yo child, and yes.

              She was in Grade 12 in March 2020, and over the next 6 months two close friendships blew up, her classes went online (badly) and she dropped one of them, the prom she had bought a beautiful dress for was cancelled, her “graduation” involved dropping by the school to pick up a mortarboard and a “congratulations” poster, then she went off to university where she lived in residence halls but all her classes were online and the dining hall was takeout-only.

              Every single experience she had from age 17.5 onward has been weird and Not According to Plan. No prom, no graduation ceremony, no frosh week activities, no dining hall meals with friends. Her GPA tanked and she lost her entrance scholarship after first year. She couldn’t find a job that summer because so many things were still closed or limited.

              She is in fact doing very well — she lucked out with a COVID screener job that turned into a receptionist job, and after a really icky first relationship she now has a very nice boyfriend, and she’ll be graduating in November. She’s learned a lot about workplace norms from this job, and her competence at it has boosted her self-confidence. But the trauma is there, and it comes out from time to time in ways that you might not expect if you only met her in Public-Facing Receptionist Mode.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                Watching the ways my kids have been derailed personally by the Pandemic, I reassure myself by the fact that studies showed that Syrian refugee kids actually settled in and caught up in a handful of years and are indistinguishable from their Canadian-born peers at this point.

                It’s not exactly the same — on the one hand, once in Canada, they had norms that were still normal to copy from their peers, where the Pandemic split everyone off and killed all the socializing and they’re all trying to get those norms back at the same time — on the other, those kids left a much more actively traumatic situation, had a long stretch of broken norms if they were in a camp for a year or two or three, and were also often learning the language.

        4. Sara without an H*

          +1000. This is such good advice. LW, work with your colleagues to develop ways to define necessary norms and teach them to your students, with appropriate examples and opportunities to practice. Pandemic isolation did them no good at all, but workplace norms are learned behaviors. Help them learn!

          You should check with Alison directly, but she’d probably be fine with having you provide links to appropriate examples from the AAM archives.

        5. Colette*

          I agree. Spell out what behaviour you want to see. For example:
          – if something upsets you at work, it is OK to walk away for a few minutes to get your emotions under control. It’s not OK to scream, throw things, or sob at your desk.
          – if you make a mistake, you should own up to it and figure out how to make it right and avoid it happening again. Blaming someone else is not a solution.
          – at work, you are expected to take responsibility for your work, including paying attention to deadlines, communicating issues promptly, and asking for help when you need it.

          (For my part, I’ve been working with pre-teens before and throughout the pandemic, and I haven’t seen this kind of behaviour.)

          1. firefighter (metaphorical)*

            I have found these really helpful! Another way of framing this kind of thing I’ve used is a “skill share”. A format I use a lot at work is “Three Things I Learned The Hard Way” or “Three Things I Wish I’d Known About [X]” , where more experienced people talk about what they’ve learned about various career skills [I work at a uni so often things like publishing research, conference organisation, networking, teaching, wrangling email]. The idea is that you’re sharing mistakes or difficult learnings so other people don’t have to have as hard a time as you did. I can imagine this working well in this scenario, with some more experienced people storytelling about how they resolved conflict, managed difficult emotions at work, etc.

        6. Java*

          I used to stress the importance of observation when working in a new setting — identify who has influence, look at the norms of greetings and socializing, etc

          This is SUCH an important aspect of learning professional norms

          And honestly, I think 100% wfh organizations do a huge disservice to young people entering the workforce.
          We can’t expect young people to totally absorb these behaviours through a screen.
          And I know that some of these norms are shifting (as they should!) but I think there are some that can be extra hard to “get” if you’re not watching/experiencing them.

          1. Jam*

            It’s hard enough as an adult with experience – I and several of my friends who’ve changed jobs in the last couple of years have been finding it very hard to settle into jobs where there is a strong hybrid element. If existing staff don’t make an effort to have more in person days during training it’s very hard for a new person to pick things up remotely. It was a different dynamic during covid where there were traditions and habits to lean on, and everyone was making more of an effort since everything had to be remote.

      3. The Voice of Reason*

        Previous iterations of college students who lived through the Depression, World War II, Vietnam, 9/11, and the Great Recession also faced challenges, but they didn’t react the way the students in LW’s mentee group are reacting. They developed resiliency because we expected them to do so.

        1. Marieke*

          that is comparing oranges to apples because non of those groups were isolated from their peers.

          1. AnnieG*

            It may be oranges to apples, but the difference you point out is irrelevant–high school/college students don’t learn professional norms and behavior from their peers, so isolation from others their age doesn’t make a difference.

            1. EttaPlaceInBolivia*

              As a high school teacher who works in career and technical education, I disagree heartily! Students DO learn professional norms and behaviors from their peers. Remember looking at the student council president and admiring/hating them for how well they were able to motivate and organize people? Remember the slacker who slept in the back row? Remember the kid who always had just one more question but it only applied to them? The peer pressure/praise that kids get for these behaviors DO translate into professional norms when they’re older. They’re learning communication, teamwork, negotiation, compromise, and code switching, to name a very few things. You need all of these in the workforce.

              1. Throwaway Account*

                I second that! A student just left my office (university) after telling me all about the term abroad experiences his brothers and former roommate had/were having and how he was modeling his expectations and goals on their experiences. I don’t just mean the things he hoped to do, he also talked about expectations for his behavior while abroad. He also talked about a friend who was working back home in an industry he hoped to join and what he learned about how to perform in that industry.

                We also have student workers. They often talk about their expectations of each other, who is not carrying their weight, etc.

                They do learn from each other, they are eager and primed to learn from their own cohort and not so much from us oldies!

              2. TechWorker*

                Agree, plus they were isolated from many social interactions with older adults too, as well as younger children (I do think seeing younger children behave in a way deemed ‘immature’ can make teenagers want to act more adult..). And a lot of the adults were not acting normal too…

              3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                I agree! It’s a bit like how when my kid was a baby I tried to teach her how to use a spoon, and she would sort of play with the spoon – but then she started day care with kids a few months older than her and suddenly she got so much better at using the spoon to actually feed herself. None of those other babies were intentionally teaching her, but she saw them eating and something in her baby-brain said, “hey, I wanna do that too!”

              4. Lils*

                Also, I’d point out that as a middle-aged, usually-resilient professional person with a normal maturity level, my behavior during the first 2 – 3 years of the pandemic drastically regressed. My mental health tanked, I cried all the time at work and home, I got in screaming arguments with loved ones, my substance use issues increased, my work product sucked, etc. I’m doing better now, but like I lot of people of all ages, I didn’t always manage to demonstrate maturity because I was struggling with the extreme isolation. Young people didn’t have the normal amount of mentorship or role-modeling from the adults in their lives either, and it’s not their fault. I love the idea of explicitly teaching behavior to young adults.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              I think it’s hugely relevant. More to the point, students also weren’t JUST isolated from their peers, they were also isolated from representative professional adults. Academics can be taught via screen, but I remember watching how teachers handled teens during breaks, moving from class to class, over lunch – those unstructured times were when the worst things COULD happen between students, and where the adults who aren’t working with them directly elsewhere have to step in and present professionalism and authority immediately, with no priors established but that “I’m the adult in the room.”

          2. k*

            I get this, but also I’ve worked with teenagers in a mentoring capacity here and there for past few years and personally have not actually seen a significant difference in maturity levels pre-pandemic and post-pandemic. I’ve been lucky to work with some impressive students, but I’ve also witnessed a very typical level of teenager immaturity that’s stayed pretty consistent over the years! And I have definitely not encountered the (screaming and crying) behaviours in this age group that the LW describes.

            So before blaming the pandemic, I’d advise the LW to get a temperature check and talk to other people working with teenagers and young adults — there may be unusually disruptive young adults in this particular group, and the instinct to remove them or at least set firmer boundaries may be a good one.

        2. Zelda*

          And because there existed a mechanism for them to learn norms. The issue with the current crop isn’t merely trauma, but that the injury was specifically to the social contacts by which people learn culture and behavioral patterns. Kinda like AIDS isn’t just a disease; it’s a disease of the immune system and damages a person’s ability to withstand any and all diseases.

          I have health issues and family members with significant underlying conditions, so you will see me on here advocating for masking, limiting travel and gatherings, and remote work. For us, endemic is not one whit better than pandemic. But I have to acknowledge that a lot of things that my generation picked up by osmosis are harder to transmit virtually. The young people aren’t “soaking in it” the way we were, and some things will have to be explicitly and intentionally taught.

        3. PNut Gallery*

          None of those involved them being isolated, and just look at how so many of them turned out to be adults who repress every emotion except anger, frown upon or completely dismiss mental health issues, became parents whose children have gone no or low contact, etc…. You’re advocating for shoving every natural reaction down into a tiny box that doesn’t see the light of day just to comply with outdated social norms. We can teach the new generations, but we have to be open to learning from them too.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Yes, everyone with a grandparent who lived through the Depression has stories about how it affected them and their behavior. The effects look different because it was a different type of challenge, but to pretend that Covid young adults are the only ones to develop maladaptive habits due to big global challenges is just silly.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I was just mentioning in passing how my grandparents were all slightly weird about food. “You know,” I said, “like they weren’t hoarders but they kept a lot of canned food around in that I-survived-the-depression way.” Everyone knew exactly what I meant.

              In 50 years people’s grandkids are gonna talk about how people of my generation are a little weird and germophobic in that I-survived-the-covid-pandemic way.

              1. Pierrot*

                Yup, my grandpa was very successful in his career, but he grew up during the great depression, his family lost everything, and he had anxiety about money for the rest of his life. If he got a letter with a stamp that wasn’t postmarked, he had a special instrument he used to scrape the stamp off so that he could re-use it. He was a great, generous person, but if my mother noticed the manifestations of this anxiety while she was a kid, the way he experienced it internally was probably much more intense. He was a resilient person, as were many people who lived through the Depression, but it’s quite sad how much energy was spent worrying about money.

              2. Csethiro Ceredin*

                Yes! My affluent grandmother had a whole drawer of the little plastic tags off bread bags, and a whole cupboard of styrofoam meat trays and the little plastic baskets berries used to come in.

                I remember as a kid asking her if I could have one of the little plastic baskets for a hot air balloon I was trying to make, and she said no, she might need it. I was very puzzled and my parents explained she had been very poor for a while and it was hard to let go of things.

                A lot of grandfathers who had been in the war were very bottled up or jumpy.

                This is a different version of the same thing, just a different collective trauma.

          2. iglwif*

            This this this.

            My father was a child during the Depression, and I am here to tell you that he absolutely did not turn out okay.

        4. RabbitRabbit*

          Are you sure? Because we tend to romanticize stuff that happened long ago when in reality things were more complicated. We have complaints about no one wanting to work going back centuries, we have complaints going back to the time of Aristotle about “the youth” being rude and lazy.

          Generations of children of Great Depression survivors and WWII survivors and Vietnam War survivors talk about the massive levels of PTSD and other mental/emotional damage their parents/grandparents emerged with and inflicted on the next generations.

          We also isolated people in the 1918 flu pandemic and during the polio outbreaks pre-Salk vaccine. Polio-related isolation was more prevalent in summer but I’m sure we can find issues with isolation in heavy flu-impacted areas.

          1. dePizan*

            I’ve heard from so many people who either went through the Great Depression as kids, or else not even them but their parents did; who then learned to hoard food or other items, not spend money on anything “frivolous” (which could be anything from actual luxuries to real necessities like new shoes when kids had outgrown the previous pair), and so on.

            They developed a scarcity mindset in early years that made them experience real fear/anxiety over going without enough food or money. Even if they had plenty of both, just the thought of it was enough to send them into a trauma spiral.

            And then you had the families that couldn’t afford to stay together, so children might have been sent on to live with relatives that had more, so then there was the separation trauma, where they might be overly protective of kids, even as adults, or overly anxious over being apart.

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              This was my grandfather. He was born in 1918 and raised by a widowed mother from toddlerhood onward. Over a century later, with enough money in his bank account to have lived in luxury, he was wearing clothes that Goodwill had rejected as unsaleable and refusing to throw away food that had rotted. He would pick up things from curbs that other people were throwing away – old carpet, broken suitcases, scrap lumber – because it was “too good” to throw away. It was so hard and sad. When we dealt with his house and his bank accounts after he died, and I realized just how much money he’d been holding onto and how little joy and comfort it had brought him, I cried.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            Our current president (in Ireland) had a father who took part in our War of Indepence and Civil War. His father later struggled with alcoholism, developed poor health and died when our president was a young boy.

            Yeah, not everybody developed resilience.

            1. Crazy Job*

              Yes, we forget those who died or were changed. Explicit teaching really helps. I work with traumatized children. Just yelling RESILIENCE doesn’t

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            I’ve read real horror stories about the 1918 flu: whole families found dead in their houses (with the infants and youngest kids clearly having starved to death,) one girl who lived with her own family at the end of very long, private road, who didn’t get the flu, but watched the death wagons roll by every single day at the head of that road, as every single person they knew dropped one by one until they were the only family left in the area. Just gruesome, irreversibly traumatic stuff.

          4. Cat Secrets*

            It doesn’t even necessarily have to be big global events. My 5 year old asked the other day why my husband always shares his food but I don’t. It’s because my husband grew up in a house where there was always more food in the fridge, so sharing his food with others was no big deal. If he was still hungry after sharing he could get more food. But I grew up in a house where every single morsel of food was portioned out. There was never extra food in the fridge. Sharing my food would mean going without, so by default I eat all my food and don’t offer to share. This stuff sticks with you.

            1. iglwif*

              Oh man.

              My father was raised by a single mother during the Depression. (She kicked his father out for stealing money from the shop they owned, and raised their two kids on her own.) He had A LOT of issues which I won’t go into here, but the one your post reminds me of is his insistence that we eat everything on our plates at meals. You’re full? Too bad. The gristle on the meat makes you gag? Too bad. Chicken livers revolt you? Too bad.

              … it has just occurred to me that three out of four siblings became vegetarians. I wonder if there’s any connection.

        5. Wendy Darling*

          Unless you have some weird insight into how 22 year olds were after the Spanish Flu you’re not really making a fair comparison here. Also my grandparents all lived through the great depression and let me tell you, they were all hot messes in their own ways and they definitely did not ALL develop resiliency.

          Acting like the current generation of young people is just uniquely horrible is gross, ageist peevery. You may as well also shake your cane and scream at them to get off your lawn. Running around calling yourself “The Voice of Reason” while claiming that it’s the children who are wrong tells us way more about you than it does about the children, and it is not flattering.

          1. Bumblebee*

            Hot messes who stuffed it all down inside and didn’t express any of it – at least not verbally or healthily – and then taught their children (my parents’ generation) to do the same. I am only now, in midlife, unwinding that damage, and I’ve probably already handed some of it down to my kids. But hey, at least I don’t hit them, so that’s an improvement, right? The pandemic’s impact is, likewise, going to go on for generations.

          2. Resentful Oreos*

            “They eff you up, your mum and dad” indeed. I think every generation has some kind of trauma to deal with, some worse than others, and there are those who can cope, or at least function, and then there are those who wind up becoming too toxic for most people or workplaces to deal with.

            The problem is, you can’t undo years’ worth of trauma in a crash course. We’re a society that wants instant results, and sometimes it takes quite a bit of patient work in order to produce people who are nice to be around.

        6. Mari*

          Yes, but….

          As a HS teacher, I deal with the kids who were locked down during what my school calls the ‘social identity spurt’ years. If you think about it, 0-5, your identity is pretty much your family. 5-10, you’re figuring out who you are that isn’t the people around you. 10-15 is the point where kids start separating their identity from the greater family identity and start identifying more with their peers, and 15-20 is when they are starting to firm up their sense of self.

          To take kids in the absolute heart of ‘figure out who I am that isn’t my family’ and lock them up JUST with their family kinda… dams up the process. AND, because they are basically hard-wired to go looking for social interaction, they did so … on line. And, while I’m not a hard-line ‘Social Media is a cess-pit that will destroy our youth’ kinda person, it doesn’t replicate off-line social norms, and it actively encourages more extreme behaviours, which is why they so often feels like it’s all DRAMA, ALL the time.

          1. Kyrielle*

            All of this. I have two kids who were in the 5-10 and 10-15 during the pandemic lockdowns, and let me tell you, the younger is almost right on track socially – and the older still has catchup work to do, because we couldn’t in our home provide the experiences needed. (Still better than anyone dying, and there isn’t a person in our house without at least one increased risk factor, so we needed to isolate until vaccines at least…but I sure see the impact. And the differences, though I’d not seen it explained until now!)

          2. RVA Cat*

            All of this, plus how many adults in their lives were melting down during the pandemic? That tik tok about everyone getting “hamsauced” to cope hits different when it’s parents.

          3. not nice, don't care*

            I am reminded of a couple of people I know who were homeschooled by religious extremists. They exhibited some really odd behavior in the workplace that might not have been the case if they were exposed to other kids their age and unrelated adults in school.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I remember a South Park episode about that: the kids were brilliant and far ahead of the public school children but had absolutely no social/peer skills. It was all exaggerated, of course; it was South Park. But there was a nugget of truth in there.

              1. the cat's pajamas*

                Yeah, a lot of South Park is awful but when they hit on a good point it can be really good, lol.

          4. Irish Teacher.*

            I don’t know if it’s coincidence or related, but the academically weakest year group of kids I ever came across was the group that transferred to secondary school at the height of the pandemic, so the two years school was partially online was their last year of primary school and their first year of secondary school. Even the kids in the year who would have been considered “bright” were reading a couple of years below their chronological age. Our school has a large learning support department so does tend to attract a higher than average number of students with additional needs, but I never saw anything comparative to that. Their reading ages, on average, were lower than younger groups.

            Now, it’s possible we just had a large group of students with additional needs entering the school that year, but it is also quite likely that missing the end of 6th class, when teachers start to teach some of the skills kids will need in secondary school (and honestly, that really was missed because at that point, well, at first schools weren’t even sure if the lockdown would last long enough for it to be worth going online and then they had to figure out how to do it), missing their entrance exam, when they get to visit the secondary and take a look around and then going online again four months after starting secondary school, just whent hey were starting to make friends, get used to the norms of secondary, etc had an impact.

            I think a number of them didn’t really engage with online learning, being just at the age (they would have been around 13 for the second lockdown) when they no longer just believed “well, the grown-ups say I have to go online now so I guess there is no other choice” but not yet being at the age where they grasped why it was important to continue engaging with education. They just saw, “hey, my mum and dad don’t know if I’m doing my schoolwork or playing games. This is cool.”

            And I think in some ways, it was more difficult for those who were 16-22, just at that age when you should be getting some independence, maybe moving out of home or at least being free to go out without needing permission and instead they were stuck at home 24/7.

        7. Laura*

          Well, first of all, 9/11 wasn’t an ongoing thing for most people outside of those directly affected.
          But additionally, none of those events involved long periods of social isolation and interacting primarily through the internet. You learn social norms by being around people and when you aren’t, you don’t learn them. (or learn unhelpful norms).

          1. djx*

            I worked at the One WTC (though not on 9/11), sent an email that morning to a friend who was working there, and one of my best friends was literally covered in debris from the building collapses. Oh, and while I didn’t see the buildings collapse I saw the huge dust cloud that morning first hand and was freaked out and confused.

            9/11 was an extremely minor event relative to the pandemic for the US. So many fewer people in the US killed, so short-lived in impact relatively. Not even close except for people who died or had close contacts who died.

            1. C*

              People are still dying from 9/11. Illness and deaths are ongoing.

              Yes, vastly less than the pandemic – but the death toll hasn’t stopped. That impact wasn’t short lived at all. (And that’s not even getting into geopolitics!)

            2. Nancy*

              Please don’t compare tragedies like this. It’s not a competition, and you have no idea what affects people the most.

          2. sparkle emoji*

            Yes, the dynamics of the event are going to change how it affects people and we don’t have many comparisons involving widespread social isolation. That’s going to look different than something like the Depression. And even then, I don’t think all the people in my family who lived through the depression and had hoarding issues, as a result, would agree they just developed resiliency and were totally fine.

          1. Resentful Oreos*

            A long time ago, I was doing some research for a paper and came across some material by the late historian Richard Hellie, who specialized in 17th century Russian history. He talked about how nonstop war, slave raiding, cruel government, etc. created a whole society that was wall to wall PTSD.

            Google “Richard Hellie” and there is some interesting stuff he wrote.

          2. ElsieD*

            Thanks for the link, it was interesting. I might quarrel with some of her historical oversimplifications- gin illustrating society breakdown predated the Napoleonic wars- but totally agree that PTSD can be seen throughout the centuries, only in this one we can connect brain function with all sorts of trauma and, one hopes, treat it.
            As commentators are saying, understanding and education will help.

        8. Wombats and Tequila*

          I think part of the problem is not just the social isolation, but also screen time. Think of the kinds of people who are being represented in popular entertainment. Think of the kinds of people who are influencers. This becomes the new normal for these kids, as opposed to sitting in a real classroom where you are supposed to sit down, shut up, and get your work done.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I’ve been seeing some troubling news clips lately about influencers who have passed away at young ages, too. I have no idea if that’s related, but an online life doesn’t sound like the best way to build long term skills at dealing with pain and setbacks, at all.

        9. BethRA*

          Others have covered the differences between going through something, and going through something while thoroughly isolated from pretty much anyone not in your immediate family.

          So allow me to point out that most historians would tell you that not everyone in those generations responded to their trauma with “resiliency.”

          1. Frieda*

            There are some criminologists who think that the rise of serial killers in the 1970s was partly due to the upbringing from parents who were badly damaged by WWII and then parented accordingly.

            1. Resentful Oreos*

              I read that too! (I wish I could remember where) And that was coupled with suburban isolation, so kids who might in past times have been able to go spend time with a loving grandmother, uncle, or neighbor, now didn’t have that network of caring adults to rely on. Add in that there was a lot more mobility (thanks to the interstate highway system), anonymity, and a lot of very footloose, disconnected young people in their 20s (just because of the sheer size of the baby boom and the depths of societal change) and there was fertile ground for both killers AND and abundant supply of victims who would not be missed. (It’s one reason I’m very glad that forensic DNA testing is giving a lot of these people their names back.)

          2. Angela Zeigler*

            It’s not that those people emerged from previous issues perfectly fine- it’s that the previous traumas were considerably worse, and people lacked the proper understanding to help deal with them in healthy ways. It makes sense if veterans came back from war and caused problems after the fact, unfortunately.

            But the pandemic wasn’t in that league? On top of the current spotlight on mental health and treatments, the pandemic- for many- involved remote work/school, or zoom hangouts, video calls, wearing masks when doing otherwise normal tasks, and/or binging Netflix. (Not everyone, but for most.) The physical social isolation was bad, sure, and a lot of people are still recovering from it.

            But there’s a huge difference between the recent pandemic lockdown and being drafted to fight in brutal, horrific battles overseas, losing nearly everyone in your town, not having enough gas to drive around the country, or the extreme hardships of the Depression. (I say this as someone who didn’t experience any of those generational things.) I think it’s healthy to keep recent hardships in mind when dealing with present issues.

            1. sparkle emoji*

              2 things. First, I don’t think it is particularly useful to compare these challenges as better or worse. They’re different and different people will experience them differently. Person A might be fine with the isolation at the height of covid and be traumatized by the scarcity of the Depression, and vice versa for person B.
              Second, one thing that’s relatively unique for pandemic isolation was how widespread it was. To use your example, during WWII there were soldiers who got PTSD, but not everyone was a soldier. Plenty of people were affected in more indirect ways that weren’t as intensely traumatic.

            2. Beth*

              I don’t agree that the pandemic wasn’t in the same league! It’s obviously not the same KIND of trauma as surviving a war; no one’s jumping at fireworks because they lived through covid-19. But it was a sudden, life-altering, scary time of deprivation for a lot of people, and that has left obvious consequences.

              Social isolation was damaging for many people–we see the impact especially clearly with kids at the age where they needed social interaction for their development, but I’ve seen an impact on all age groups among people who took lockdown seriously. Across generations, mental health suffered, people’s relationships with friends and family suffered, people’s social skills suffered. I don’t know what to call that if not society-wide trauma.

              And it wasn’t just the lack of physical contact. Everyone was terrified–of getting sick, of maybe dying, of maybe never getting fully better, of losing loved ones, of not even getting to say goodbye to loved ones who were dying. Those fears came true for a lot of people. There were material deprivations; in my area, there were a few months when we couldn’t count on accessing basic groceries like eggs or baby formula or toilet paper. When they were available, prices were sky high. Basic social services like education got patchy; you were probably fine if you were well off, but I taught kids who were trying to work on a barely-existent internet connection with three of them sharing a room. I wouldn’t call masking a hardship, but watching people vehemently push back on masking really damaged my trust in my community and people, and I feel like I’m not alone in that. It’s weird to act like this is a lesser trauma than things people faced in the past.

            3. Amy*

              The continental US was never under attack in World War II. There were plenty of people who had enough money to live comfortably through the Great Depression. People who lived in rural areas during the Spanish Flu probably didn’t give much thought to it. The Vietnam draft only applied to men in a certain age range. Does the fact that they were only really THAT bad for some people, and not every person, make any of them not serious? Of course not.

              There were people who experienced the pandemic as “life is normal except now my socializing is over zoom.” But there were also people who experienced it as a really awful, traumatizing time, and there were enough of them that we’re seeing obvious impacts on society years later. How is that not as bad as historical events?

            4. iglwif*

              Here’s the thing about trauma: only your own brain can decide how traumatic a specific experience will be for you.

              Some things about the pandemic that were (and continue to be) traumatizing:
              * A lot of people died. A LOT of people. Kids lost grandparents, but they also lost parents, and their remaining parents lost their spouses, and that’s all traumatic af.
              * A lot of people have had long-term negative health consequences, including but not limited to autoimmune conditions, debilitating fatigue, “brain fog” (cognitive issues), and ongoing respiratory sequelae. A significant proportion of those people couldn’t work for a while, or still can’t work. Both becoming disabled and becoming unemployed can be traumatic.
              * Kids who were getting a significant proportion of their nutrition from school nutrition programs lost access to those. Food insecurity is traumatic.
              * Kids who had safe, welcoming adults at school but not at home were suddenly spending a lot more time with less safe, less welcoming adults.
              * Parents did not all cope equally well with working from home while simultaneously managing their kids’ education. Their employers were not all equally understanding about how difficult this “new normal” sometimes was.

        10. Orv*

          There’s a lot of survivorship bias in that statement. Not everyone handled it well, and there was little support back then for those who didn’t.

          1. Angela Zeigler*

            But since many of those events were considerably worse, and since no real mental health support was available back then, doesn’t that mean people should be dealing with the pandemic far better? There’s a world of difference between the vet who fought horrific battles and came home to zero emotional or mental health support, and the average office worker who had to work over zoom and wear masks at the grocery store for a year.

            1. nonprofit llama groomer*

              And there’s a world of difference between the office worker and the child who wasn’t able to interact with anyone but a mildly dysfunctional family (the best case scenario) and online influencers, etc., for 2 years.

            2. defender of the youth (apparently)*

              “…doesn’t that mean people should be dealing with the pandemic far better?”

              Actually, I think the current generation are absolutely dealing with the pandemic better than previous generations dealt with previous traumas (as much as these things can be compared).

              We’re all talking about ‘the problems with the youth these days’ but remember to keep in perspective what the problems actually are. Letter Writer is complaining about young adults having heightened emotional responses and little understanding of work norms. Those are solvable issues. Issues that might take a lot of patience, but solvable.

              War vets that came home with PTSD and were given no support often ended up angry and violent people*, if they were even able to rejoin society at all. People upthread are talking about the link between WWII and serial killers. I’ve read about cases during the Cold War where people murdered family members and neighbours over believing them to be Soviet spies.

              It’s going to be a while before we can truly see the long-term effects of Covid on this generation but honestly I’ll take ‘socially awkward and cries a lot at work’ over ‘tried to kill the dog on New Year’s Eve because he thought the barking would give his position away to the enemy’.

              *(This is still true of many vets leaving the army today. We desperately need better support for these people!)

              1. iglwif*

                It’s going to be a while before we can truly see the long-term effects of Covid on this generation but honestly I’ll take ‘socially awkward and cries a lot at work’ over ‘tried to kill the dog on New Year’s Eve because he thought the barking would give his position away to the enemy’.

                This this this!

                I have friends and acquaintances who were raised by Holocaust survivors or the children of those survivors, and BOY HOWDY were those folks not okay. And a huge part of their not-okay-ness often was that they didn’t talk about their experiences, didn’t talk about the people they lost, didn’t talk about their pre-Shoah childhoods … just locked it all away and didn’t process any of it, so it came out in weird and sometimes really ugly ways. Some of those parents were over-controlling, out of fear for their kids; some had kids but were too traumatized to do much parenting at all. At least one person I know lost a parent to suicide.

                I’ve heard about people refusing to speak Yiddish, pretending not to be Jewish, changing their names — because Yiddish, Judaism, and Jewish-sounding names all felt dangerous, even after the war was over and they were in new countries never under Nazi control.

                As another example, young people in Indigenous communities in Canada today (and doubtless the US and Australia too, but I don’t know as much about those contexts) are deeply affected by what happened to their parents and grandparents in residential schools: physical and sexual abuse, most obviously, but also separation from their families (many schools didn’t let kids go home or let parents visit), loss of language and culture (kids were punished for speaking their own languages, had their hair cut, sometimes were assigned a number instead of their name), and educational neglect (these were “schools” but most focused primarily on training kids to be agricultural or domestic labourers).

                Result in both cases: DEEPLY messed-up people who then mess up their own kids, not because they’re bad people but because they are MESSED UP by traumas they were never supported in dealing with in a constructive way. Addictions, abuse, anxiety, depression, all those things.

                Unprocessed trauma doesn’t affect everyone in the same ways, or to the same degree, obviously. But there sure is a lot to be said for acknowledging and processing your trauma so you don’t perpetuate it.

        11. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          No, they developed other maladaptive coping strategies that were tied to the particulars of their own trauma, and the further back you go the more likely they were to never really recover because resources and understanding of mental health weren’t on the line.

          Figures like the child of the Great Depression who became a hoarder or self-destructively frugal, the combat vet with lifelong struggles from untreated PTSD, etc. are *extremely* well-known in our society!

          1. Bumblebee*

            My grandfather’s extensive collection of tuna fish cans, which he was keeping to sort his extensive collection of nails and screws into, has entered the chat.

            1. Dancing Otter*

              Whereas everyone knows you should use baby food jars. /s

              Adding extra baking powder to expired cake mix was our family’s favorite misplaced frugality. That and just using twice as much of stale spices. When I cleaned out my mother’s pantry, I found paprika with a price tag from a store that closed 35 years before.

              My father grew up in an orphanage that raised a lot of its own food, particularly carp ponds. Then he graduated into the Depression, followed by WWII food rationing. He refused to have fish (poor man’s food in his mind) in the house, once he could afford beef.

          2. Chirpy*

            I see you have described my family: hoarder grandparents with food issues from the Depression and wartime rationing, uncle with Vietnam PTSD…parents who were clearly affected by proximity to both of those things…

            …and people wonder why Millennials have anxiety. We grew up with families that primed us for it, with full knowledge that the programs and social supports they had would not be available to us, and then we lived through 9/11, the Great Recession, and a pandemic before the age of 40…

        12. Managing While Female*

          That’s not really true. Many who survived all those things had severe mental health effects, they just didn’t have the language or support for it then. Many coming back from war suffered from PTSD that went untreated and it was often taken out on their families or turned into addiction issues that everyone just swept under the rug. Folks who came out the other side of the Depression faced severe anxiety particularly surrounding jobs and money. They may have bottled a lot of it in and made it less obvious than these kids, but that doesn’t make it better.

        13. Dahlia*

          And people were willing to teach them in those times. Many of those people literally took ettiquette classes.

        14. Irish Teacher.*

          Honestly, it’s probably not that young people in those generations didn’t react the way the LW’s mentees are. It’s far more like that in most of those, college was the preserve of the few and people who developed behavioural problems due to the Depression or World War II or Vietnam didn’t end up in the tiny privileged group that got to go to college. That was reserved for those who showed resilience.

          On the other hand, I don’t know exactly how students are chosen for the programme the LW is involved with but it is quite likely that it prioritises students who have faced particular challenges or who are struggling or that those are the most likely to sign up for it, if it is voluntary.

          So if you compare those considered “the best and the brightest” (though I stress considered as it was often really just the most privileged and those who were least affected by things like the Depression or World War II) of previous generations to those needing a little extra help in this generation, it’s not suprising previous generations seem more resilient.

        15. Ismone*

          Um, do you have any studies establishing this is so? Because to me it sounds kinda golden age. People aren’t resilient just because they lack support. Usually something else goes into it. Or people repress stuff. Or we used to call it something else other than trauma. Like being shell-shocked for example.

        16. CommanderBanana*

          …….then explain why my WWII-era grandparents and my Boomer parents are all balls of seething rage/anxiety and everyone in my family is estranged from everyone else? Because they certainly didn’t develop great coping skills despite living through all of that .

        17. Angela Zeigler*

          Everyone’s responding to this citing ‘Yes, but this time, kids were isolated’ as if the internet wasn’t a thing, and most kids were chatting or playing games with friends, peers, or internet friends every single day.

          It’s not substitute for actual human contact by any means- we’ve all seen how difficult that can be. But if anything it makes those previous events that much worse, because you couldn’t just log on and message your friend a few cities over. You really were stuck with your family, classmates, or coworkers.

          If anything, it shows how the internet isn’t a substitute for actual human contact, which is still a very present problem with younger generations who even post-pandemic do most socializing online.

          1. Kt*

            You seem very invested in this. But your last two paragraphs do have the crux of things.

            In the US, neither WWI nor WWII cancelled school for a bunch of children for two years. Children were not in the trenches on the Western Front nor did they participate in the Battle of Midway. Shell shock wasn’t really a problem for US kids. My grandpa is a WWII vet; he never saw combat though he was scheduled to invade Honshu. He speaks still with awe about the few WWI vets in the town where he grew up. But he was together with peers all through the war and every experience afterward.

            Interacting through a screen with others for two years of childhood has never been done in the history of humanity. We are sadly far far more experienced in dealing with war and death, and we can go back to the Iliad or the Ramayana or Joshua or any number of other works to see that experience in print. No, “the Internet isn’t a substitute for actual human contact”. That is the main point here.

            1. londonedit*

              Meanwhile in Britain, school-aged children were evacuated out of major cities and sent to live with families in the countryside – literally just put on trains and sent to live with people they’d never met, not knowing whether they’d ever see their parents again, and of course only really able to communicate by letter and perhaps a very occasional phone call (many houses didn’t have phones, certainly not in rural areas). In the cities, bombing raids were a nightly occurrence and houses and streets were routinely destroyed, with people being killed. Everyone lived under constant threat – when the air-raid siren went off, that was it, you had to cram into a shelter or a tube station with your family if you were lucky, or with a whole host of neighbours, or with a load of random strangers. Oh and then there was rationing of food and just about everything else – fabric to make new clothes, petrol for vehicles, etc etc. While America was booming in the 1950s we were still under rationing and trying to rebuild the rubble of our cities.

              And then of course most of the men over 18 (and some younger, because of course many lied to enlist) were fighting in the most appalling conditions, dying overseas, or being invalided home with horrific injuries. Even those who survived were left with inevitable mental health problems, what we’d now call PTSD, huge trauma to deal with. Not to mention the families back at home spending every day wondering whether there’d be a knock on the door with the dreaded telegram.

              And did anyone talk about it? No. British ‘stiff upper lip’, Blitz spirit, keep calm and carry on, just get on with it. So there were generations of people who either lived through horrors at home, or who lived through horrors fighting abroad. Both of my grandfathers fought in the war and I have no idea what they did or what they went through, because they never, ever spoke of it. It was not to be discussed. Both were loving grandparents but they were also distant and strict and had a very Victorian idea of how children should behave.

              No, spending two years intermittently stuck indoors and learning online had never been done in the history of humanity. But you can’t compare it to what people went through in WWII.

          2. iglwif*

            Point of fact: We are not “post-pandemic”. We are still in the midst of the pandemic, although fewer people are now dying thanks to vaccines and Paxlovid.

        18. Tired Fed*

          My great grandfather was in WWI and his response to being grazed (just grazed) by a single bullet was to go into shell shock and become completely unable to function for the rest of his life. He went into a military hospital as a young man with a wife and toddler son, and died there in his 70s.

          This was during a time when nobody spoke about mental illness so my mother’s generation never even met their grandfather. He was just never spoken of. (But what did people talk about? Resilience and bravery and returning to work.)

          So, yeah, similar to “history is written by the victors,” expectations of always being stronger on the other side and after a trauma with “just a little work” is also part fabrication. There are plenty of people who could not cross that bridge.

          1. ElsieD*

            Total illustration of what the podcast mentioned above by JD talks about! The shell shock of WW1 was so inexplicable and widespread to what doctors had seen before, that the exploration of the 20th century into the effects of trauma on the mind had to get going.

            1. what was my username??*

              I was actually reading an article a little while ago that was hypothesizing that shell-shock and PTSD are entirely different things. PTSD, of course is the trauma, that we know more about now, but is colloquially grouped with actual physical damage of shell-shock, but shell-shock itself was more likely the brain being concussed repeatedly by the sound/pressure waves of the motaring and shelling both setting off the machinery as well as bombs landing nearby, and is not actually the same thing as what we now know as PTSD. There was zero protections to the soldiers heads aside from little helmets at the time and they were setting these machines off within inches to feet of their heads. Of course, there are no survivors left from WW1 so it’s hard to fully tell beyond in-lab studies on test dummies, and those don’t really talk about how they feel mentally.

        19. Your Former Password Resetter*

          “Resilience” is a myth, and the people who invented it have a lot to answer for.

          You don’t get stronger or better by suffering through a nightmare. At best you get lucky and avoid the worst of the damage. Most people either die or get irreversably changed for the worse.

          And you can partially heal, learn to cope or work around the damage, or just hide the pain and suffer. But you don’t get to just git gud and let the horrors bounce off like you’re a cartoon superhuman.

        20. Jennifleur*

          No, they didn’t develop resilience because they were expected to. That’s not how resilience works; you need support systems who understand you and safety to build that. Otherwise, what those kids did because it was expected of them was learn to conform while burying all their unaddressed emotional needs. That’s not resilience.

      4. Star Trek Nutcase*

        I think the issues worsened with the panini but were already building well before that. Social media trained kids to think drama was normal & that expressing ever thought or feeling in the moment was normal. The internet provided exposure to good and bad but kids lack ability to discriminate. Most had little experience with kid jobs and parents began to emphasize participating over competition.

        It’s unfortunate that these young people will have a harder start, but the answer isn’t to sympathize and accommodate. There needs to be very frank conversations with them about expectations and they need held accountable regardless of why. Most of us learned to work successfully despite anxiety, personality traits, disabilities, job not being our dream job, etc.

        They’re not stupid, just under-informed or mis-informed. Be honest and set boundaries.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      My thought as well. The things that universities had to do during covid could be incredibly stressful for college students. They saw what they thought was their one shot at getting a start in life being yanked away from them.

      1. dot*

        Important to note/clarify that as this point, most current college students won’t have gone through much of college during the pandemic. The letter is talking about current college students that would have be in high school during the pandemic, which is likely even more difficult to deal with now as they would have missed a lot of important formative socialization.

        1. Clorinda*

          it won’t be over for a while yet. I teach 11th grade, my students were in middle school during the pandemic, and they are weirdly damaged. some days it’s like wrangling a crowd of adult sized kindergartners. who knew that the socialization in middle school was so essential!

          1. Clisby*

            Anybody who’s had a middle-schooler? Those are the feral years. Of course they need socialization.

          2. Claudia*

            My husband teaches at a high school, the youngest kids he teaches are in 8th grade, and he said is JUST now seeing kids that are back to pre-pandemic “normal,” as far as emotional intelligence and math knowledge.

            1. Jessastory*

              Yes, I teach 9th grade and I’m seeing the same thing. It’s a huge relief; I was worried it’d be a few more years at least before kids had recovered from the pandemic social and academic losses.

            2. curly sue*

              This matches my experience. I have a 16-almost-17 and a 12-almost-13, and in terms of emotional age, it’s like I have twins. 12 is about where I’d expect, but 16 is at about the same level of maturity; a little more independent, a little more risk-averse, similar levels of self-awareness and emotional stability.

              (It’s not all from lockdown – eldest has ADHD, which can cause similar sorts of delays in maturity – but lockdown definitely exacerbated the issue.)

          3. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

            I mean, it might not all be down to the weeks or months of missed school. Some will have had bereavements, including of parents, teachers or grandparents. Some of the parents and carers will have become disabled in ways which leave them much less energy for supporting their young person. Covid itself is known to cause brain damage, and most of these young people will already have had it once or several times. There’s a lot potentially in the mix here.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Not to mention, we saw a pretty widespread rewriting and, in some cases, breakdown of social norms. (Just think of the escalation of abuse service workers had to deal with.) Between the number of adults having full-on violent tantrums in public and the ability for each instance to go viral, I’m not surprised LW is seeing more immature behavior from people who don’t have a pre-pandemonium baseline to return to.

          4. Robin*

            I was waiting for someone to comment like this. My HS senior reacts just like this. She was on lockdown for freshman year of high school and ALL of them fell apart (to varying degrees). Thanks for what you do!!

          5. Esmae*

            I work with toddlers and preschoolers, and they came out of lockdown basically feral. No social skills, no idea how to interact with each other, terrified of their parents leaving them alone. We’re going to be seeing the aftereffects of lockdown for a long time.

          6. sparkle emoji*

            I used to work with ~3rd-grade-aged kids, and in the first couple of years back in person, many were missing skills like tying shoes. They were at home at the age I remember learning and their parents were always around to help.

        2. Clisby*

          That’s true. My son is in his last semester of college, and the pandemic had virtually no effect on his high school years. His high school closed in March 2020 and they finished out the year online, but that was only a couple more months. He was able to go to college on time, in person, with mask/distancing/socialization restrictions, but in-person class. That year was hard, I know, but at the same time he had to learn to step up and cope. The next 3 years have been normal.

        3. Jennifer in FL*

          Not necessarily. Both of my daughters were in college when the pandemic hit- one a freshman, the other a sophomore. Covid drove a semi truck through their college plans- courses that were only offered one semester weren’t offered agin for over a year. Professors who delayed sabbaticals began taking them all at once, meaning they weren’t around to teach upper level courses that were required for their degree programs to graduate. A ton of adjunct/non-tenure professors were laid off and never rehired and students were left with missing credits. On and on and on.

          They haven’t taken any semesters off since the initial school closures, and they’ve taken the maximum load, and four years later one is graduating next month and the other in December. Their college experience has pretty much been a nightmare personally, socially, and professionally, and there’s no way to get those things they missed.

    4. Beth*

      Very much this. Most years, students their age are learning to refine established skills for the job market. This year–and probably for a few years to come–they need to learn how to fake it until they make it. They need time to accumulate the life experiences that allow them to develop maturity, and since they need to support themselves in the meantime, they need a crash course in “fake it ’til you make it”.

      You can’t give them back the time we all lost. But you can walk them through the basics of “this is what an employer will expect from you, these are the likely consequences if you don’t meet expectations, life will be easier if you can figure out how to act in this way.” They may or may not choose to follow the guidelines you give, but having the guidelines in the back of their heads will give them an advantage–they can always decide to try them next, if they try their own way first and don’t like the results.

      1. Lizzo*

        “this is what an employer will expect from you, these are the likely consequences if you don’t meet expectations, life will be easier if you can figure out how to act in this way.”

        ^^Yep, I think laying it out and being clear about CONSEQUENCES is critical.

        1. Autumn*

          Especially since these consequences can be subtle but lasting. They won’t be called up short, they will be silently judged and mistrusted going forward.

          Some may get lucky and have a manager who has the time and bandwidth to help them learn the subtle art of real self assessment, others will just spend their twenties wondering why they can’t break into adult jobs.

          1. Totally Hypothetical*

            I think another important part of this is the concept of social capital. Ideally, you won’t spend your whole career not rocking the boat or feeling like you have to constantly monitor your behavior. Part of growing is learning when you can push the boundaries (within reason) and establishing with others in your workplace that you have the skills/work ethic/social graces to do so.

        2. Crooked Bird*

          Yes, I agree about the consequences and the CLARITY, that’s such an important part of this. Giving them grace is really important and good, but what kind of grace?? Cutting them slack is (mostly?) the wrong kind, because it’s not going to help them but enable them–like Allison always says, laying out the truth about where a person’s behavior will lead if they continue is it a HELP to people. And I think the reason Allison says it often is that so many people skip this step! There’s this gap between “I’m going to gently talk about what you should improve” and “welp, we’re done with you” and people tend to not have the hard conversation in between. Especially not the really clear version: if you don’t change this and this we will be done with you.

          Now doing it in a kindly *tone* that’s adapted and sensitive to the person in front of you, that’s a good way of giving grace, I think. Of course having the hard convo plus doing it in a generous tone takes a lot more energy than getting rid of the most difficult ones as LW wants to do, but LW seems willing to spend energy on these kids, and I think that’s admirable.

          1. Crooked Bird*

            Oops, important omission at the end there: as LW’s COLLEAGUES want to do, not LW. I respect that LW doesn’t want to jump to that too quickly.

        3. Letter Writer*

          Accountability and appropriate consequences are something we’ve particularly been struggling to enforce.

          1. used to be a tester*

            I don’t know if it’s true everywhere, but in my part of Canada that lack of institutional accountability and appropriate consequences is an issue all through high school. The panopticon definitely made it more widespread – it’s not fair to penalize a student who doesn’t have regular internet access, or is at home with 15 other people – but the school still really seems to turn a blind eye to missed assignments, poor attendance, etc. and they offer a lot of opportunities rather than having a student fail.

            My kid is graduating this year, and we’ve been having a LOT of discussions around how college is going to be very different from high school.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              In Ireland, traditionally at least, it’s been the opposite. Not that there isn’t accountability at college, but…your assignments are corrected by your lecturers and you have the opportunity to talk to them, to ask for extensions, etc, whereas the Leaving Cert. (which single-handedly determines your entry to college; for most courses, nothing else is taken into account except for your performance in a set of high profile exams acrosss two-three weeks) is marked anonymously by people who have never met you, know nothing about your circumstances and are not allowed to take anything into account apart from the paper in front of them. There are now accommodations for students with certain needs, like students with reading difficulties may get a reader, that sort of thing, but these are not that easy to obtain.

              And the exams are set by…well, nobody knows who. I suspect a couple of people make exams and then one is chosen at random, so nobody knows which is coming up. So your teachers also have no idea what questions will come up so there is no way of making a guess based on what a teacher emphasises, etc.

              College is…not even close. Yeah, there were days I did 12 hours study at college, but that was usually because there was like a drama festival the following week and I wanted to have everything done beforehand or it was a week I’d a load of assignments due and once they were done, I could relax. It wasn’t consistent for nine months.

              To make matters worse, in my day (I think this has changed with greater understanding of mental health), there were these “Leaving Cert. diary” things in the papers where a Leaving Cert. student would write a weekly column. These tended to be overachievers anyway – who else would volunteer to write a newspaper column on top of it all? – so they’d include stuff like “but I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself, so I only do the four hours of study after school. Then I take an hour to myself before bed. After all, even this year, you have to take some time for yourself too.”

              Covid has…had an odd effect. In 2020, the exams were cancelled and teachers gave “predicted grades”. Basically, teachers gave their best guess at what students would have gotten had the exam taken place. The following year, predicted grades were used as a “back-up” in case kids had to miss exams due to having covid, having to self-isolate, being at high risk and therefore not willing to spend hours in an exam hall with dozens of other students, etc. Of course, surprise, surprise, the grades were much higher than in previous years. So now, there is a dilemma. If they start marking to pre-pandemic standards, then students who did their exams those years could just apply for college course and would walk into them before equally able students who were graded normally. On the other hand…these grades aren’t sustainable. For the courses requiring the highest points, it’s become a lottery as there are more people achieving maximum grades than there are places.

              In 2019, 13.3% of students got over 500 points. Last year, it was 24.4%.

          2. Beth*

            It’s a hard thing! We see so many letters to Alison from people struggling with this, and those are regarding full-fledged adults with (usually) established professional experience and every reason to understand how they should be acting. I wonder if revisiting some of those letters might give you new ideas for how to approach this with your students?

          3. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

            This might sound like a flippant recommendation, because the book is partly about interacting with young kids, but I’m finding myself thinking of Faber & Mazlish’s “How to listen so kids will talk and talk so kids will listen”. It has a lot of wisdom about communication, emotions, boundaries, consequences, when to empathise & when to draw a line etc. It might give you some inspiration!

            1. Bird names*

              Doesn’t seem flippant at all to me, tbh. It’s a good idea to go back to the basics occasionally. Either one has already everything covered, no harm done, or a different angle presents itself.

        4. Debby*

          I think you are on the right track with this Lizzo! LW, perhaps your group needs to hold some seminars/classes (or something along that line) that goes over some of the things that you are seeing. Sharing with them (in a group setting so you can reach more at one time) of what is normally to be expected of them in college by professors, in dorm rooms by roommates and RAs, of employers once they are out of college. And as to WHY these things are expected of them, and as to how they can learn these skills. I realize it will take more than one of these sessions to cover everything, but its an idea.

        5. hamster_wheel*

          A lot of what OP describes sound like overreacting because they can’t take responsibility or handle negative experiences. What about helping them understand that a failed test isn’t the end of the world? Or that a negative interaction is something they can move on from, improve on, put behind them, learn from, etc? That if something is their fault it might be enough to take responsibility (“I should have done that differently,” maybe) and learn from it. These things are survivable, and that is something to learn, too.

          1. Resentful Oreos*

            I think this is a good idea! A lot of young people might have anxious parents whose anxiety comes out in “if you don’t get everything exactly right the first time, YOU ARE GOING TO BE LIVING UNDER A BRIDGE!” Or maybe they witnessed someone who was unlucky enough that one failed test (or negative interaction or whatever) had consequences out of all proportion to the slip-up.

            And then there has been the recession – today’s youth were, depending on age, children when they went through it or at least their parents lived through it. Maybe dad was unlucky enough to lose his job during the Great Recession…and then the family lost their house…it’s possible some of these young people lived through those very economically uncertain times.

      2. sofar*

        Exactly this. Was listening to an NPR segment recently, where a researcher was talking about how this generation that’s now in high school/early college has been robbed of the independence to problem-solve that a lot of older generations had. Well-intention or stressed-out parents (to spare their kids strife) allowed them to avoid things that caused them anxiety, and the pandemic didn’t help (because it made in-person school seem “optional”).

        Anyway, her advice was this. Communicate (high) expectations calmly and repeatedly. Don’t tell them “how” to act. Just tell them what’s expected and let them figure it out.

        1. The Starsong Princess*

          This is so true for the current generation. My niece just turned 17 and my sister has been working on her independence and life skills. She had to get a part time job and it’s amazing how it has matured her. This summer, she’s going on a monthlong European trip because she’s never really been away from her family yet she’ll be going away to university in less than a year and a half. But my sister says so many of her friends’ parents have done nothing to prepare them.

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          I don’t think the pandemic is entirely to blame for this either. Even before 2020 there was an increasing sense among parents that one wrong move could doom their kids to a life of downward mobility. Some of this was based in fact (wage stagnation, courts willing to permanently institutionalize kids who got involved with the criminal justice system) and some of it was vibes (the rise of true crime entertainment, marketing for ever-more-ridiculously-priced private schools and colleges). Sure, it’s easy to say that kids have to realize that mistakes aren’t the end of the world, but when they and their parents can easily picture a mistake actually being the end of the world, just saying it won’t sink in.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Yes, the “tiger mom”/”helicopter parent” style of parenting can be negative, and that existed pre-pandemic. I think the pandemic also took away opportunities to get away from a helicopter parent, exacerbating any existing issues.

            1. Resentful Oreos*

              I agree with both of you on all counts. There is more of a zero-sum, make-or-break mentality now, and the pandemic meant that young folks were forced to be in “pods” with overbearing family members.

    5. Medievalist*

      I’m a college professor… and we’re very much seeing the same thing as OP describes (especially the shutting down/diverting blame responses). I agree with the instinct to not give up on the students. It’s admittedly HARD coping with the extra acculturation work, but if mentor figures and professors and bosses, etc., give up entirely on this micro-generation, that doesn’t really provide any solutions.

      The thing that has worked best for me, in coping with the deficit of skills (social or otherwise): (1) revisiting how I teach and design the assignments, lessons, and tasks I set my students. I have to think about who my audience actually is, and help provide structure and scaffolding that gets them from where they are to where I need them to go (SO many baby steps!). Also, (2) doing more reflective assignments/discussions about processes, instead of just focusing on results. And finally (3) giving my students more exposure to young adults (in my case, older students) who can model the behaviors and work I’m looking for, to help them hear the messages from more voices and some semi-peer voices at that. Maybe OP has tried some of these, but if not, maybe there’s a way to translate some elements of these to a mentorship context?

      (Now, some students can’t cope even with that adjusted help; those ones may not be able to make it through my classes with a passing grade or OP’s mentorship program—and that’s an OK consequence of those students’ own choices and work ]or lack thereof]. But it’s on me if I don’t do my half of the work to try to reach them.)

      1. OrigCassandra*

        As another educator in higher ed, I concur with all of this.

        One thing I’ve had to do is give myself some grace. I also went through a global pandemic. I am truly trying to do my best to reach students where they are and educate them.

        I still can’t reach them all, which is honestly the hardest thing about post-acute-pandemic teaching. So I can’t set that as a hardline goal for myself; I will only fail at it… and I still think students need me. So. There that is.

        1. Ari*

          I think this is both a beautiful and a useful way to approach it, thank you from another person in higher ed!

      2. peasblossom*

        Agreed! I’ll add that I see a lot of my students are very aware of their own immaturity and executive function deficiencies and are actively worried about longterm consequences. I’ve found that it helps enormously to be as concrete as possible about expectations and to involve them in the process of figuring out where/how something went wrong–having a frank conversation about why something didn’t get submitted on time or what they found difficult in a conversation.

        OP, I’ll add that this kind of handholding mentorship is exhausting and can take up as much space as you’re willing to give it. Decide what limits you want to set for your own mental health, and don’t get guilted into changing them.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you for that reminder. It is exhausting and some days I’m at my wits’ end, but it can be hard to establish boundaries when I feel like I’m failing these students (now who’s the one catastrophizing? Me!).

          1. OrigCassandra*

            Oh, yes. It’s absolutely exhausting, and its success rate is not going to be 100% no matter how earnestly and well we do it.

            Jedi hugs if you want them, LW. I’m right there with you, and we two aren’t the only ones by a long shot.

          2. Bird names*

            I completely understand the struggle to detach when the apparent need is/seems so great.
            Maybe it helps to look at it slightly differently? Yes, setting those boundaries is unfortunately hard, but by taking steps to protect your own energy you model that work-life balance is important, that nobody can be everything for everyone and show them (even if they might only appreciate it later), that sometimes you have to make the most of what help is actually on offer.

          3. Bird names*

            I can absolutely understand the struggle to detach when the needs is/seems so great.
            Maybe a slight reframing can help a bit? By setting those boundaries, because it is obviously important for you health and well-being to do so, you model stuff like the importance of work-life balance, that no one can be everything for everyone and also give them a chance to work with the help that is actually available, even if more limited than they might prefer.
            And on a further note, coming from a fellow catastrophizer *wry*, there are other people who will be there, teach them directly or indirectly and the learning process will also simply take them some time. I know you know this, but tying yourself in knots trying to make up for a gap of at least four years now is neither helpful for them nor fair to you.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        Yet another university professor, and I agree with these.

        One more thing: Holding bottom lines and boundaries, but only when necessary. A lot of teachers gave a lot of leeway to students during the pandemic. It was an emergency situation 24/7 and we all did what we could to get through the day. However, some students whose lives weren’t very shook up by the circumstances really learned to massage the leeway for themselves, even if they didn’t necessarily need it. Deadlines got more flexible for everyone, not just those who truly needed it. Personally, it was a nightmare for me trying to juggle over 150 students “special circumstances” during that time.

        Now, students think they’ll be granted extensions and leeway and extra credit just because they ask. My advice is to hold those boundaries firm. I literally had a student who asked for an extension the day before the paper was due (assigned 2+ weeks before) because her mother had her help around the house a lot that day and she didn’t think she would finish it on time. No. I will give extensions for emergency situations. Other than that, turn it in on time or face major point deductions. There will be times in life these students will have hard deadlines for important work and they need experience with this.

        1. lyonite*

          I will say, this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. I was a TA for a biology class back in the early 2000s and I had a student ask to have his grade raised from a D to a B because he had been busy pledging a pre-med fraternity!

            1. Zelda*

              Was a TA for science courses in the mid ’90s. Heard a certain amount of “I deserve a higher grade because I do not like the grade I got,” and “The lab should be open because I want it to be open.” I suspect some class issues (upper-class white kids who had picked up the subtle messaging from their parents that yes, they *are* better than everyone else), but this is not a great age to get much self-awareness from. Most of the arguments were pretty circular/inarticulate.

        2. jojo*

          I taught freshmen from fall 2019 through the pandemic until mid-fall 2023 (when I made a move back to industry) and I saw the same uptick in requests for extensions when a penalty-free extension wasn’t warranted, and for the excusing of absences when the reason for the absence didn’t fit the excused/unexcused policy.

          My approach was to tell them: Turn in the assignment when you can and try not to stress too much about the late penalty to your grade, because the bulk of your grade will be determined by the quality of the work. See, here’s the rubric showing what percentage of your score is determined by timeliness, word count, etc. Go ahead and skip class on Friday so you can go to your cousin’s wedding; you’re allowed to have two unexcused absences without your final grade being penalized. See, here’s the attendance policy, and here’s the course grade breakdown showing how much weight I give to in-class participation, and what excellent participation looks like.

          In other words, I’d let them know 1) there are consequences for these things, and 2) the consequences are not necessarily catastrophic. You can be successful overall without being at 100% all the time.

      4. Sciencer*

        Piggy-backing here as a university professor who works almost exclusively with first-year students. Yes to everything Medievalist said, and I will add some things:

        1. Students seem to need much more explicit instructions now than before, and clarity is key. Bullet pointed or numbered lists have replaced paragraphs in basically all of my project prompts because they are unskilled at reading comprehension and will miss details (even when listed, sadly).

        2. Clarity and precision also extends to things that might previously have been unspoken. Set them up for success with clear policies on behavior and explanation of norms. Instead of saying “we’re flexible with deadlines/meeting times when necessary, please reach out!” – say “Deadlines are flexible within a 24-hour grace period. Meeting times are firm and attendance is mandatory except in cases of illness or emergency. Please email in advance when you have to miss a meeting.”

        3. Mix up the format of delivering information. Videos are more engaging for some, while others like written content. If you’re trying to communicate professional dress, professional speaking styles, etc., a video can be much more effective than a written explanation anyway!

        4. Gently but clearly call out inappropriate behavior as soon as it happens. I struggle with this myself because students can be very sensitive to criticism (this isn’t new post-pandemic, but does seem elevated). But I continually learn the lesson that letting something slide means it will get worse over time, and the conversation I’ll have to have later will be much harder for them to hear (and the opportunities to course-correct will be fewer). Keeping a calm and mentoring tone, making references to your own missteps, and reinforcing that mistakes are part of learning and are not giant red marks on a permanent record, can all help mitigate the panic or defensiveness.

        Thank you for not giving up on these women. It is a really hard time on both sides of the table, and it is going to take a large and diverse village to foster a healthy society in the wake of 2020’s traumas.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you so much; I’m writing all of these down. Clarity, speaking the unspoken rules, changing the messaging format, and correcting behavior in the moment are all concrete things our group can work on that I think will help.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          My mother works at a university with a lot of young students, and your point number 3 is bang on. She always does videos explaining anything important. Not just because some students just process it better that way or are used to it after the pandemic, but because it proves that she’s tried her best to meet them halfway.

      5. Maybesocks*

        And they may have lost people to Covid or spent a lot of time worrying about those dear to them. Plus seeing their parents go through this as well. My college students still seem stunned and unable to absorb new information.

      6. sparkle emoji*

        Yes. On point 3, LW if you’re doing this through a specific college do they have some sort of peer TA/mentor program that you could use to get more responsible peer voices in the room?

    6. Nesprin*

      It’s hard because complaining about the youth dates to mesopotamia, but at the same time, missing out on development in late high school/college and facing the trauma of a sick or dying loved one, plus parents out of work, plus loss of normal support structures plus everything else in covid seems like a unique set of challenges.

      It helps students to give them grace and to model better options- if a student starts crying let them know later that they can always ask for a break and to finish up a conversation later. If you catch a student in a lie, let them know that mistakes happen but lies damage credibility. If they shut down when you give them feedback, ask them to let you know how they feel about what you’ve said.

      If they’re eligible for an EAP or other counseling program, and you think the level of response is more than you can handle, it’s also worth practicing the warm handoff: “you seem really upset about this, and I want to make sure you have the resources you need. Let’s go call the EAP together and you can see if that’s helpful.” then walk to a private space, call the number for the student, introduce them and then leave.

      1. djx*

        “It’s hard because complaining about the youth dates to mesopotamia,”

        Well, that’s as far back as we have records for. Pretty sure it was happening even earlier :-)

    7. singularity*

      As a current high school teacher, I’m going to gently push back on the ‘give them grace’ comment. They were given grace, in fact, they were given a LOT of grace during high school and the pandemic. So much so that they learned they could basically do nothing and pass high school.

      They don’t need more grace. They need someone who is willing to invest the time and energy to show them that the way they’re behaving is immature and unacceptable for an adult work force. They need to face consequences for their lack of studying, mistakes or poor performance. They need actionable, clear and unbiased feedback about the quality of their work. They’ve been given so much grace that they fall back into immature and childish behaviors and it’s time to stop.

      1. Reba*

        I don’t think “grace” has to mean “let them pass with no consequences”! It can mean have compassion for them, don’t just write them off, and try new things to reach them where they are, which I think are what the comments in this thread advocating.

        1. Consuella*

          Agreed — I read “give them grace” as don’t shame them for being this way. Don’t write them off as entitled jerks OR expect them to be like every other year. Instead, grace looks like doing the really, really hard work of helping them grow — even when that hasn’t been needed in years past. I’m experiencing the same with a younger crowd, and grace often is *exactly* about holding kids accountable — but in a way that helps them grow rather than makes them feel totally inadequate, broken, or just plain bad.

          1. MsM*

            Right. Most adults didn’t just go “Oh, the poor things, they’re too fragile to handle a pandemic and homework simultaneously.” They were overwhelmed and struggled with the adjustment to remote learning themselves, and the kids got stuck with the fallout from that.

            1. Birb*

              As a teacher, I didn’t see students get any grace AT ALL. I HEARD a lot about grace. I saw lots of students being TOLD they’d been given grace. I saw a LOT of other teachers pass kids along because it was easier on THEM to do so than to go through the procedures to fail a student at that time… but I saw absolutely no actual grace extended to students on my campus.

              1. anonybot*

                I appreciate this response a lot. I am an adult, but long ago, I was a kid who really didn’t have it together, and I cried too easily, so I think I came across as someone who had never been so much as spoken to harshly (this was … not true).

                My life was full of adults saying things like, “The problem with you is that everybody is too nice to you,” before proceeding to scream at me about what a terrible person I was. It’s a kind of amusing juxtaposition in hindsight, but it was not at all helpful.

                (I am sure that some people reading this are thinking, “You probably were a really terrible person, and the problem was probably just that people were too nice to you.” This is hard to argue with, for obvious reasons.)

                Anyway, it makes me sad to see people do the same thing to kids now who, frankly, have way more reason to need grace than I did, and I am glad that you, as a teacher, can see it for what it is.

            2. Anon for This*

              The pressure of having to wrangle the remote schooling for my kids when my stay-at-home-parent uncomfortable-with-tech spouse wasn’t doing it, and at the same time keep up with my day job which was and is what keeps us in a house with lights and food and internet, badly damaged my marriage. It would’ve been great if I’d had the leftover energy to deal with my middle schooler’s homework avoidance issues, but what energy I had went towards staying alive, married, and employed.

              We’re dealing with the fallout now that my kid’s in high school and losing opportunities to participate in extracurriculars they love because of low grades, caused by not doing the work. But at least kid’s experiencing the consequences in high school rather than in college; we’re not paying back loans for failed classes.

              I still wish that my kid’s middle school had made kid repeat the grade rather than passing them, though.

          2. hamster_wheel*

            It might mean helping them understand that a failed test or negative interaction isn’t the end of the world.

            Fail a test –> :shouting: “Now you shall suffer a consequence! Hang your head in shame. You did it wrong.”

            or

            Fail a test –> “What went wrong there? How many hours did you study? Did you miss any classes or assignments recently? You’ll need to learn this material/learn to study more effectively, so let’s look at what you can do differently. It’s not the end of the world. You can build some skills to help you in the long run.”

            1. OrigCassandra*

              I was talking to one of my favorite students today about exactly this.

              He was talking about internalizing the idea that one failure is basically The End Of Everything Forever, and he thanked me for talking frankly in class about some of my own history of mistakes and failures because it challenged that narrative.

              I’m thinking about other ways to instill some perspective and judgment on the topic of mistakes and failures and coping with them.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Grace exists in many different forms. In this case, it means understanding that these young people aren’t just entitled, whiny kids: they are people whose development was interrupted. Grace in that context means you spell things out more, you expect more missteps, and most importantly, you don’t write them all off as useless.

        1. Kelly With A Why*

          I feel like not only were these children’s development interrupted, but the adults around them also weren’t performing at their best! As a parent, I know I let my daughter get away with stuff I otherwise wouldn’t have because she was so emotionally fragile that I didn’t want to push her over the edge (and I mean this literally, I know several young people who had very serious, even life-threatening, mental health crises during this time). My son, on the other hand, got away with stuff because I needed to manage the level of conflict in our home if we were all going to be locked up together for the foreseeable future. And we had it relatively easy, as we didn’t suffer any of the worst consequences of the …pancetta?… like financial ruin or loss of a loved one. I’m not saying kids don’t need to learn the skills they missed out on, but to me grace means that we understand why these problems exist, we understand that everyone was doing their best under truly awful circumstances, and we meet everyone where they are.

      3. McFizzle*

        Agreed – and that grace costs *time*. It’s not wrong that OP is frustrated that this is taking up huge quantities of time; far more than was agreed to. At some point, I’d say it’s okay to put the foot down and give them a hard(er), firm, clear talk to address overall issues.

        (I also work for a school district and can confirm the standards are ludicrously low)

      4. Liz*

        I agree.

        It’s also interesting to juxtapose the overwhelming “give them grace” advice with what also seems like an overwhelming number of people who believe hybrid or fully remote workplaces are always the better option… dumping a generation of emotionally immature twentysomethings into remote work environments where they don’t have the same opportunities to pick up social cues via osmosis seems like a recipe for disaster. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the pendulum swinging further back toward the office as more of this cohort enters the workforce.

        1. Chick-n-Boots*

          Or maybe it’s just a matter of us figuring out what the new norms of remote work are and making sure we’re doing mentoring of those new to the workplace in a way that correlates. My office hosts one or two college interns (usually seniors) from a specific program that requires a 400 hour internship as a graduation requirement. I’ve personally mentored 5 since the beginning of the pandemic and figuring out how to be a mentor in this way – my office has basically been fully remote since March 2020 – was a learning curve for me too. But it’s doable! I had to learn how to explain things more clearly and concretely because examples weren’t always easy to come by and to be really explicit about things I hadn’t had to be so explicit about before. Virtual meetings also provide a decent amount of opportunity for observation and for reinforcement of behaviors. It’s not perfect, but nothing is. But that kind of mentoring and learning really can be done without being in person.

          1. TechWorker*

            Some of the learning needed for my job is so inefficient done remotely to the point it’s fair to say it shouldn’t really be done. Is it technically possible if you’re ok with people learning more slowly, missing stuff and gaining weird workflow habits they don’t even realise are weird..? Well yes, but it’s more expensive for the company and a worse experience for the employee so we wouldn’t choose to do it.

      5. Blue*

        “give them grace” doesn’t mean “look the other way at their anti-social behavior” though. Grace is about doing the things you said in your second paragraph with compassion and understanding for the fact that they went through certainly collective and probably personal trauma that means they have catching up to do in a way that’s not their fault.

      6. PupsterBooboo*

        This is exactly it, @singularity! Accommodating snowflake behavior is simply helping the student to bury themselves even deeper. Lead by example, correct poor behaviors, and keep up the standards. People learn from both failures and successes.

      7. L-squared*

        I was thinking this. The problem is a lack of consequences, and by OP refusing to kick anyone out, that same lack of consequences isn’t going to help. They aren’t allowed to fail classes in HS anymore, hence saying a professor is morally corrupt for doing so. They didn’t actually have any punishments for anti social behavior in HS, hence the screaming and crying now. They don’t need more grace.

        1. Stuart*

          Completely with you here. Too much grace is the problem, not the solution. You can have compassion, but there need to be clear consequences. You’re doing them no favours by continuously giving them grace.

          1. The Voice of Reason*

            Completely with you here. Too much grace is the problem, not the solution. You can have compassion, but there need to be clear consequences. You’re doing them no favours by continuously giving them grace.

            *Precisely*. They’ve been extended “grace” throughout their entire lives via parents who don’t help them deal with adversity or develop resilience.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              The problem with that stance is that too often “develop resilience” is code for “put up with bullshit.” Especially in the After Times, since we’ve more or less gone back to the status quo we had before instead of keeping what we learned about accommodations and protecting mental health and being considerate of others in our community. My uni repeatedly praised students and faculty/staff for “being resilient” even as it was denying requests from immunocompromised faculty who wanted to be able to require masks in their classrooms so they could go back to teaching in person. It’s become a term that doesn’t mean anything anymore, unfortunately.

        2. Parakeet*

          It’s a mentorship program. One would think this was an ideal place to teach different behaviors instead of kicking them out.

      8. Teacher Lady*

        I think that what you’re saying actually is a form of grace, though. Obviously I can only speak for my own frame of mind (and FTR, I am also in public K-12 education!), but to me it is giving grace to, for example, draw those explicit links between X action and Y consequence, but to do so in a way that seeks to minimize additional negative feelings (beyond those that might naturally come as a result of Y consequence). So, that is to say: I’m giving feedback to the young people I know, and I’m not sugarcoating it, but I’m making sure to deliver it in a tone that’s less likely to make the situation feel worse, and I’m focusing on the immediate consequence there and then, making sure that it doesn’t spiral into a “and if this happens when you’re in high school or in college or in a job then etc etc etc.” (There is, of course, a time and place for the future-focused part of that conversation, but it’s rarely when the consequence has just smacked them in the face.)

        To me, being dishonest or fake, or letting problems compound until everything is ruined, is graceless. Honestly, there are lots of pieces of how I communicate with the young people I work with that would be very familiar to readers of this site! Alison’s advice has modeled how to give grace for years.

        1. gmg22*

          Exactly. It depends on what one means by “grace.” But if we decide it can/should mean compassion and empathy (as opposed to in the sense of “grace period,” ie a time when obligations might be on hold), then consequences, honest feedback and firm boundaries all fall comfortably into the category of grace — because they are compassionate actions that will do these young people good in the long term by helping them learn resilience. In part that’s because letting things slide for fear of “triggering” them was never really “grace” in the first place — it was simply reasonable self-preserving behavior that we all did during the pandemic, and in the long term it turned into something more like avoidance. You can absolutely give someone strict rules or critical feedback and still be doing it with grace, if you do it thoughtfully.

      9. evens*

        So true. There is grace, which leads to gratitude, and then there is permissiveness and excuses, which lead to entitlement and victim mentality. It sounds like many of these students are in the second category. They need to be held accountable. The good news is that most people rise to the expectations set for them!

      10. Devious Planner*

        Fellow high school teacher here, and agreed! I have grown to despise the term “offer them grace.” Don’t be a jerk about it, and know that you might need to repeat yourself a few extra times, but the time to catch up on workplace norms is here and now.

      11. Beth*

        I don’t think “grace” means “no consequences”. I think it means things like “look at your curriculum and evaluate whether it’s speaking to your actual current audience, or if it’s targeted at the audience you used to have a few years ago.” Or like “explicitly explain behavior standards and spell out consequences for poor behavior in advance, before there’s a problem.” Or like “give a student who’s really upset about failing a test vent real feedback about how this is a normal consequence of not studying”.

        All of these are more work than I think OP has likely had to do in past years, and some of them are awkward conversations to have. But it sounds like their current students need someone to do that work. It would be giving them grace to offer it.

      12. bamcheeks*

        I think we mean something very different by grace! To me, everything you’ve said here:

        someone who is willing to invest the time and energy to show them that the way they’re behaving is immature and unacceptable for an adult work force. They need to face consequences for their lack of studying, mistakes or poor performance. They need actionable, clear and unbiased feedback about the quality of their work

        — is what I mean by grace! Not giving them grace would be NOT investing the time and energy, not giving them actionable, clear and unbiased feedback — simply doing what the “older advisors” are doing and ascribing it to “generational entitlement”, and ceasing to engage with them. Putting in the time and effort to give them clear expectations and space in which they can try – and sometimes fail, and try again — is exactly what grace means to me.

      13. deesse877*

        This is untrue and ill-informed; in fact, if you are indeed arguing in good faith, you’re not understanding what the term “grace” means, either in this instance or generally. You are decades behind the educational literature.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          By all means, feel free to share your version of “grace” if you feel that strongly. Also, check the commenting rules. Assuming good faith in other commenters is rule #1.

        2. Alou*

          I have heard the phrase “give them grace” bandied about by administrators who were tired of hearing complaints from parents re: their children failing classes (where the students were not doing their work, playing on their phones in class all day, etc) – in those cases it was being used specifically as… I guess just a different way of saying “sweep the problems under the rug because I’m tired of hearing about them”, so I understand where that commenter is coming from.

          I myself instinctively bristle when I hear it now, because for some of us it’s become synonymous with “don’t address the issue at hand!” rather than “address the issue with an extra measure of kindness and understanding”. As another user notes, our perceptions of things differ based on the experiences we’ve had.

      14. Manglement Survivor*

        I agree with you, singularity. You can be compassionate and tell them you understand they’ve had a tough time, but you can also hold them accountable for what they are supposed to be doing. If you have to, explain at the beginning of us semester that these are the rules and that you know it’s different than what they experienced during the pandemic, but this is the way it is now.

    8. Zona the Great*

      Completely agree. Heck, even women who become moms and experience that isolation in the first year or so lose so much socialization and the skills that come with it. These kids were basically raised in caves. We need to help them function in the light.

      1. Devious Planner*

        I really have to disagree here. Yes, kids lost a lot of socialization during the pandemic. However, even the school districts that stuck with distance learning the longest ended this in the late spring 2021. There are a lot of challenges that students face, but they were not “raised in caves” and we won’t actually fix the problem by lowering our expectations indefinitely.

        OP should pick her battles, but not give up on explaining basic workplace norms.

        1. gmg22*

          “Raised in caves” is hyperbole, tis true, but every educator friend I know has very similar stories about the significant challenges of the post-pandemic years, especially with regard to handling behavioral issues in the classroom.

          Part of the problem is the kids aren’t the only ones who “forgot” or “unlearned” how to behave properly. A LOT of adults (ie, their parents) did that, too.

      2. The Voice of Reason*

        These kids were basically raised in caves.

        They absolutely were not “raised in caves,” at least insofar as the pandemic is concerned. They missed a year or so of in-class instruction, and while I don’t dispute that has consequences, that’s still one year out of 18.

        1. The Other Fish*

          Yes!

          My nephew is part of the wave of “COVID kids have it so hard, especially the year 12s!” But he actually had loads of time at school to learn norms, and when he was at home it’s not like it was a dead dark cave – his family was there to mould him too.

          Some families had it really tough, having to leave kids at home alone while they went out to work, but many had an adult at home.

        2. ElastiGirl*

          “They missed a year or so of in-class instruction… that’s still one year out of 18.”

          Um…

          “They spent a year overseas at war killing other people and desperately trying not to be killed… that’s still one year out of 20”

          “They spent an hour hiding under their desk while a shooter killed their friends around them… that’s still one hour out of 900.”

          Thanks for making it clear you have no understanding of how trauma works, so we know not to take seriously anything you say on this thread.

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        This is how I read it. She just did some explaining of what she’s experiencing and how it’s difficult and different from the past. OP sounds like instead of just dismissing the students, like the older advisors want to do, she is asking for help in how to help these students.

        1. Letter Writer*

          That is precisely why I meant. Any and all advice on concrete ways that I can relay professional norms to these students would be greatly appreciated. The ways we’ve tried haven’t been successful so far.

          1. Clorinda*

            I think you’re going to have to be absurdly specific and overt. This is how we enter a room. We will practice knocking three times at a medium volume and waiting for an invitation. This is we greet a client. This is how we greet an angry client. This is what we say and fo when someone asks a question we can’t answer. This is what we say and do when someone tells us we made a mistake.
            Have them write actual scripts and act them out. It’s all learnable.

          2. Rach*

            Teacher here. Everything you describe here is consistent with what I have seen from my High School and Middle School students. I admire how much effort you are investing in these students because putting in the work to help them change their behavior is not easy — and many of them will resent you (at least at first) for holding them accountable.

            Depending on how serious the problems you are seeing are, I would recommend different things. Step 1 might look like meeting with the mentors who you view as your closest allies and identify the professional skills you want to teach these students, ranking them by importance and how far off the mark they currently are. Once you have identified 3-5 priorities, you could try using meeting to facilitate active learning for students where they do things roleplay, say, communication around timeliness, asking for help, or needing to readjust a deadline. You can tie this in with expectations in the professional world and (eventually) align those with expectations for participating in your organization.

            What do you want the norms in the organization to be around attendance, following through on responsibilities, and treating others with courtesy? You decide and then choose a system of feedback and accountability that gives group members chances while minimizing damage to the group as a whole.

            As I said, this will take a ton of work, but if you can get buy in from enough mentors and core members and stay consistent , there a chance you’ll be able to see real change.

            Good luck!

            P.S. Not sure what you meant by “putting out fires” in your original comment, but it is worth thinking about how you can minimize your role intervening in conflicts between group members. We all know gossip happens in the workplace, but none of us want our manager to act as a sounding noises for gossip about us so you can’t ability to set boundaries here can also be a way of modeling healthy workplace behavior.

      2. Madame Arcati*

        Exactly – it’s clear that this is precisely what the LW is trying to do (unlike the professors she mentions who want to bin them off) and she is asking how to do so effectively.

    9. another fed*

      All that said, some degree of recognizing this on the front end in orientation periods might be necessary. This includes helping mentors establish boundaries earlier, and likely, more often about what kinds of support they can provide. It also includes helping mentors redirect mentees to more appropriate resources more quickly. In the 90s, we used a lot more facilitated support groups at least at my Midwest large public university, and I think we may need to return to this in light of the lack of full MH resources available but we also need groups to have some facilitators who can help reality check the discussions.

      1. Letter Writer*

        I will absolutely look into changing orientation strategy to get started with expectations and boundaries from the get-go.

    10. JB (not in Houston)*

      This is nice but not helpful for the OP. It sounds like the OP is already giving them grace and is blaming the pandemic, not them. She wants advice on how to help them.

    11. The Voice of Reason*

      The pandemic may have contributed to this situation, but it absolutely did not create it. What created it was helicopter parenting, the “child-raising as therapy” philosophy, and so on.

      “Show them some grace” is therefore the wrong approach. Showing them grace is more of the same, more child-raising as therapy. They need to be told that these kinds of reactions, such as throwing slanderous accusations at professors who give them a bad grade, are unacceptable.

    12. Letter Writer*

      Ann, this is absolutely the approach that I’ve taken so far and have been trying to encourage for the rest of the organization. These young women have been through a lot in the past few years, and they’re not to blame for their lack of “real world” experience and interpersonal skills. But sometimes it does feel like we’re talking to a brick wall sometimes, and I understand the frustration from others.

    13. Myrin*

      I’m so confused by this comment because not only doesn’t it answer OP’s question/offer advice, it also states something which basically OP’s whole letter in itself exemplifies.

      1. SnP97*

        Agreed, I reread OP’s letter to see if I missed something.

        Medievalist above offers some fantastic advice that can be adjusted for other/similar situations.

    14. RagingADHD*

      I think LW absolutely understands this and intends to show grace, that is the whole premise of the question. The crux is *how* to mentor and help in the context of this particular role, when the students are starting in such a different place than usual, and especially when they are actively resisting advice?

      Based on the type of program described in the letter, it sounds like LW is not a professional educator trained in developing curriculum. They are not a licensed mental health practitioner. They are an advisor / mentor in job/life skills and career development.

      So, A) how do they explain the nature and necessity of mature behavior, and B) how do they stop the scope creep of their role, which is already 400% or more of their original volunteer commitment, and C) how do they stop their other volunteers from quitting?

      You can’t just add an extra 5+ hours a week of unpaid, emotionally intense labor to your life indefinitely without paying a price, and I suspect this has a lot to do with the older volunteers tapping out first. This isn’t what they signed up for, and they know when they’re burning out. It’s not ungracious to admit that someone’s problems are beyond your ability to help.

      To that end, I would suggest that LW cultivate more appropriate resources for these students:

      1) Perhaps bring on more volunteers who have training in mental health or educational development;
      2) Develop connections with community mental health resources and refer students out (especially if they are shutting down, screaming and crying – those are big red flags that they are not okay);
      3) Build the volunteer roster so that the workload can be more evenly distributed.

      In other words, understand when you need more or different help, and seek it out. That’s a huge skill in self-awareness and “maturity” that applies to both life and to work situations, and exercising it would not only benefit LW and the other volunteers, but be a good model for the students.

      1. Letter Writer*

        You’ve hit the nail on the head. Why they behave the way they do doesn’t need to be debated; the *how* to effectively mentor is the issue, especially with students who show resistance. I’m taking these suggestions!

    15. Worldwalker*

      Nobody older than 6 should think that “screaming and crying” is a viable response to any workplace situation. Or pretty much any situation, at least any that don’t involve blood.

    16. Velawciraptor*

      It sounds to me like LW IS extending them grace, but is looking for advice on additional steps she can take to help coach these students towards professionalism and maturity. And the answer to that question is probably having lots of kind but frank conversations about problematic behaviors/reactions as they’re being seen so the student can be aware and start to calibrate their behavior accordingly.

    17. datamuse*

      Former academic here and I think this is a huge part of it. A lot of the other faculty I worked with before I left the field made similar observations. (It can be exhausting to deal with, granted!) I like AnonForThis’s suggestions.

    18. Hydrangea MacDuff*

      This is exactly right. We had a trauma in our society that cut across everyone, especially those who are now 20-25. Have kindness and love and imagine if you had spent a year or more in your bedroom when you were a teenager instead of having age appropriate experiences. And also. Welcome to the world of public education where we meet every person where they are and work with their strengths to create community. We have to remember that for young people the pandemic was a huge bite out of their developmental story. My son had nearly a year, which at the time equated to 5% of his life , at home, on zoom.

    19. M*

      I think there’s also a perspective here that the LW is missing. LW, you say your organisation’s purpose is to “provide leadership opportunities and mentoring for college-aged women to help prepare them for life after graduation” – in other words, this is an organisation that exists to help women thrive in their future careers, and close the professional attainment gap, yes?

      So, it’s time to go to your board and talk about what the *particular, unique, barriers to that are for this cohort of women*. Yes, it’s not simple generational entitlement – but there is a generational *cohort effect*, and your organisation is in a great position to tackle that head-on, instead of simply dismissing an entire generation of women. You should probably also start thinking strategically about what the *next* cohort – young women whose pandemic experience fell at a younger age, with different developmental milestones affected – might need from you.

      Then, think structurally. These are women who’ve delayed some foundational life-learning experiences by 2-3 years, and are now having them at a stage of life that’s not well-structured to deal with milestones like “first time failing to study for a test, because all your previous tests were done at home with parents literally working next to you and so supervising your every move”. Do you need to bring in some counsellors who specialise in helping people develop time management skills to do some group sessions? What guidance can you give mentors and other coal-face volunteers about how to help their mentees develop those skills?

      What are some workplace-behaviour guidelines you can communicate and enforce? That might mean telling a students who’s over those lines to call back later (or, if they’re there in person, go take a walk and come back when they’re in the right frame of mind to continue) – you don’t have to tolerate abuse or counterproductive drama, but there are good and bad ways to model “this conversation will only continue when you’re behaving in a way acceptable in a workplace”.

      One of the challenges of late-secondary school teaching is that you’re often taking students who’ve been trained by their education to that point to follow a set of rigid, knowable, classroom behaviour standards – like “sit in silence while you’re working”, or “raise your hand to answer a question”, or “make sure your parent signs your school diary for this week, so they know what homework you have” – and train them into a mode of working that better fits later life. These students missed doing all of that in person, and it likely feels to them (whether they’re conscious of it or not) like there are *no* rules of behaviour, because the ones they internalised don’t apply. You’d be doing them a real favour by helping them learn and internalise those new rules and expectations – even if it feels frustrating to need to do it, when these students are in a stage of life where it’s generally expected that they’ve already learned them.

    20. Anon for this*

      The pandemic was awful, my youngest was in 10th grade and oldest in their junior year of college. But I am just not buying this behavior can be chalked up to the pandemic. Our state was probably middle of the road for restrictions and were only really isolated for less than one semester starting March 2020 and returning to a hybrid schedule in the fall. I think there is something else going on with these students beyond the pandemic.

    21. Marie*

      You are correct! And no matter what it is rarely if ever wrong to offer grace. During war times and other national global catastrophes, there were communities of people enduring together: so very different than the pandemic. Humans are not meant to function and thrive in isolation. For this reason, banishment used to be a grave (pun intended sorry) punishment. The isolation/ social media bombardment endured during the formative years can be overcome: by community, by grace. Thank you for your kind comment. God bless you and all.

      1. Marie*

        PS I taught k-university for decades, a lot of high school. Many places from urban city centers ravaged by drugs and gangs, to rural communities. Socialization /socializing skills were learned organically/ in community. These are human skills we teach each other by being around each other day after day.

  2. Football fan*

    One thing that has served me well when I was the student or new employee: My supervisor/professor/mentor had high (but fair) standards for me, and they met with me as much as needed to coach me at first. I was very fortunate. I learned a lot. Some specific examples: When a paper I wrote wasn’t good enough (but was passable), they had me rewrite it rather than just accept a low grade. Then, I had to meet with them to go over the improved product. It takes a lot of time and effort, but you’ll change their lives. Thank you for taking the time to do that.

    1. HR Failure*

      Downside is, in the “real world” you’re not going to be given a chance to redo the work. To possibly correct it, sure but not redo from scratch.

      1. Art Teacher*

        But I think this is why programs like this are so needed (especially with the post-pandemic students who missed out on the formative experiences the rest of us had). No, your boss isn’t going to do as much hand-holding. So let’s help them now, while they’re in a mentorship program. That way, when they get to the working world, they won’t *need* as much hand-holding.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly this. These programs are to help people develop the skills that they will need in the workplace before they get to the workplace and the stakes are higher.

          1. Delta Delta*

            Yes. I teach a law school class and I always tell my students to screw up in my class so they a) see what it feels like to screw up and b) because it’s lower stakes. I don’t lower grades for a student making an argument that doesn’t work. But that might lose in court so I want them to try in a place where it’s okay to do that.

        2. Blue*

          Ding ding ding! You can even break the fourth wall and note that they likely won’t get this level of individualized support in a job, but you’re doing X in this case so they learn Y and can do it independently in the future.

        3. Letter Writer*

          Yes, that’s precisely why we do what we do. We have the opportunity to intercept these students before they become professionals. If I have to hold their hands now so that their boss doesn’t need to in the future, I’ve done my job!

        4. Elitist Semicolon*

          Exactly. When I was still teaching, I used to tell my students that they should let me know any time anything got in their way of completing their work well, whether it was an emergency, general academic stress, or they discovered they couldn’t do the project as planned. My reasoning (which I made explicit) was that it’s better they have a project disaster in my class, where I could help them strategize how to talk about it and how to salvage the situation, than having it happen in the workplace. Then when someone came in with an issue, I could say, okay, let’s create a plan and figure out what you need to get this done. Maybe they won’t get extensions in the workplace, but at least I (hope I) taught them that they should take time to figure out possible solutions rather than just pitching a fit over a problem or hoping no one notices as they sweep it under the rug.

      2. Panicked*

        I think there is value in having them put the hard work into making the final product what it should be, regardless of whether it will be accepted or not. To me, it helps ensure they know what the end state should be next time and the practice really does help.

      3. dot*

        This is going to be completely job-specific and any decent entry level job training should definitely allow for opportunities for mistakes and corrections.

      4. Wounded, erratic stink bugs*

        Yeah, but for a lot of learning processes, it’s not productive to aim for standards that are meaningfully above where the student is now. They are not in the “real world” yet, so they are getting to do things that benefit their mastery of certain skills. After they gain more competence in those skills, then they can practice the “do it right the first time because your boss is not your teacher” skills.

      5. Whale I Never*

        Depending on the work in question, the difference between “redo from scratch” and “make heavy corrections and resubmit” can be splitting hairs, though. I wouldn’t say that all real-world jobs prevent restarting projects; my field typically has heavy revisions/restart points built into most projects.

        1. arachnophilia*

          Was just about to make this same point. I work in a pretty specific field that requires some general knowledge about the area, but most people who come into my field have absolutely no direct experience. I often have to coach new staff on how to write an email appropriate to the audience, or they’ll do a project and when I review, they essentially have to start again and try a different way. I have LOTS of examples of “redo from scratch” because it’s a learning process, and new people have to learn how to apply the knowledge they have to our area. It’s a process, and part of my job as a manager is to help them to understand that the process really is making mistakes, learning from them, and applying them iteratively to everything they work on.

          Another part of my job as a manager is to explain that people aren’t born with the skills to do what we do, and that the learning process is a part of what I expect their first year to be – they aren’t “failing,” but rather developing into someone who will make incredible contributions once they become independent. I kind of see a reflection of my own process of training and mentoring in the OP’s situation, and I’ve definitely had people who found that it just didn’t work for them – they wanted to be perfect right out of the gate, or didn’t want to listen when I gave feedback, or that the field just wasn’t the best fit for what they wanted to be doing. But almost always, with clear expectations and a lot of coaching, people find they enjoy the field at least as much as I do and I rarely have staff turnover.

      6. atalanta0jess*

        This is an odd comment to me. If my employee does work that isn’t passable, and we have time, they re-do it.

        Nevermind the notion that somehow the way to get people ready for the “real world” is to act like the “real world” from the start. That makes zero sense. How is that supposed to work? When do folks get to learn if we start off with the harsh stances of the supposed real world? How are they supposed to make their paper better without information about what is needed for it to be better? What is mentoring, if not coaching to develop skills for the “real world”?

      7. The Other Katie*

        In the “real world” you would not be doing major projects without any useful feedback or oversight either, though.

      8. Beth*

        In my experience of the real world, if you messed up but it wasn’t bad enough to get you fired, you probably would be expected to redo the work to standard (maybe with more oversight, especially if the root cause was a training issue).

        In my experience of education, it’s also not helpful to hold a learner to the standards that you’d hold an established pro. Of course someone who’s learning will need more support, more feedback, and more chances to try again. That’s how learning works.

      9. JB*

        Well, you certainly get a chance to re-do it if you recognize yourself that it’s not up to par and fix it before turning it in. Those are some of the skills that an exercise like this teaches.

      10. Alienor*

        Well, it depends on the type of work. I’ve certainly asked people to redo something from scratch when it had too many problems to be fixed with just editing.

      11. Velawciraptor*

        Which is why taking the time to give them this particular educational experience now is important. If they can learn in the moment from their mistakes, they’ll have an easier time with their transition to the “real world.”

      12. Ace in the Hole*

        That’s not necessarily true – it depends a lot on the circumstances. I’ve had times where I finished a job and was told to redo it. Sometimes the boss changes their mind about what they want after they see the results, sometimes there’s a miscommunication about expectations from the start, etc. When that happens, the manager explains what they want done differently and I redo the work to match. This has certainly not held me back in my career.

        Also, as a trainer for new employees doing specialized work… this is EXACTLY what I do for a newbie I’m coaching. I specifically assign them tasks that can be redone because I expect them to make mistakes! Doing things over to fix/improve them is a great way to learn. I don’t set someone up for failure by giving them a project that will cause serious problems if it’s not done right on the first shot. Obviously I expect that over time they will improve and no longer require so many do-overs. And I expect they won’t make the same mistakes repeatedly. But I don’t penalize them for doing something badly when they’re still learning how to do it.

      1. Happily Retired*

        Interesting thread to me, because I’m back in college at age 69 and in sort of Zoomers/Boomer against the professors. (a joke)

        At any rate, I have two (of my five) professors who offer a re-write for a better grade; not just averaged between the two versions, but the grade on the better paper replaces that on the weaker one. They give thorough feedback on all papers, not just the ones for which they’re offering a redo, and I make sure that they know that I appreciate it.

  3. Michigander*

    I’m curious about how blunt the feedback has been. Has anyone come out and told them straight out, “You cannot behave like this in the workplace. You are giving off the impression that you are unprofessional and your future bosses and coworkers are going to think you are incapable of doing your job and unpleasant to work with if any setback leads to drama, tears, and screaming. There is no screaming in the workplace.”

    1. aebhel*

      Yeah, this. I wonder how much the LW is soft-pedaling this advice, because while I get the emotional support aspect, at some point people do need to be bluntly told, ‘You cannot act like this. No, really, no matter how upset you are, this isn’t acceptable behavior from an adult, and it will cost you professional and academic opportunities if you keep it up.’

      In some cases maybe these students would benefit from actual therapy? And I don’t know that LW is in a position to suggest that, but screaming crying meltdowns over academic or professional setbacks feels like something that’s maybe… bigger than just a pandemic-induced lag in maturity.

      Also, I suggest that LW take some steps to protect their boundaries. You do not actually have to be constantly available to manage these students emotional lives for them. If there’s a specific time you’re meeting with them, stick to it. If not, draw some lines around how much and how often you’re available for this. It’s both good for your own sanity and also models appropriate professional boundaries for these students.

      1. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

        FWIW, I graduated college in 2013 and I definitely saw students having screaming crying meltdowns. It’s probably gotten worse since the pandemic, but it was definitely present before that.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          This is what I was going to say- I’ve seen some really dramatic behavior from others (okay, and I have been the dramatic one myself- tears, meltdowns, etc) way before the pandemic. I wonder if they’re displaying a heightened version of it or if we’re all more sensitive to it because we hadn’t been exposed to it ourselves.

          But it feels like the root causes of the behavior are probably the same as they were before- so probably we just need to be prepared to dig into the causes and both explain and model the correct behavior.

        2. raktajino*

          > I definitely saw students having screaming crying meltdowns

          I had *massive* academic anxiety through undergrad (2006) and grad school. (Turns out treating unrelated PTSD helped a ton) I didn’t have screaming meltdowns in front of anyone (after sophomore year at least) but I had plenty of tears. One of my friends cried in front of pretty much every professor she ever had, mostly during office hours. Not sure why exactly; I don’t know that she even understood it fully.

          Emotional regulation is complicated and there’s only so much you can do alone (or one person can do for someone else). I agree that pointing out “this is where your behavior was inappropriate for the workplace” with clarity and detatchment will be a kindness.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            I’m a stress cryer and my tearing up is often a physical reaction that isn’t a sign that I’m upset or having a tantrum. So glad to be away from the boss who accused me (more than once) of crying when I didn’t get what I wanted, when really I just felt harried.

        3. sofar*

          I graduated in ’06 from a university that was known as an “academic pressure cooker.” But the meltdowns were always self-directed and about over-achieving: “I’m sobbing in the bathroom and having to be comforted by our department chair because I got a C on the test because I didn’t study enough and I need to work harder, but I’m so tired. And if I don’t get a 4.0 GPA, I am a failure. ”

          What LW seems to be saying is that the crying fits are about blaming others and wanting to put in less work for good grades.

        4. RagingADHD*

          I graduated college in 1993, and I definitely saw students who needed mental health support and screamed and cried – mostly in private, but not always. There’s just proportionally a lot more students struggling.

          The nature of the problem hasn’t changed, just the scale, and I think it’s a disservice to both the LW and the students to frame this as a generational “maturity” issue as opposed to a widespread crisis of mental health.

        5. Treena*

          This! I remember in 2011 in a public health class a student practically screaming and tearing up about how banning smoking in public places is an infringement on people’s rights. It was wild but genuinely the only thing close to a true meltdown I’d ever witnessed.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I second the point about boundaries. As a drama llama in recovery, I can tell you that I used to rage and flop for as long as an audience was willing to listen. That means that the audience had a lot of power over where I focused my energy.

        When a student starts blaming others, ranting about morally corrupt professors, anxiety spiraling or such, it’s a probably kindness to lay down a boundary and tell them that you aren’t going to listen to that. Remember that you’re there to help them with professionalism, not to listen to their complaining.

      3. e271828*

        The LW seems to care a lot about their students, but LW canNOT become their parent-therapist. If that level of remediation is needed, the organization as a whole needs to provide support.

        I took business classes. We were told to wear business attire and behave in an office-appropriate way in class. Part of class was learning those norms. It was a semester at least.

        1. Laura*

          Yes this. If they need more intensive emotional help, they’ll need to find it from a therapist or something like that. Maybe the organization can try to facilitate this in some way.

      4. Banana Pyjamas*

        I agree that what op described is more than just immaturity. It sounds like my own experience with anxiety and panic disorders, which would be for a mental health professional not the op or their fellow mentors. Maybe the mentorship program needs to evaluate wether they want to make a mental health professional available, but they cannot and should not expect the mentors to fill that role.

      5. sparkle emoji*

        On the real therapy front, LW could you get a list of the therapy resources available to the universities you work with and direct your student mentees to them? Maybe after spelling out “This kind of rant/meltdown/misc. feelings moment is more suited for a therapist, here are the resources your school provides”. Most US universities I’m familiar with have some type of mental health center that provides short-term therapy or support groups. Then you could move the emotion management task off your plate.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes. In college I had a classmate who always blamed everyone else for her failures.
      She flunked out because she just could not figure out how to take responsibility & fix her grades.

      In the same way, she was in danger of becoming homeless because she wouldn’t take responsibility for showing up to work or managing her money.

      But fortunately she had a very kind mentor who was willing to be blunt with her and teach her the life skills she hadn’t been taught yet.

      Now, that was one kid and she poured a LOT more time into mentoring that girl than the OP is looking to commit to this. But I think being blunt, in a calm, kind manner might be a partial solution.

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        That’s the thing, some of these young people might need more intensive, one-on-one work than the LW or their organization can provide.

    3. higher ed prof*

      Higher ed prof here to second this. Directness is kindness.

      There are times to give grace (a student was in an accident and needs more time on the final project), and times not to (a student submitting work well after the first AND final deadline, then getting pissed because I give it a zero per course policy).

      For an “era” of students who claim to hate toxic people/interactions/etc, many of them seem not to understand that they themselves are often the toxic ones.

      1. Anon for this*

        “For an “era” of students who claim to hate toxic people/interactions/etc, many of them seem not to understand that they themselves are often the toxic ones“

        This is HUGE with this generation, I think. I see it a lot in my work, they will bully people for not being inclusive when often the bullied person isn’t being exclusive or toxic but new to the community and is trying to learn. So they end up being more toxic than they claimed the “not inclusive enough” person was!

        1. JB*

          Bullying is huge in every generation. Teens and early twenties have a lot of neurons firing in their brains telling them that if they don’t fit in with the in-group, they’re gonna get kicked out of the tribe and die, so yeah, they pick up whatever the current standard for social expectations is and apply it vigorously or even violently and without any real thought into the implications of their behavior. People grow out of that stage at different rates depending on their maturity, experiences, and how secure they feel in their life.

          It just seems so silly to see fully grown adults acting like this is new or has something to do with “cancel culture” or the word “toxic”, as if you didn’t see the exact same behavior in all the other generations that have come up to now.

          1. Much too young to feel so old*

            I have come across so many articles, videos, and unhinged opinions about Gen Z. Many of the complaints have been the same complaints you see about young people in general. Hell I’ll see people my age making the same comments older people made about us 15 years ago. I know from rewatching old shows that they say the same things about boomers and Gen Xers when they were our age. I’m sure in 15 years Gen Z will be saying the same things

          2. Alou*

            “…as if you didn’t see the exact same behavior in all the other generations that have come up to now.”

            They haven’t, though, which is *why* they’re making the observations you deem so silly.

        2. anecdote*

          Many years ago (early in the 00s), I heard a facilitator say he encountered a discussion participant who said she felt he was “committing genocide against [her] as an individual.” Although the frequency may be greater, the overwrought emotions certainly are nothing new.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, it’s worth looking at whether that was the starting thought and then it got so much softening language it was lost.

      Understanding the message under the softening language is another of those skills they haven’t practiced much, as they got so much less in-person practice.

    5. ferrina*

      Really great point.

      In a virtual environment or environment where someone hasn’t been able to see non-verbal cues (such as the environment where this group grew up in), it’s vital to be explicit about expectations.

      They may not like hearing it, but it’s what’s needed.

    6. JennG*

      Also, is the feedback immediate.

      “I overheard what you said to X. I really want you to be able to succeed in your goals, so I’m going to tell you very bluntly that if you were a staff member, I would be questioning your judgement in saying that in the workplace and considering whether you could have a future on the team. It is not all right to communicate that way.”

      And then roleplay through what the situation was and what an okay response would be.

      It takes a lot of time. I had to do this for two summers (except they were employees) as things opened up with Covid with a summer camp team – and I mean, on the daily, walking around listening for issues. But the young adults really responded well.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes, the feedback should be immediate. Call out the behavior and clearly state what the consequences of particular actions would (or should) be in a workplace. Don’t soften any of it with statements such as “I know this may be hard for you to hear” or “That does sound upsetting but…” Most people will just hear that you agree with them and not listen to anything beyond that point. You need to come right out and say “Saying something like that during an interview would result in you being removed from consideration. Here’s why.” Then show them a better way to handle things.

    7. Zona the Great*

      Yes. I love my partner more than anyone on this earth and because I care, I have more than once said, “I’d fire you for that”.

    8. Elle*

      I was about to say roughly this but you said it so well. I see a lot of people advocating for giving these students grace, and I would argue that giving them realistic feedback and actual clear standards is the kindest thing for them.

    9. Letter Writer*

      While sometimes this feedback has been very clear, I do believe some of this messaging has not been direct enough, or even not given at all. I want to do some more training for the advisors on how to speak to the students. I personally am all about “kind but blunt.”

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        My workplace was quite focused on radical candour for a couple of years to try and instil a culture of constructive feedback being given.
        Whist the Ted talk is simplistic it may resonate with some of your older advisors on why taking time to feedback to the students is important.
        https://youtu.be/O9hDTLo5rLA?si=nftmni_OsRMLKkkn

    10. That Lady in HR*

      Yeah, these are people who you know for sure lack experience and context. You can’t hint at them and expect them to understand what you want. The workplace is a totally new culture for them, so just like you’d want to be told upfront what norms are when you visit a new country, they need very direct feedback.

      I also think it’s ok to extend that directness to your time and the scope of your mentorship. “I can’t help you with that because it’s not a work matter” isn’t cruel; it’s helping them understand where the boundaries are.

  4. Anonym*

    There’s a lot here I’m not qualified to comment on, but it would be morally corrupt to pass someone on an exam when they didn’t meet the criteria for passing that everyone else is being held to…

    Wishing you success, OP. This is tough and complex. Thank you for helping these young folks, even though they’re less prepared than expected!

    1. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

      Especially when the ones who earned their grades have to work alongside the lower performers who were waved through.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      This is happening at every grade level (in America, at least). We’re in an educational crisis that accelerated rapidly during the pandemic. I also don’t understand how we’re expecting children to learn when many are food-insecure (arriving to school hungry; many states have refused federal funds for free meal programs) and ALL of them are dealing with the daily existential threat of potentially being shot at school.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I should point out that my generation grew up with the daily existential threat of being nuked at school. Shelter drills, duck-and-cover, the whole nine yards.

        1. Velawciraptor*

          The difference being that there have been over 400 school shootings in the US since Colombine and 0 schools hit by any sort of nuclear weapon since World War II. The existential threat referred to is far more pressing and impactful than what was imagined during the Cold War.

          1. SchuylerSeestra*

            That’s not fair to say. In hindsight the nuclear war didn’t happen, but at the time it was a very real threat.

            I actually agree with WorldWalker in a way. Im an elder millennial and neurodivergent. I grew up in post Columbine, post 9/11, post recession times.

            My grandparents came up during The Great Depression/WW2. My parents during the Cold War, Civil Rights/ Vietnam.

            All generations have gone through some level of turmoil. I believe in giving grace, but I also think there is an expectation of responsibility that isn’t necessarily priotized happening today.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              I’m not disagreeing with you but the distinction here is a “very real threat that still exists in the theoretical sense” vs. “very real threat because it happens on the regular and no one seems to do anything about it.” Almost none of my colleagues still think “this could happen” about school shootings; most of them think in terms of “when this happens.”

            2. Reed Weird*

              Since I wasn’t there in the time I won’t comment on it feeling like a real threat. But I will say that I was born less than two weeks after Columbine and I will be 25 next week. I have friends that were in school shootings. It is not the same as “we think that a nuke will drop, it hasn’t, but be prepared”.

      2. Banana Pyjamas*

        It’s not just shootings. Our local schools had three bomb threats in a month this year. One was directly to a K-5, and the kids were evacuated to the high school. Another day two whole districts were shut down because of threats.

        1. Joana*

          Bomb threats unfortunately are nothing new, either. I was in elementary school in the 90s and I believe I was in fourth grade (so nine years old for me) when we’d be shuffled out of the school once or twice a month at least because of a bomb threat. It did die down after that year but it may also have been the rather alarming decision from school staff to stop evacuating us until they’re sure it’s a “real” threat.

          Yeah. That was great.

  5. Mouse named Anon*

    I don’t have much advice other than almost 5 years post pandemic I think we are beginning to see more and more effects that the pandemic caused (other than the obvious). My oldest was 9 when COVID happened and his class and the one above are terrible. Some of the worst behaved our school system has seen. My younger two kids classes don’t have as many problems as they were much younger when COVID hit and can’t really remember much about it.

    Do you have to put out their fires? Can you let them experience some consequences to their own behaviors? Honestly that is what works best with my teen and his peers. Some things you need to figure out by failing and picking up the pieces.

    1. bamcheeks*

      This is absolutely the case, and something we’ve been talking about in HE. Each new year group that comes into higher education missed a different formative development stage, because they were a different age in 2020: the students currently graduating did most of their A levels / BTECs from home, or went into school and came straight home again, and barely had the experience of supporting each other through the stressful-but-extremely-precedented experience of finishing school and starting university. When I was eighteen, I was having dramatic arguments with my boyfriend and sobbing to friends in pubs because I’d got a B in my French coursework. When I was 22, that seemed like childish behaviour because, well, I’d done it four years ago. Today’s 22yos are doing it now because when they were 18yos they were barely allowed to leave their bedrooms. Meanwhile, the students entering university now were 14 years old, and missed out on the first two years of meeting up with friends independently, using buses, get themselves into town and back, staying out too late, getting their first crappy jobs. The students in two years will be the ones who started secondary school in lockdown. I think there’s a whole bunch of different developmental stages that each year group missed, or experienced in a wildly warped way, and it’s only as the years go on we see what missing out on that key skill or experience means.

      What this means for you, I’m not sure! I think where you can show kindness and empathy, rather than impatience, you should. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set clear boundaries and hold them. Don’t expect them to know this stuff, either intellectually or emotionally, but still explicitly tell them (and model) the behaviour that you expect to see, and call them out if you don’t see it.

      And good luck!

      1. Erin*

        This is spot-on. I experienced something similar pre-pandemic with a coworker who was “homeschooled” during high school (as in, her mom just left her at home in front of the TV all day bc she didn’t trust the public school system). As a 25-year-old, she was navigating the same interpersonal drama with the same emotional tenor that I’d experienced at 15 or 16, simply because she’d had no practice with it.

      2. Beige Alert*

        Thank you for this – I also work in HE and directly with students, and the current year has us all puzzled because they just can’t seem to stop doing horrible things to each other! I’d thought something like this but had struggled to articulate it. I’ll be referring back to this next time I’m met with a student situation that has me going, “Eh?!”.

      3. ElastiGirl*

        As a college professor, I give a hearty thumbs up to all of this. It’s precisely what we’re seeing.

        Is anyone aware of some kind of list showing what students should have learned/how they should have developed (especially socially) on a year-by-year basis? That would be immensely helpful to those of us trying to suss out what to expect from our incoming freshmen for the next 10 years or so.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      And its definitely a “mileage varies” thing. Our school system is in an area where adults reacted to shutdown orders by collectively misplacing their fecal matter and loudly stating that they didn’t have to and nobody could make them.

      This is not a statement on whether the orders were reasonable or not. This is more a case where I’m looking at it and saying “well, the actual adults did this. Now you can’t figure out why the kids are doing this that they watched the adults do. Um….?”

      1. GenXer*

        Yes, this! When all of the mask protests, etc. were happening, I kept thinking what a terrible example these people were setting for their kids. I didn’t think about how it would show up in their behavior later, once life got back to “normal” (whatever that is now). But with the current political environment, a lot of people are still “collectively misplacing their fecal matter” over every little thing all the time.

      2. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        Dang, for a moment I thought they literally threw poop before I figured it was a funny way of saying “lost their shit”

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          I absolutely would NOT be surprised if there were video record of someone actually flinging real fecal matter somewhere over something pancetta-related.

      3. Starbuck*

        ” loudly stating that they didn’t have to and nobody could make them”

        Right lol, some of these issues that seems like a “kids these days/this generation” problem, but really those kids learned that behavior from the adults around them! Just look at the older adults having meltdowns in customer service interactions.

    3. Michigander*

      I’m sure there are various studies on children and consequences, but I think it’s highly beneficial for kids and teens to start experiencing the consequences of their own actions from a young age. The older you are when it first happens to you, the harder it is to deal with. If the adults in your life don’t let you fail or experience repercussions when you’re young, it’s going to be a massive shock to the system when it happens for the first time at your first job.

      1. Teacher Lady*

        Yes, there are, and you’re absolutely right! I have worked across K-8 (mostly in 3-8) since well before the pandemic, and the concept of “logical consequences” has been a huge part of my practice (and the practice of effective schools and educators I’ve worked with) for many, many years.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I think this is exactly where the pandemic hits, though. Not all “consequences of your own actions” are enforced by adults in positions of authority, and in fact, the best lessons which most increase your resilience and your confident in yourself probably aren’t: when I look back, I don’t think I learned nearly as much from adults formally imposing consequences as I did from stuff like “I missed the bus and now I have to wait in the rain” and “me and my friends didn’t check the map and now we’re lost and have to figure it out” and “went off with Beccie’s boyfriend at a party and now Beccie is mad”. And even bigger lessons were from the times I supported my friends through difficulties, some of which were normal teenage dramas and some of which were serious and upsetting ones. And that’s what current young adults missed out on– they didn’t get those incremental lessons in independence and responsibility and the confidence that comes from coping with them because they could barely do anything.

        1. Michigander*

          Without getting too much into parenting, I think a lot of it is a combination of the pandemic, and technology, and current popular parenting philosophies. Most kids old enough to take a bus these days would also have a phone to let someone know they missed a bus, and most parents these days would come get their kids if they missed the bus and were able to. So you have fewer opportunities to experience your own mistakes right there, and THEN there’s a pandemic on top of that where you don’t even get to go out and wait for the bus in the first place.

          So maybe less “adults not imposing consequences” and more “adults jumping in to save the day, plus then Covid”.

            1. Worldwalker*

              We’ve been padding the edges and rounding off the corners of the world for a generation or more. It should come as no surprise that the people raised in such conditions don’t realize those corners and edges exist, and do things like try to take selfies with bison or pull bear cubs out of trees. Everything has always been made “safe” for them since they were tiny babies, and they haven’t internalized the idea that the world is not, in fact, a safe and carefully padded place.

              1. bamcheeks*

                Well, the other way to see this is that we’ve been making the world more dangerous. I would love my kids to play outside more and be able to go around to friends’ houses the way I did, but there are more and faster road, fewer places to play, and there aren’t other kids playing out who can keep an eye on each other. So they lose out on places to take smaller risks because the larger risk is too great.

              2. glouby*

                In the U.S., students have been trained for active shooter scenarios for years, and there are many tragic instances in which this training has had to be put to use. The impact of climate change is palpable on a daily basis. I have trouble seeing where young people would be absorbing the idea that the world is a safe place made for their comfort.

          1. Napster*

            100%

            I see this in the high school students I teach. And my own young adult children observe it in their peers.

            I’ve been a huge advocate of natural consequences (by not jumping in to save the day) since mine started kindergarten. They have still had their “moments” (because hello, frontal lobes are still developing) with teachers/professors and coaches and employers, but they are figuring it out. It’s a lot harder for young adults to figure it out when parents are (still) over-involved. In fact, I wonder if the OP ever has to deal with parents of these young women. (I suspect so.)

      3. Elbe*

        The older you are when it first happens to you, the harder it is to deal with.
        Agree 100%. This is why people who shelter their kids aren’t actually doing them any favors. Everyone should be allowed to fail when the stakes are low. It’s a lot harder to fail when you’re an adult with rent to pay.

      4. Resentful Oreos*

        And if your first major screw up or failure is as an adult, that *can* (not necessarily “will”) come with big, life-ruining consequences. It’s immeasurably better for kids to fail when they still have the safety net of being underage.

    4. ferrina*

      It affected everyone in different way, especially at different stages of development. I’m not a fan of labeling kids as “terrible” because that’s a label that kids will internalize (I’ve seen it so. many. times.) They weren’t able to learn the behavioral skills that other years learned because they were in a completely different environment (remote) with different style of educators (highly stressed parents juggling way too much) during the formative years where these skills are mainly taught (kindergarten/1st grade-ish). That’s not their fault, it’s not the school’s fault, and now everyone is continuing to have to navigate a tough situation together.

      This is also probably happening with OP’s group. During their high school years, they didn’t have a lot of role models on How To Adult. Their parents and teachers were dealing with extreme circumstances that no one ever had to navigate before. None of us were at our shiny best. A lot of their modeling on adulting was happening in an online setting, where we often see the more extreme behavior (because no one ever posts about boring, everyday stuff).

      The way forward needs to happen together. It’s not Us vs. Kids These Days- it’s All of Us vs. Long-Lasting Effects of Global Crisis. Talk to these women- tell them what you are seeing, what used to be normal, how normal has changed, and offer them help in getting to where they want to be. Do they actually want to solve conflict like this? (spoiler alert: it won’t get the results they want) What results are they actually hoping for? Who do they want to be, and how can they be proactive about becoming that person?
      You may also want to read up on studies on Resilience, and finding resources/reading to share with the women.
      Not all people will be able to make up lost ground. Even pre-pandemic, I knew a lot of adults who had emotional trauma and had refused to mature past that point (example: a 65yo with the emotional maturity of a 13yo. He was very intelligent but very little impulse control and tended to lash out when his ego was bruised even a little). But other people will work past it. I know people who have overcome behavior like this. It takes time and work and a good support network, and they have to want to change. And they need someone to believe in them. So all that to say…it’s a hard road to walk.

      1. GiGi*

        Actually, the U.S. did cancel school during the 1918 flu pandemic, and kind of like covid, the rates kept spiking so it happened again in 1919 and 1920. I was working at a hospital during the pandemic and one of my random jobs was a “throwback Thursday” fact for a newsletter, so I found old accounts of the Spanish flu in Maryland – old newspapers and journals etc. It was eerie how familiar some of it seemed! At one of our local hospitals, a child orphaned by the flu was adopted by the head nurse and raised on the hospital grounds, where he got into all sorts of trouble for putting marbles on the stairs and pushing people into the horse trough. Now I’m happy my fun facts got a second life.

    5. Velawciraptor*

      I think failing to intervene or coach in some capacity in favor of just letting natural consequences happen flies in the face of the idea behind a coaching/mentoring program or relationship. The idea is supposed to be to teach these students about professional norms now so they don’t fall flat on their faces later. I don’t know that “just let them fail” is the sort of solution LW is looking for when they ask “What else can I try to help them understand that their volatile behavior will absolutely not fly in a future job?”

      1. Alou*

        Letting them fail on smaller, lower-stakes things might be usable as a teaching moment that prevents failures with a larger scope, perhaps? They would still experience consequences and hopefully be able to learn from those incidents, and have something to refer back to when a similar situation comes up in the future, so they’d be able to think “hmm, I remember how badly this went last time, so this time I’m going to take a different tack” or something like that. Or LW could try to walk them through why a certain behavior didn’t work or didn’t achieve the results they were aiming for, and they can try to settle on a better course of action together in the resulting discussion…?

        Hard to say whether this is a feasible approach. Might end up too time-consuming in the end as well I fear :( My sympathies LW, it’s a tough spot you’re in.

      2. Allonge*

        I am not sure there is as much of a conflict here as it seems. Allowing consequences to happen is ‘I will not pass you on this exam just because’ or ‘you cannot talk to someone else like that and still be though of as professional’ and can be paired with ‘what kind of prepraration would you need for the next exam / if you are upset, it’s a good strategy to remove yourself from the situation’.

        It’s not meant to mean that LW should not intervene under any circumstances, just as ‘give them grace’ is best interpreted as treat them kindly but realistically, not as ‘oh, just let them gratuate, poor things’.

  6. Julie*

    Can you have a group discussion about this? You don’t even have to call any of them out for specific things, just have a group discussion about behaviors that promote success versus ones that do not. If poor behavior continues, you can point toward that broader discussion and say that this is an example of the type of unproductive behavior that was discussed. If the person still does not get it, drop them and be clear that their drama and entitlement will reduce their opportunities for career advancement and mentorship going forward. After that, they can sink or swim on their own.

    1. BatManDan*

      Group discussions are proven to have ZERO effect on the people that need it. If they were self-aware, then very little would need to be said. The minute you move it to a group, all the people that practice good behavior 1) know who you are talking about, and 2) know that nothing will change and 3) know that you’re not a good manager, if that’s how you choose to manage people. It’s great conceptually; it doesn’t work.

      1. IL JimP*

        I would see it as more like group expectation setting or resetting in this case. Then you can point back to the expectation in 1on1 conversations.

      2. Clorinda*

        You can have a group discussion if you gather just the group who need intervention and tell them “The purpose of this meeting is for you to practice X professional behavior. All of you need to work on this, and each of you will have the opportunity to practice.”

      3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        You don’t seem to have read past the first sentence. Julie is talking about a group meeting where you say, “These are the standards for your behavior going forward.” Then specific people would be spoken to *individually* if needed after that.

        You’re also missing the part where this is a mentor program that’s only supposed to take a few hours a week. The OP is not the manager of these young women. Julie’s idea seems efficient to me.

      4. ferrina*

        Citation needed.
        I’ve seen great results from group discussions, but it depends on how it’s done. I’m a trained moderator, so my discussions are, well, discussion-based; I’ve seen a lot of people try to turn it into a lecture, which doesn’t work.

      5. MigraineMonth*

        I think you’re talking about giving an entire group critical feedback intended for one individual. Yeah, if you tell the entire team to focus on professionalism, it’s very unlikely Joe will realize you’re actually talking specifically about the “It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere” t-shirt he wore to the client meeting last week.

        I think Julie is talking about an actual discussion, though, where participants would be encouraged to think about ways they and others behave towards each other and how successful those are in getting the results they want. Personally I would narrow that down a lot–maybe “how to respond to critical feedback” or similar–but it’s clearly an exercise to get people thinking about better methods, not just a poorly-delivered criticism.

    2. I Need A Tea*

      Great idea; this would help everyone new to the workforce. The key is to be blunt and don’t sugar coat it.

    3. Ashley*

      I really like the idea of a whole group this is how the world works discussion would be helpful not only for your group that is being mentored but maybe something for the school as a whole to host during freshman orientation.
      I think somewhere between pandemic living and helicopter parents thinking there child can do no wrong, there are many college students that really don’t know how to function outside of the bounds of high school where they have been given more latitude then many of us ever experienced.
      If you can build something into the front of end of the program and then refer them back to that I think it might be helpful for your commitment, but it also sounds like a recruiting session is need to get more mentors to help with the additional work load so everyone has fewer people maybe a few people can help with some of the front end educational piece that was previously taken for granted.

    4. Terri*

      I like the idea of a group approach — you set a baseline of expectations for them AND YOU, in terms of what you can or cannot do for them, your own availability to them, etc. It’s a chance to do it in a way that doesn’t single out any one person (because it’s not just one person), and that provides overall input they can all benefit from. It also helps put up some guardrails for your own time, and for what you can realistically provide them. This doesn’t have to be harsh, but it should be very straightforward. Ask them to repeat back to you what the expectations are, so you know they understood it (and that you explained them clearly!).

      Going forward from that, you can invest in each of them individually in terms of what they need. They won’t get 100% into line after one group meeting, but this at least sets everyone up with the same baseline of expectations, and you know they were clearly told them. And you can see from there who is trying to meet them, who isn’t, who realizes when they have or haven’t, etc. I can imagine it’s hard to judge who is really putting in an effort when they don’t necessarily know what the expectations ARE. (And yes, some of them should be obvious — but they clearly aren’t, so it’s better to deal with that reality.)

    5. ferrina*

      I love this idea.
      Sit them down and have them talk through a situation. Give them a hypothetical scenario. How would this make them feel? What would they want to happen next? How would they make those next steps happen? How do they both take care of their feelings and make sure that their actions are moving the situation forward?

      For even more fun (and a harder version of this), break them into two separate groups. Give each group the same side but from different perspectives. Make sure the perspectives are something they can empathize with (like two students on the same group projects). Here’s what that might look like:
      1. In separate groups, let them read the side and empathize with their own perspective. How would they feel? What would they like to see happen?
      2. Still in separate groups, have them list 3 different options on how to address it. If they are having trouble, you could set different tones for each option- what’s one option that would make things worse? what’s one things that would self-sabotage you? How would a diplomat approach this? How would [Cultural Icon] approach this?
      3. Bring the groups together and tell them that they each got different perspectives of the same scenario.
      4. Have them take turns sharing one action item at a time and reacting to it. Be clear about the rules- Group A will read one Action Option, then Group B will say how that would make them feel and how they would respond. Group A should not speak during this time. So Group A reads Action Option 1, then Group B gets to say how they would react to it. If you gave them the prompt (how would a diplomat approach this), don’t read the prompt.
      5. Have Group A share how they thought Group B would respond. Is that what they thought would happen, or different?
      6. Flip it- Group B reads their Action Option 1, and Group A responds.
      7. Do this a couple times.
      8. Ask the groups together- is there a solution that will get both perspectives what they want?
      9. Ask them to reflect on this activity. Did the other group respond how they thought? What kinds of questions will they think about next time they run into a situation like this?

      This might be tricky to moderate, but it would be really interesting to see what they think. This kind of guided self-reflection can be so impactful

      1. deesse877*

        I think this is good for general emotional intelligence but of limited use in a university context, where the issue is usually “there were unspoken rules you did not know about” not “people have feelings that you haven’t considered.” THis is also a HUGE lift for someone like the letter writer, who is only (I presume) dealing with these students for a few hours a semester.

      2. Stop talking already!*

        Please drop the we “how did I make you feel” phrasing. People choose how they feel and it is a weakness to let anyone think others are responsible for how.someone else feels. I may recognize condescending behavior, but choose not to feel less than.

    6. ariel*

      Related to this – OP, could you integrate some training at the front end of the program with suggestions for how to navigate challenges? And maybe even a mindfulness/self-regulation workshop? Maybe that would help them know where the bar is from the jump.

      1. wordswords*

        That was my thought, though I realize it’s too late to do that for this year. But even some kind of written, like… professionalism 101 handout/handbook to refer to, to help you give coaching on expectations upfront and help you and others have something to refer to later.

      2. Letter Writer*

        I definitely want to look into this idea for next year. I think more explicit group expectation setting/professionalism 101 during orientation could be useful.

  7. LaurCha*

    I think the mentees are mistaking OP for a therapist or counselor. They need to be re-directed with an understanding of what mentorship is, and what it isn’t.

    1. Becca*

      came here to say the same — I’m wondering if a clear, written agreement of “how we work together” would be helpful here.

      The mentors can give the mentees an exercise to reflect on how they like to work, what they’re looking to get out of the program, and what kind of support the mentee thinks they need. At the same time, the mentor fills out one of their own (and the mentee knows they’re both filling them out). Then they meet to talk through the purpose and boundaries of their relationship and write up a list of guidelines.

      It gives the mentor a chance to also explicitly call out what they would say is typical of a professional relationship, what is possible but not super common depending on the relationship, and what is inappropriate in a professional setting.

      1. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

        Oh, I love this. The unwritten expectations, even if they should be _very obvious_, need to be written. Both to make sure there’s no misunderstanding, and as something to point back to if behavior gets off-track.

    2. Liz*

      This is connected to my first thought which was confusing anxiety with immaturity. These students need real coping mechanisms and emotional support before they can learn workplace norms

    3. OverEasy*

      Yes, you’re right about this. BUT the whole issue is that they don’t have other effective people to confide in, work through. And that many people in those positions are overwhelmed because of the size of the problem! Truly for things to get better, we can’t just rely on the existing systems when they’re not working. OP trying to do what they can should be encouraged if they can manage it.

    4. duinath*

      i agree. this can also help them in future, resetting their expectations of what a professional or educational environment is like, and what they can and cannot do in such an environment. imagine them going into the workplace and acting like this with a boss or coworker.

    5. Cease and D6*

      This is a good thought. One of the things that a lot of students missed out on in the pandemic is the experience of ‘being in different contexts’, and as a result, they tend to conflate different contexts together. I work in higher education, and this is the root of many problems.
      Making your goals and expectations as explicit as possible will only help. A lot of the implicit knowledge you could expect a different generation to have will not be present in this one. We can bemoan it, or we can fix it.

  8. Hills to Die on*

    I would give my time to the people who want it, not the people who need it. If they are trying and taking advice, then keep them. If they are throwing fits and not progressing then cut them loose. It’s harsh but it’s fair to give the energy to the people who are actually invested.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      This is good advice. I think the problem with the “give them grace” advice that is the first comment is that the LW is giving them grace and this 1-2 hrs/week volunteer job is now demanding 5+ hours per week.

      I think the LW needs a way to reduce demand on her and the other VOLUNTEERS so it’s closer to the level they signed up for.

      Another way to reduce time may be to implement be direct/be honest/do not sugarcoat/do not beat around the bush advice and not spend quite as much time trying to talk students down.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Agree. This is also more fair to those students who are invested. It must be so frustrating to get involved in a program like this and see the mentors’ time taken up by other students who are melting down every week.

    3. That Lady in HR*

      When I last mentored college students it was pre-pandemic, but even then I found that you have to be a lot more explicit and straightforward about things then you think you do. The workplace, in general, is a type of culture that isn’t experienced anywhere else. With my student assistants I’d often have to explicitly tell them what to bring up and not to bring up, and even give them scripts to use. Sometimes it helps to frame it as a culture issue, much like you would if you were prepping students to study or live in another country.

      Now I work with a lot of first-time employees (mostly Gen Z), and I find they have a particularly hard time with the idea that hierarchies are not necessarily bad. Most organizations have a very clear line of authority, and that means sometimes you’ll be asked to do things you don’t agree with. Many decisions will be made without your input. That doesn’t mean that you’re being oppressed or exploited. It’s just that large organizations put structures in place in order to be efficient. Helping them understand where that line gets crossed, and what types of things would indicate they’re truly being mistreated (versus just having to deal with something that sucks) again requires being really explicit.

      Anyway, for OP my advice would be to set strict boundaries around when you’re available for this kind of mentorship and what kinds of topics you’ll help with. You’re there to help them with workplace behavior, so it’s appropriate (even helpful!) to say things like “That’s not really a work issue” or “It’s valid for you to feel that way, and you can express that however you’d like when you’re at home, but you can’t behave that way at work.”

      1. That Lady in HR*

        I think I accidentally typed this as a reply instead of a top-level comment. Sorry!

    4. Alou*

      Oh, I like this. I’ve seen this kind of advice work very well for more traditional teaching roles where one or two students’ poor behavior could otherwise hold the whole class hostage. Help those who want and *value* the help.

    1. Adultier Adult*

      This is entirely unfair to the letter writer and just demonstrates you are not working with these populations right now.

      1. Sharkie*

        Agreed. I am getting the impression that this is a women lead and women only program. That comment was very unkind.

        1. Letter Writer*

          That’s correct. The organization is made for, run by, and directly works with women only.

    2. Silver Robin*

      Hold up, OP did not make those generalizations, OP mentioned that others were and explicitly stated that they, OP, did not want to go that same route. OP is not blaming the mentees, OP is actually trying to figure out how to better support them; the issue is that OP and their group had not experienced these kinds of behaviors on the same scale as they are now, so it is a new experience.

      Asking for advice and checking in with peers to do a gut check is absolutely the correct first step when met with something that feels outside one’s expectations.

    3. Admin Lackey*

      Wildly unfair – the letter writer said in their letter that they don’t want to give up and feel they have a responsibility to help.

      Moreover, ask pretty much any teacher and they’ll tell you that the lack of socialization during the pandemic has set kids back – it’s not their fault, but their maturation slowed. I’ve heard this from teachers at every level of schooling and I have no trouble believing what the lw said.

    4. tabloidtained*

      There may be some generalizations from the older members of the board about a generation, but not about women. The organization only works with women, so if they’re talking about giving up on the entire group that they’re mentoring at the moment, that is a “group of women.”

      Having concerns about a group’s bad behavior is not shutting down/lying/blaming others/screaming/crying…

    5. Hlao-roo*

      Isn’t this exactly what you and the board members are doing, you just have power?

      Seeking advice on how to (better) address a situation isn’t the same as shutting down and ignoring the problem (or any of the other behaviors on the list you quoted).

    6. IFMHH*

      One of the site rules is to take the letter writer at their word. I think the OP is very clear about the specific situation they are in and what they are experiencing, and they would like help navigating that. Your comment is not helpful.

    7. H*

      Wow – this is a really uncharitable read. My impression from this letter is that LW really wants to help the students in her program succeed. I think we get a fair number of letters on this site where people generalize about generations from 1 individual person’s behavior. As a millennial, I’m sensitive to that and I think Alison generally does a good job telling LW’s not to make broad assumptions based on one person’s behavior.

      In THIS case, however, the nature of LW’s work means that they actually are working with a big enough pool of whoever fresh grads are, so they actually may be well positioned to notice broad trends among groups of young people.

      Additionally I see a lot of empathy from LW for these grads who missed out on formative socialization experiences. I don’t think we should be surprised that adolescents who were locked away for their formative years are a little more emotionally immature? If they were unaffected by that experience it would contradict decades of research on human socialization.

      My hope is that the gendered nature of the letter is because LW is working exclusively with young women. If she is working with both men and women and only concerned with the behavior of women, then I agree she might dig into any gender assumptions she is making.

      LW – thank you for your concern for your clients! Please don’t give up on them. My advice would be to maybe rework some of your curriculum/coaching to work on skills that in the past you might have thought unnecessary for students of this age/appropriate for high schoolers. I think people new to the work force often need things to be really explicit that folks who have working for awhile take for granted, you may just need to start with making even more basic things things explicit.

    8. Ripley*

      This is incredibly unkind, unfair, and a total misreading of the letter. There is nothing to suggest the OP is shutting down, ignoring the problem, lying (we are supposed to take letter writers at their word here), spreading rumours, blaming someone else, or screaming and crying. The OP has written a letter asking for advice, that is all.

      This response is completely over the top.

    9. Heve*

      You clearly did not read the letter very well and have absolutely no experience with working with the generations that were in school during the worst years of the pandemic. Absolutely everything OP says is not only believable, but highly recognisable to anyone working in education.
      They are asking advice how to help these women, you are adding nothing at all to any discussion here.

    10. kiki*

      I think LW is trying really hard not to make generational stereotypes. I don’t think it’s off base for LW to take note that the most recent cohort of students in their program seems to be struggling in ways LW has not seen before. I also don’t think it’s unfair for LW to express that the lack of maturity they’re displaying may be attributable to the global crisis that happened a few years back during a formative time for these students.

      They also aren’t making sweeping generalizations about gender– the group they’re working with consists entirely of women.

      I really disagree with telling LW to step down– they are determined to help, they want advice about how.

  9. hungryhungryhippo*

    If I were in your position, I would use the tactic of being VERY brief or even using canned responses when responding to the unprofessional behaviors. Also spending less time “putting out fires” for the people you mentor – they can learn that their actions have consequences from experience. So for the one melting down about failing an exam and blaming the professor, something like “I disagree because [reasons], and you should know your response of [unprofessional behavior] is not conducive to your [job hunt/being perceived as a professional/whatever you are trying to help them achieve].” Especially if it’s the first instance for a given person, I’d then wait to see if they take the feedback gracefully or ask to have a conversation vs continuing the egregious behavior and go from there.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’m trying to picture the calmest suggested language to suggest. “Unfortunately this isn’t the kind of situation this program is well equipped to handle. We are focused on X and Y. For a personal matter like this you may wish to [take advantage of campus resources for mental health?] or whatever else you can offer. ?”

    2. vulturestalker*

      I agree with this. Responding to drama with very calm, professional language will model a contrast in behavior that will help them see that what they’re doing doesn’t match the professionalism you’re putting forward. And setting boundaries/not engaging will help your own sanity as well as demonstrating that they can’t take up infinite mentorship time.

  10. Loose Socks*

    This seems like such a large issue, is it possible to host a (forgive the southern phrase) “Come to Jesus” meeting with them as a group? Basically put together a power point or some sort of presentation with a third party mediator type person and lay it all out on the table. What you’ve been seeing and what an acceptable response would be. It looks like it all comes down to accountability, but there’s a lot of moving parts. Have them come up with a list of strategies for how to deal with some of the more common issues that will crop up in the future (bad grades, poor reviews, etc). At the end, ask them if, moving forward, are they able to commit to their list, and in closing say something along the lines of “We have made so much progress! Moving forward, we’re starting with a clean slate, and I am looking forward to seeing some of this in action!”

    Normally I would say this is all rather juvenile and I wouldn’t suggest it, but if you are correct, it seems like you need to adopt some of the techniques of dealing with a younger age group, and this is one that works well in groups of teenagers. This may give them the push they need to pay attention to the older people around them and open them up to picking up some of those skills.

    1. Just My 2.05 Cents*

      I’m a bit against a type of meeting like this – and things may have changed, who knows? When I was in 8th grade (I’m Gen-X, so a while ago), my classroom was exactly as she describes. Granted, we were all 13-ish, but still. Our teacher could not rein us in, so the school brought in a psychiatrist to speak to us about our (admittedly bad) behaviors. We thought it was the funniest thing ever that our teacher couldn’t handle us and had to bring outside help. It didn’t help and I think it made matters worse.

      Would something similar work on an older age group? Honestly, I’m not sold on “Come to Jesus” meetings in general – not what you described, as a group. Individually? That might be a better way to go.

      1. bamcheeks*

        everyone thinks they’re going to be Tina Fey in Mean Girls.

        I think something like this can work, but it has to be SO carefully planned, and it needs a lot of trust and willingness from the participants. It absolutely isn’t something you can impose on a distrustful or disengaged audience (cf. the comments in today’s other post about all-staff meetings as pep rallies.)

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        But also: how many people when brought together in a group setting to talk about a problem are able to actually see when they’re part of the problem? Most people are going to think “I’m not like this, they’re obviously talking about someone else” and not take any of the information to heart.

        It’s like when you have a coworker doing X all the time and your manager sends out an email reminding everyone not to do X instead of just telling that coworker they need to stop doing X. You have to talk to the people who are having the problem.

        1. Beany*

          Perhaps LW could add a comment to the effect of: “I’ve experienced these behaviors from almost everyone in this room” would make an impact?

          1. Bethany*

            You have to get rid of the ‘almost’ otherwise everybody there will think they’re the single exception.

        2. Letter Writer*

          “Most people are going to think “I’m not like this, they’re obviously talking about someone else”…”

          This is exactly what we’ve seen happen in the past with certain group meetings. If we’re too general in our feedback the ones who aren’t struggling feel infantilized and preached-to, and the ones who are don’t recognize the behavior as their own. However, some commentators have offered some really valuable advice on how to make group sessions more productive.

      3. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Same here. CTJMs have always struck me along the same line as sending an email to ALL instead of the offending party.

      4. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, I like Loose Sock’s idea to have a conversation/presentation that goes over “here are common challenges, here are acceptable ways to meet those challenges, here are unacceptable ways to meet those challenges (ex. screaming)” at a very basic level.

        I agree with you that a 3rd party mediator is probably overkill–the letter-writer’s group is already a bit of a 3rd party in the student/professor or student/school relationship. The letter writer can probably assess if the conversation would go over better if it were given to the whole group or as several one-on-one conversations.

      5. mcm*

        I think in this case it’s a little different, as it sounds like professional skills are explicitly part of the curriculum in this program. I would view this “CTJM” as less of a bad behavior meeting, and more of a, “we are WAY off in skills around professional adult conduct and behavior and I’m really worried about your professional chances because of it.” To me, the group level CTJM part of it is more about making sure they understand how critical these skills are and how far they are, as a group, from meeting a professional standard, and not as much about how they are behaving in the program. But I might have missed the mark on what OP is trying to address.

      6. CJ*

        As a college age instructor? Yes, it does work better at that early adult age. Not perfectly, but if you already have some rapport with the students, it is possible to make bulk course corrections.

    2. mcm*

      this sort of thing makes a lot of sense to me. Name the pattern with the whole group, and lay out how this will harm them in the long run. You can explicitly name what a “good” response to feedback or challenges looks like and lay out where they are in relation to that. Explain as a boss or hiring manager what kind of conclusions you would draw from that behavior (they’re not interested in improving, they’re not able to clearly evaluate situations, they’re not good communicators, they’re immature). You can make it clear to them that this behavior is unacceptable from adults, and that learning to overcome challenges and respond to negative feedback is as much of a skill worth working on and developing as anything they’re learning in their classes.

    3. *Trying* not to be one of the nightmare therapists I read about on here*

      This sounds good because it in a way acknowledges that this is a collective problem they are experiencing, not individual weakness/shame. I am curious what would happen if something like this actually named that they were in a particular cohort that had a particular experience during COVID, at a specific age, and that you are noticing that there is something different in them that might be a result of that — not ‘something wrong with them’ but ‘something that happened to them’. And that they can have and process their feelings (grief, anger) in the places appropriate for that (therapy, with friends and family, etc) but that x and y are the behaviors that are expected in the workplace. (And that what makes those behaviors difficult might be the feelings that need to be processed, in the appropriate venues.) I have no idea if that would actually work or just open a can of emotional processing worms right then and there, but maybe it would be possible to keep redirecting and containing that.

      1. Sometimes I Wonder*

        @ *Trying* 11:33 am: You bring up an important and excellent point. This is a collective problem! Each individual will have individualized responses to the trauma of the last 4 years, and ongoing trauma of the abandonment of public health. Some already had good tools and a support system, others did not and may be able to learn.

      2. not a therapist*

        Yes, this. And beyond the collective-trauma level, you might also work with students on differentiating between their feelings and the way they act on them in individual one-off situations. I don’t have a specific resource to recommend, but I know there are a lot of resources/worksheets out there for emotional regulation that kind of boil down to stop, take a deep breath, process the feelings, then figure out a plan of action. I think an approach like that can particularly resonate with young women, because it doesn’t hinge on denying their feelings or their pain, which might be very real even if they seem over-the-top to an older observer. The key is figuring out how to channel it into a workplace-appropriate response.

      3. deesse877*

        I’ve found it helpful to name structural problems, offer solutions, and emphasize that sometimes things just suck, and bad outcomes are not necessarily personal failings. I mostly let them do the problem-solving, unless there is info I have that they don’t, or don’t know how to get.

    4. not owen wilson*

      They did this at my middle school in 2011, since there were a lot of problems with mean girls and bullies in my grade. Threw us all into the auditorium and threatened to take away our end of year field trip if we didn’t shape up, and told us we were the worst behaved class they’d ever seen. It backfired SPECTACULARLY. Teachers in the middle school took sides — some felt bad for my grade and didn’t think we deserved it, some thought they hadn’t been tough enough. Not a single person in my year took it seriously. At best we were insulted, at worst we mocked the entire thing. It didn’t make any difference on our behavior (and we still got our field trip too).

      1. Letter Writer*

        It’s funny that you say that, because I had a nearly identical experience in middle school! Maybe that’s why I tend to take more of an one-on-one approach now. It’s more time consuming with a large group, but building those relationships and personalized feedback is also very important.

    5. Joron Twiner*

      Instead of a group meeting where you can’t bring up individual instances without creating a you vs. the group dynamic, why not have individual meetings with the same format? Share the same PPT and cover the same info, but you can tailor your examples to behavior you’ve seen from that person. You can say “I’m talking about this with everyone, and here is how you’re a part of it.” That way they can’t wriggle out thinking it doesn’t apply to them, but they know they’re not alone and they’re not in trouble.

  11. Not my coffee*

    I would suggest having them explain the issue and how they would go about having the issue resolved. For example, in the letter, a professor is “morally corrupt” for or failing them on an exam when they didn’t bother to study.

    Ask them to provide what steps they plan to take to address with the professor other than being upset and what they expect the result to be. Reporting the professor to the university? OK, then what happens next? And, no, do not provide suggestions. Let them provide the desired conclusion. Help them implement.

    I’ve also noticed an increase in hyperbolic language. For example, “that is psychotic” when something is not in fact “psychotic.” Perhaps a discussion for that is at a different time.

    1. Silver Robin*

      I like this approach. Take the students at their word and talk them through figuring out next steps as if what they were saying were true. Tell them you hear that they feel unfairly treated and that you want to help them. Make that emotional connection first so they move out of activated/distressed mental space and then you can do planning.

      To build off the complaint example, you can even try helping them prep by taking on the role of the administration. “They are going to ask you/look at your other grades in the class; they will ask if you took advantage of office hours/tutoring, they are going to get the professor’s side and the professor might say something like…”. For a lot of folks, that kind of conversation will show that their case is weak. Some will figure out that the issue was actually them and you can help them make a plan to do better next time or petition for a retake or whatever. For others, it might push them into explicitly saying something absurd to defend themselves, like “they should have told me what I needed to do, how was I supposed to know what they expected me to study” and then you can switch gears and talk about that.

      Some folks will lash out at you and say you are siding against them or being less than compassionate or whatever. You can respond with 1) a statement or two reaffirming compassion; add in an anecdote about your own experiences with similar frustration and 2) reiterate that the reality we currently live in is uncompassionate and you are here to help them navigate it. The latter is a version of “tough love”, but these are teenagers not elementary kids so a dose of the rougher sides of reality are plenty age appropriate.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Sometimes you find out that actually there IS corruption / racism / classism / sexism / incompetence etc in play. I have had coaching conversations like this where my first instinct is “this is bullshit” but I’ve reserved judgment and asked questions and it’s become clear that the student is 100% in the right.

        But the converse is also true, of course– sometimes my instinct has been that the student has been wronged, and it’s become clear in the discussion that no, this was totally fair.

        1. Silver Robin*

          The example given was “they failed me because I did not study” which is usually not nefarious, so I went with that. But, yes you are entirely right! Sometimes you go through and they DO have an actual case. Having somebody believe them and work through it with them is a huge deal in those situations. And this lets you do both.

    2. Jackalope*

      This also seems like a situation where asking value-neutral questions to suss out what’s going on in their minds might be helpful. To those of us who made it past college pre-COVID it seems obvious that if you don’t study for a test you’re risking failure. But I know at the beginning of COVID there was a lot of flexibility on things like tests and many teachers were struggling with how to even get students online, let alone teach them for tests, so it’s possible that for the last four years they haven’t needed to worry about this. Or it could be something else, but that seems very plausible to me. I agree strongly in letting the consequences of our actions teach us things, but if they don’t know that this is a possible consequence, strange as that might sound, it could be helpful to point it out to them explicitly.

      1. deesse877*

        This is highly important: Covid-era assessments tended to be about completeness, not critical thinking, and they were often functionally optional rather than mandatory. It’s a big jump to go from that to “you are responsible for your own learning.”

    3. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

      I’ve also noticed an increase in hyperbolic language. For example, “that is psychotic” when something is not in fact “psychotic.” Perhaps a discussion for that is at a different time.

      This is not at all unique to Gen Z/Alpha.

      1. Not my coffee*

        My words The notice in “an increase in hyperbolic language” was not targeted towards towards GenZ/Alpha. Given the letter, I guess it could feel that way.

        I have noticed this in many areas where I would not have expected to see. Hence, the suggestion to discuss at a different time.

      2. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

        We millennials were often chastised for using “literally” non-literally!

      3. Generic Name*

        I mean, in the 80s people called things “tubular” when they were not in fact tube-shaped

      4. Functioning on fumes*

        FWIW, I interpreted this to mean everyone is speaking in more hyperbolic language rather than specifically younger generations, which feels plausible to me – increase of 24/7 news, social media and lack of nuance because 140 characters or less, stuff like that, mean debate is more quickly polarized. Definitely not unique to Gen Z/A but possibly unique to the times we live in.

    4. Letter Writer*

      I really like that idea; help them work through their issues by asking questions rather than providing advice. It’s “easier” to step in and give them the answer, but they don’t learn way. They have to do it themselves.

      I’ve also noticed the increase in hyperbole and general “the sky is falling” mentality. I absolutely had my own Chicken Little moments as a teen and young adult (and still do!), but I think the older we get and the more life experience we have, the easier it is to remember that small problems won’t matter 1, 5, or 10 years from now.

  12. Adultier Adult*

    I have been a high school teacher/leader for the past 18 years and a college professor for the past 12– this is SUCH an issue right now. It’s bad. I am not a generation blamer. I typically love working with these age groups- It’s why I chose the professions I did. But whew… it is widespread. I am a little scared for some of these to become adults. lol

    I do promise we are working SO hard & there are some bright lights in there too.

    1. Physics lab tech*

      I agree! My university has a lot of programs in place to work through this! My only tip from the college side is when it seems over the top do feel free to report it to their ‘get this student help’ point person.

      I promise, almost every college in America has a place where you can request a mental health expert check in on a student.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Yep. One of the few silver linings of all this for me has been getting familiar with many helpful offices and services on campus. It is amazing how good the people in our Dean of Students office are, and I had no idea until post-acute-pandemic times when student-related challenges just exploded in number and severity.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Yes. Universities have people to deal with the therapy-type issues LW is seeing and if she can either loop them in or give the students the mental health resource contact info and push them in the right direction, I think that takes a big chunk of the issues off her plate.

    2. definitely not procrastinating*

      I’m also a high school teacher and agree. Lock-down made them weird. And what I’m seeing is that each new year the group coming through is uniquely weird in a way that seems to correspond to their developmental age when locked down.

      This isn’t something one mentor can solve. So my recommendation is to set some boundaries and help where you can.

    3. Prof*

      It’s this kind of learned helplessness that I find the most troubling. I will have students wait to ask me to explain, for example, what a (quite basic) word means in a document or assignment. They did not think to google it or look it up in a dictionary—there’s little willingness to try to problem solve on their own. Even my strongest students, when they hit a roadblock, stop, instead of just stumbling or trying to find a way around it. It worries me a lot.

    4. Letter Writer*

      It is so validating and actually a relief to see that educators are experiencing the same trends that my group is navigating. None of us are alone, mentors and students alike.

      I admire and appreciate your ability to work with young people day in and day out; I’m worn out from just a few hours a week! We’ll get through this hurdle. Young people are so resilient, we just need to find a way to reach them where they are.

    5. Mostly Managing*

      So much this!

      I’m an undergrad advisor at a large university.
      We have students in courses that are primarily group work who don’t seem to realise that means they have to show up to class to pass!
      We have students “stuck” in whatever age they were when things locked down.
      There are more interpersonal issues, fewer students willing to participate in clubs etc… it’s going to take a long time to rebuild.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Thank you for mentioning clubs. I’m starting in on shutting down a service organization that has been operational on this campus for over 30 years because I just don’t have the minimum viable student involvement any more, and I have been feeling soooooooooooo incredibly guilty about it. SO. GUILTY.

        It isn’t JUST willingness, of course — higher-cost higher ed means more working students which in turn means they have less time for everything else. I attach no blame to them for that!

        But it’s also, I just realized, not something I can be uniquely individually blamed for either. So thank you for that.

        1. Plate of Wings*

          Not who you responded to but it’s so so so SO unlikely this is a failure on your part! So much has changed with respect to culture, challenges, and direction of young adults in post-secondary.

          At a certain level of specificity, almost no campus organization can adapt to these changes while maintaining their original identity. Close this project down and it will free up your resources to apply to something new.

    6. AGD*

      I’m an undergrad adviser and I would have said I hadn’t seen a change at all, oddly enough!

  13. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “What else can I try to help them understand that their volatile behavior will absolutely not fly in a future job?”

    Can you say literally that? If this is about leadership and mentoring, then you need to be able to have tough conversations with them where you say stuff like this.

    It also sounds like maybe they need help developing their resilience and coping skills. You can’t force them to study for tests, but you can help them figure out what the consequences of not doing so might be, what an appropriate reaction might look like when you don’t get the result you want, and what kinds of actions one might take next to avoid the problem. Rinse and repeat for all the other personal problems they’re reacting to in a volatile way.

    1. Nonanon*

      Seconded; they do need grace, but only grace and allowing behaviors to fly will only hurt them in the long run. Whenever I was in grad school and in charge of supervising lab trainees, I would use a variant of “I will let this slide this time because you didn’t know, but in the future you need to empty your ice bucket/sign out for lunch/close the fume hood because it’s courteous/you are listed as working unapproved overtime/it’s a safety hazard. If we see a pattern forming, we’ll have to take more formal action that might result in you being asked to leave and we don’t want it to come to that.”
      Grace>reason>consequence; we obviously didn’t keep 100% of the people we had to talk to, but sometimes people just need to know why their behavior isn’t flying.

  14. Office Sweater Lady*

    It sounds like you may be getting a little burned out from the demands of the volunteer job. I think it would be helpful for you to try to reinforce your boundaries around time and what you will or won’t do. I also work with young adults in an educational setting and it has helped me to focus on doing what I have signed up to do well, rather than taking on a lot of extra responsibilities I am not well trained for (I’m not a therapist, for example). Rather than giving up entirely, if you can try to provide them with the support you are able to offer, that is better than none.

  15. Sharkie*

    My heart goes out to college kids now a days. Not only did they have most of their high school and college experience interrupted by the pandemic, lots of colleges are cracking down on AI so now they are being accused of cheating if they use basic spell check tools or Grammarly (which alot of professors/ advisors recommend using). Of course they are going to be a bit all over the place! They have a lot of catching up to do. Honestly I think a frank conversation might help a handful of them!

    1. Sloanicota*

      I can NOT imagine what it would have done to me if, right on the eve of leaving the nest, instead of having the classic senior year experiences and going away to college, I was instead … forced to stay in my parent’s kitchen on my laptop trying to learn remotely. My God. (But my parents would probably have been thrilled to be able to keep me “safely” under their thumbs for another few years – YMMV in terms of parental relationships, mine were prone to helicoptering anyway).

      1. Sharkie*

        Exactly. 99% of people that go straight from high school to college have a bunch of growing up to do in normal situations. That 18- 24 age is a tough age at best.

      2. Sans Serif*

        I remember how much I changed and grew in college, especially in my first year. If I had to stay at home, it would have affected me badly. In my case, I had a very overprotective mother and a crappy high school experience. Getting away to college was the best thing that happened to me at that point.

  16. Name*

    Coming to Jesus meeting.
    Get them all together and have a “workplace expectations” meeting. Figure out what the big issues are and how you expect them to behave. Then, explain to them that they’re about to be professionals and this is the behavior/attitude expected of them. There are no more excuses. No more “Covid made me this way”. No more running to parents/legal guardians to wave a magic wand a fix things. (Said a little more politely, but that’s the message).
    Then, start pulling them in when they act like fools. Ask what and how questions. What do you expect to get by ignoring the situation? How is that going to help you accomplish _____? How does this affect your professional reputation? What kind of reference are you expecting if this is the behavior/work that you’re giving?
    Be “stern dad”. You care but you aren’t putting up with the bullshit.

  17. Scottish Teapot*

    I understand that their behaviour isn’t great. But these kids missed out on so much community and school experience during some really key times in their lives. The normal wasn’t given to them. Emotional and mentally they struggled so much. They were virtually ignored as the emphasis of policies went to those doing exams. These kids were too young for exams and too old to have the nuturing of primary and middle school teachers. They need to be heard and understood

    1. McFizzle*

      I respectfully disagree. Reading “my prof is ‘morally corrupt’ because I chose to not study and therefore failed the exam” doesn’t need any oxygen. They need to understand and experience consequences, then with an emphasis on “what do you need to change in order to succeed?”

      1. Silver Robin*

        “heard and understood” does not mean coddling. It means hearing their complaints and understanding where they are coming from. That does not at all preclude *helping them course correct as necessary* afterwards. Being dismissive is literally never going to get you anything but resentment. Even if you feel they are being ridiculous (which the example definitely is), the student thinks they are reasonable. You can show them otherwise, but only if there is a relationship of trust. And trust is built on….feeling heard and understood.

        1. Physics lab tech*

          Oh fair, but the way Scottish Teapot phrased it means that the end is ‘heard and understood’ when that’s the beginning of the process.

  18. tabloidtained*

    I’ve seen a lot of teachers discussing this trend in behavior. I think the best thing you can do for them, during the time they’re with you, is to be blunt about their behavior.

  19. AnonInCanada*

    I’m not sure if the type of behaviour you’re seeing from these young women can be blamed solely on the fact they’ve spent a lot of their high school years in isolation due to the pandemic. I think a lot of this may be due to upbringing caused earlier in their lives. Were they brought up by a single parent? Were they brought up in more impoverished neighbourhoods? Were they parentified (having to spend much of their time taking care of younger siblings rather than socializing with friends?) Sure, Covid didn’t help, but I don’t think that’s the sole reason.

    Is this something you can, or should, be able to fix? It doesn’t seem, as per your letter, that you personally have the time for this. Is there money available to hire people to give these students behavioural guidance/therapy? That’s a discussion you need to make with your advisors and/or higher ups. I wish I could help you on this, but I’m no behavioural therapist.

    1. deesse877*

      As a lifelong educator, you are very far off-base here. In fact, this is an emergent educational issue, as several have already noted. Your comment speculates so broadly and irresponsibly about these students’ personal lives that you are essentially just recirculating stereotypes about poverty.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yikes. Do you think that single parents, low-income families or parentification are somehow NEW?

    3. Buffy will save us*

      Uh, given the substantial research regarding the psychological damage of solitary confinement regarding the lack of social interaction and the significant lack of social interacting done during these students’ formative years where social norms are internalized, one can safely assume a lot of this behavior is COVID related.

    4. Seashell*

      I think it could be a combination of things. Covid was in the middle of their prime schooling years, and the population that OP is dealing with might have had more than average personal/family challenges. I think social media has an impact too. It causes people to want to share more, which has its pros and cons, and young people in particular get affected by the behavior of influencer-types who might be expressing extreme emotions and creating drama online.

    5. Michigander*

      Oof. Aside from all the negative stereotyping that makes you think that people from these backgrounds won’t be able to manage life well, what makes you think a young adult who had to take on more responsibility as a child due to parentification/a single parent household/etc would be LESS able to handle responsibility in college? If anything, it’s the kids who have their parents take care of everything for them when they’re young that have a bigger adjustment to make to the responsibilities of college and the work force.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think both the top-level reply and this one are conflating a couple of things. Coming from a single-parent family is a normal variant, which is certainly associated with being poorer, but it’s not necessarily going to make you either more or less resilient. Parentification, the way I’ve seen it used, is describing a specific developmental problem: it’s when you are forced into a role of too much responsibility too young, and you don’t get space to play and make mistakes and work things out when the stakes are low, whcih is what actually builds resilience and problem solving. It can certainly present as “more responsible”, “more independent” etc, but usually at massive cost to the individual. So yes, parentification can *absolutely* make you less resilient, and less able to cope with ordinary setbacks when compared with someone who comes from a safe, supportive family and had the opportunity to fail and make mistakes when the stakes were low and their basic needs were guaranteed. Lots of people from single-parent families also fall into the “safe supportive families” group though!

    6. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

      Everything else aside, the LW says “I oversee a team of advisors as well as work directly with the students, who come from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.” I took “diverse” to truly mean “some advantaged, some disadvantaged,” but perhaps it’s actually code for “mostly disadvantaged.”

      1. sparkle emoji*

        But I’d assume if it truly is part of their mission to help disadvantaged young women, they would have been doing that pre-pandemic. There’s no indication that the type of women LW is mentoring has changed, and if that’s remained constant it probably isn’t causing the issues. I trust they’ve identified the problem correctly.

    7. Elbe*

      I don’t agree with the examples that you list, but I do agree that it’s not entirely pandemic-related.

      Because school funding has been increasingly tied to student performance, more and more schools are passing kids that are not where they should be for their grade just so that they can maintain their numbers. My boyfriend teaches high school, and he says that – at this point – everyone knows that failing a class, sometimes just not doing any work at all, has basically no consequences. They still advance to the next grade, they still graduate. Teachers have basically no recourse if they want to keep their jobs.

      And they are unable to discipline even the most poorly behaved, disruptive students. Parents will show up and fight even very reasonable consequences their student faces.

      Basically, everyone (parents, schools, even some colleges) seems to be passing the buck more and more. Given this, it makes sense that the place that decides to hold the line (good colleges, jobs) will experience the most struggle with this generation. They’re basically taking on the job of parenting and providing consequences to adult populations that have never experienced them before. It’s going to be messy.

  20. Antilles*

    First off, the older advisors who are blaming it on “generational entitlement” are just being lazy and dismissive. People spent years talking about how Millennials were lazy and coddled and participation trophy culture and blah blah blah. But now that we’re the largest percentage of the work force, companies and managers adapted their style slightly (most of them anyways) and the world has kept spinning. Simply put, those older advisors are themselves acting entitled, as though learning how to communicate ideas differently isn’t part of the role.

    But to attempt to answer your question, have you tried being more proactive about explaining what people will expect? The examples you list all seem to be reactive, where you’re responding after something goes wrong. Rather than taking that hour phone call after crap hits the fan, could you use that hour ahead of time to explain the basics of “no, professors aren’t going to give you grace if you fail to study and they aren’t going to care what your reason is”. Or, now that it’s occurred for a couple people, turn it into a lesson learned for everybody about how the professional world generally just grades on performance.

    1. bamcheeks*

      the older advisors who are blaming it on “generational entitlement” are just being lazy and dismissive

      yeah, I would also apply some tough love and boundaries here! What is your training and support for mentors like? Have you explicitly addressed the fact that you’re dealing with the generation whose teenage years and early adulthood was so massively disrupted by Covid (not to mention climate anxiety, an attempt to overturn a democratic election, the rise of the far right)? I have run programmes like this and I understand that you’re super dependent on people’s good will, but managing the mentors’ expectations and attitudes is very much a part of this too.

    2. Bzh*

      Yes, this! if one thing is consistent throughout history it is the older generation complaining about the younger generation. There is a good Socrates quote where he complains about kids being lazy and only wanting to listen to loud music. Maybe these kids do have some unique attributes due to the global pandemic, but the world is not ending because of it. Kids are kids. we usually view our own past with rose colored glasses. Have empathy and explain expectations. They are listening! If you are feeling burned out, it is ok to set boundaries.

  21. SometimesMaybe*

    I hate the idea of dismissing an entire generation, but I am seeing this behavior too with our current college interns. Last week one of them had an all out melt down with her “toxic” mother on the phone because her mother insisted she make her own doctor’s appointment. Another one filed a complaint with HR and the intern supervisor because she was denied access to some of our more sensitive client information, because of “corporate greed” and because the “patriarchy”. Also complete refusal by one to adhere to our dress code (we prefer employees do not where flip-flops). I know that not everyone one of that age feels this way and this upcoming generation has a lot stacked against them, but I also feel learning how to behave in a professional manner is beneficial not just for their own careers, but for the rest of us as well. I wish I had solutions, but unless your mentees will listen to your advise you are not going to be heard.

    1. tabloidtained*

      “Another one filed a complaint with HR and the intern supervisor because she was denied access to some of our more sensitive client information, because of “corporate greed” and because the “patriarchy”.”

      This is something I’ve noticed a lot. I don’t know quite how to define it, but it feels like kids are couching their upset in terms of social justice to give their concerns more weight or to discourage argument. Even about little things–it’s not enough to say you didn’t like a film, you have to find some way to justify that dislike by identifying something problematic in the film.

      1. Nea*

        There has been a definite rise of the use of social justice terminology as a bludgeon because it works very well to put the people on the other side of the argument on the defensive. And the language isn’t just being thrown around the social media echo chamber; it’s being uncritically repeated by mainstream media in an effort to report the news without giving context… or even a reality check.

      2. SometimesMaybe*

        I know what your describing, and I think it may be the root of the problem the OP is dealing with. If the young women she is mentoring feel those in a position of power at work/school/mentors are morally corrupt and that they instead have the moral high ground, why would they ever need to learn from the OP or others. Another example we had at our office was a younger employee refused to be in the room with another employee who was eating Chick Fe La. I understand the controversy with this restaurant, but also for our particular business the restaurant is literally in our parking lot so it is often the choice for convenience, not to take make a point on an issue.

      3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        There’s also a big rise in use of therapy-speak and ascribing everything to neurodiversity (diagnosed or otherwise).

        1. Managing While Female*

          Yep. See as evidence a post earlier this week where people melted-down in the comments that it was totally acceptable for an employee to roll around in bed while smoking in an on-camera meeting.

      4. kiki*

        Yeah, I think a lot of social justice terminology and psychology jargon has been co-opted in ways that can make situations seem much more extreme than they really are. This isn’t limited to younger generations– I think it’s super common online and has spread IRL from there.

        It can be really hard to push back on people who do this. Because as a manager you can probably recognize that corporate greed and patriarchy are real problems, but they are not the reason your intern is not allowed view classified client information. When you say that, though, often you’re accused of dismissing their concerns or being part of the problem.

        I say this as somebody who would probably be considered very progressive by most people in the US. I’m not against people advocating for change, especially around serious issues like discrimination, fair pay, better work-life-balance, etc. But it can be hard when somebody makes their fight to wear flip flops in the office sound on par with the fight to ensure everyone is paid fairly.

      5. Underrated Pear*

        I was coming here to write a similar comment. In recent years, we’ve seen a huge societal shift in which structural inequities are being challenged. This is, in general, a great thing. But I think many people (of all ages, but I believe it’s more ingrained in younger generations) are also now quick to ascribe any failure to social injustice.

        I believe there’s a huge burden on higher education right now to encourage critical thinking and help young people establish a balance. YES, we should challenge existing structures and systems!! But also, sometimes you failed because you didn’t prepare, or because you prioritized another aspect of your life (that’s ok), or simply because failing is a normal part of learning.

        As to how to address this – the only suggestion I have is to frame it as an issue of empathy or equity/fairness but from the other’s perspective. (And by “other,” I don’t mean the people in upper management, but the people on the OTHER-other side.) For example, sure, you want to see that sensitive information – but consider how that could harm the people whose information it is. Or when I taught at the college level, I tried to explain that while I do have a responsibility toward YOU, my student, I also have an indirect responsibility toward the individuals who will be impacted by you in the future. What harm will it cause to send ill-prepared doctors, teachers, managers, and social workers out into the world? Holding students to high standards isn’t “against them,” it’s “for everyone.” Does it sink in? I don’t know, but it’s all I’ve got for now!

        1. Letter Writer*

          You’ve hit on something that I’ve been trying to implement with the other mentors: providing context for why rules are in place. The students want to know the Why, and unspoken or “obvious” norms aren’t necessarily so clear to them.

    2. Yeah...*

      @tabloidtained

      I characterize it as hyperbolic language. I don’t think it is best term. I like the term “language of social justice”

      1. ThatGirl*

        That’s not really fair – you’re implying that “social justice” is overreacting or prone to hyperbole.

        Yes, corporate greed and the patriarchy are two concepts being discussed/tackled in social justice circles, and yes, some of that language has been coopted, but that’s just it – it’s being adapted and used in was it wasn’t intended for.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Agreed, I think a lot of the language may have originally come from various social justice movements, but I wouldn’t blame the misuse of those phrases on social justice in the same way I don’t blame the psychology field for a coworker who called a client psychotic for an odd food opinion. I think it’s worth trying to separate useful terms from the ways they’re coopted and misused.

    3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      My daughter was in her senior year of college in 2020, and while it sucked, she was old enough that it didn’t really have that much of an effect of her development. But most of my college roommates had kids 5-8 years after me, and man those kids are struggling. Tons of anxiety, not wanting to move away for school, clinging to the familiar instead of being excited for the next phase of their life like we were. It’s so sad, and their parents are very worried because they just don’t seem to have any resilience or mental fortitude.

      1. A Significant Tree*

        The loss (or lack of development) of resilience is definitely a concern with my freshman-in-high school child, who has a worryingly strong reaction to anything they perceive as negative. It’s like regular hormonal teenage behavior but with bigger peaks and valleys (mostly valleys).

    4. JennG*

      I’ve seen this too and I interpret it this way…these kids were home just like we all were over Covid, watching BLM and other protests. I mean frankly, people refused to wear masks on the ground of “my body my choice” so this kind of behaviour was well-modelled. This is the language they’ve learned to express their needs.

      Yes it’s totally inappropriate, but it’s like an 80s teenager saying they will absolutely die and never go to school again if they can’t get a Benetton sweater…there’s a feeling under there, which adults would recognize as just that, and teenagers and young adults sometimes don’t, but the way of expressing it is formed by everything that’s gone on the last few years.

    5. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

      “I also feel learning how to behave in a professional manner is beneficial not just for their own careers, but for the rest of us as well”

      …wasn’t it your job to teach them that, since they were your interns?

      1. SometimesMaybe*

        No I work in a different department, but work close, as in “near” to the interns. Honestly it is difficult to figure out the line between professional coaching and “parenting” (for lack of a better work) with the last few entry levels and interns. Supervising them has become so much work for management my company is considering reducing or eliminating the program. Just another example of how their poor work quality and behavior is negatively effecting them.

  22. Jackalope*

    Please don’t give up on the students who are struggling! The pandemic has been so traumatic for the entire world, and it’s so important to help younger folks who were not able to reach some of their normal developmental milestones because of COVID.

    That being said, is there a way to have special classes or sessions for them on how to act? Years ago I did roleplaying sessions with some young adults I was working with who were neurodiverse, mostly on the autism spectrum, to show them how to act in specific social situations. We would act out the wrong way to do things and then the right way, and then pull out some of the specific behaviors in a conversation after the skit. They had a lot of fun with it and it gave them some ideas on how to handle situations they hadn’t managed to figure out by themselves.

    I would also try to approach the advisors who are wanting to write off these young women and have a blunt talking-to, if that is something you are at all able to do in your position. If they go into interactions assuming “generational entitlement” then they will be assuming the worst instead of having grace for the mistakes that are made. If you can train *them* as well then that will be really important. The effects of COVID will eventually taper off to a certain extent, but it’s probably going to be years before they are working with young adults who are where they’re “supposed” to be in terms of emotional development and social skills. Learning to work with that now will keep many young people from being written off for something that wasn’t their faults.

    1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

      I was coming to suggest something similar. It seems like there is, at heart, a lack of many of the skills that would have been developed naturally over those years. My kids range from 22 to 10, and I can tell you that I see a lot of key differences in the way they approach the world/the things they struggle with based on where they were when the world shut down. We absolutely did our best, but there’s no way to really tell where those deficits/challenges are until later…and here we are, at later.

      For neurodiverse kids/young adults, scripting and modeling is huge. Providing them with context really helps them see what they’re supposed to be doing vs. what they’re currently doing. I suspect that the same is true for these kids who have missed such huge milestones: they need to see that script played out for them, because they just haven’t experienced it for themselves yet. It’s definitely going to be a time commitment, and I think it’ll work better for those who are invested and dedicated than those who feel like the world owes them something, but I think in the long run, it’ll really pay off.

    2. Girasol*

      I’m thinking role play also. It seems like entitlement often stems from a one sided view of life, where the entitled person demands what they think they deserve without considering the perspective and needs of the other person. If students played the professor or the boss or the mom reacting to the young person’s demands perhaps they would start to see interpersonal relationships in a more balanced way.

    3. Double A*

      I also think we need to think of how much those young adults themselves sacrificed to keep other people safe. Adults owe it to them to give them extra help. Yeah, you didn’t expect it to be your job, but they didn’t expect to miss out on their high school years.

    4. Catdoc*

      What will happen is they will be too busy next year. As someone who is retiring to get away from abusive “women” who use lies, interpersonal aggression, and bullying to get their way I can assure you no one sane wants to deal with this behavior. It’s rampant in veterinary medicine and has been since prepandemic but is worse now.

  23. Just My 2.05 cents*

    the default seems to be to totally shut down and ignore the problem, lie about it/spread rumors, blame someone else, or even start screaming and crying

    I’m stuck on this part, because it sounds less like immaturity and more like they’ve been held to such a high standard, that to miss that standard (for whatever reason) drives them to lie, spread rumors, etc., so as not to get into trouble.

    I’d make sure that your org gives them a safe space to make mistakes. If that’s already happening, then something or someone within their lives is holding them to absurd standards that no human can meet, AND they get into trouble – or perceived trouble – if those standards aren’t met. That combination is diabolical and leads to feelings of imposter syndrome, perfectionism, and the lying, blaming others, etc.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      This is so so good! In an environment like this, grace + bluntness can lead to real growth.

    2. Letter Writer*

      Thank you, I will keep this point in mind! I’m a recovering perfectionist myself, and I see that in many of these students. I once had a professor tell me, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be finished” and that stuck with me.

  24. Millenial Manager*

    Tough love. Babying them will not make their lives any easier in the long run. I recently had a newer entry level person on my team that on paper looked incredible. In person, however, they could not handle negative feedback and mentally shut down when I gave it. They told me they had never failed before (my guess is they never had been given the tough love they needed to get from folks in authority) and I unfortunately was stuck being the first person to give that hard feedback. And I say that as the absolute softest, most empathetic, and most understanding manager around (hello, I am a millennial!). I know this sounds horrible, but I think they need to practice facing negative feedback and failure and taking responsibility. I try to do it as gently as possible, and often explain – just because you failed at a task, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure of a person…separate your self-worth from the work product and its a lot easier to take the negative feedback and make concrete changes to do better next time. TLDR – they need to practice failing and taking responsibility. Sucks that COVID/lockdowns happened and affected their growth, but hiring managers are not going to give them a pass because of it.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I can also imagine that the changes in some standards due to the pandemic, with more exceptions and flexible/brand new policies, really did mean that some of them did not experience much failure – many things were waived in consideration of the upheaval/went pass-fail or whatever. It may just take a bit more patience for a few years as they go through some of that now. I do honestly think we might have been better off to have whole cohorts give up on trying to do everything remotely for that one stretch and instead just have them repeat the year, versus bumping everyone on together.

      1. Phryne*

        – I do honestly think we might have been better off to have whole cohorts give up on trying to do everything remotely for that one stretch and instead just have them repeat the year, versus bumping everyone on together. –
        As someone who works in educational planning and logistics, I understand your line of thought but, oh my word no. Just no. It would not have the desired effect.
        Absolutely no part of any educational system can deal with a wave of suddenly double the amount of students in one go. It would have been a disaster.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Fair … but then we have to acknowledge that we really short changed these students because of external logistical considerations that are in no way their fault, meaning we need a lot of grace and patience in situations such as OP’s.

          1. Phryne*

            Yes, true. And in my experience they are being given grace because of it. My institution has a lot of help in place, extra guidance, more re-tries, we have a whole department for student well-being to offer support or help them get the help they need. (Much of that was always in place, as loads of students hit hurdles on their path to adulthood, that in itself is not new. They are just needed by a lot more people now). We have also increased the amount of self-reflection and professional skill training in the curriculum. We also allow students who quit in the past to come back into the programme to try again.

            But in the long run, only giving them grace will not help them in the world. Ten years from now, no employer will accept someone who cannot deal with feedback because they were in school during the pandemic. The best help is to make sure that, with extra help and grace, they have a steep learning curve to make up what they missed out on before, and graduate on the same level.
            OP is a volunteer though, not a professional. She signed up for something and what is asked of her now is not what she signed up for and something she just might not be equipped to deal with. She is not an educator or a psychologist. She can (and must) be clear to herself and others what she can and cannot offer and tolerate.

      2. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

        Yep, your first part is absolutely true. My (HS teacher) husband’s school had all sorts of wacky grading practices to pass these kids, and some of those policies only got rolled back in the 23-24 school year.

      3. Anon for This*

        I certainly wish my kid who stopped doing homework during the pandemic had had to repeat seventh grade.

        But if the school had failed all the students who weren’t performing at grade level during the pandemic, that would’ve led to repercussions from the state board of education. The state wasn’t giving grace beyond “okay, we won’t close you for bad scores on standardized tests this year”.

    2. Yorick*

      Students have long claimed “this has never happened to me before” when that’s a lie. When I was teaching college courses they would often say “It’s ridiculous and unfair that you’d give me a B, I’ve NEVER gotten a B before.” They didn’t know I could see their GPA of 2.7 (which is lower than a B average).

  25. She of Many Hats*

    With this group and the next several years’ worth of groups, you will find these same traits since the pandemic was not a short term event and it impacted a whole generation of students. My teenager’s whole high school career was scuttled by the pandemic and the ensuing chaos school districts went through immediately afterwards. She missed 3 years of opportunities for social/emotional development in school halls or free-range roaming with friends outside of school, of being able to get a minimum wage first job. There are 5-6 years of kids who missed these safe practice times and now are about to head into the real world.

    With this in mind, it might be worthwhile to dedicate a portion of each group session to roleplaying the types of scenarios they will be (and now are) challenged by to help them develop the skills and tools they would have developed going through these experience 5 years earlier in their lives.

    1. She of Many Hats*

      And to the board and other “Adults” who are saying this generation is entitled, remind them that they are the parents and adults who raised and taught those kids how to be entitled. How they helicoptered their student’s teachers and insisted on perks or privileges for their own youngsters.

  26. H.Regalis*

    One of partners works in higher ed, and people there are saying this too. They just had a training this week on how to do deal with these students. The ones who were in high school during the pandemic are not doing great. Lots of very emotionally volatile people of all genders.

    Anecdotally, I can see that too with friends’ kids. One who was a baby during the pandemic is doing fine, but the ones who are 11-16 now act way younger than they actually are.

    1. H.Regalis*

      And I will say that I did plenty of stupid stuff/had plenty of stupid beliefs in my late teens-early 20s, as did people I knew at that time who were my age; for example, I had a roommate who went in to work one day and was in a bad mood. His boss came up and asked him to do something, and he responded with “Fuck off.” His boss fired him on the spot and my roommate was shocked, SHOCKED, that he got fired.

      That said, I think there’s something to it that people are still reporting that this cohort of people coming up during the pandemic is noticeably less mature than previous ones, outside of the normal dumbass shit you see in people who are just learning how to be adults.

  27. Bella Ridley*

    In my work I also deal with young people, many of whom are 18-22 and experiencing their first time out of their parents’ home, although most of who I see are males. We observe a lot of the same, only exhibited in a different way. But a huge amount of catastrophizing, drama, the desire to ignore a problem or flat-out quit on it, and a lack of drive compared to what we’ve seen in earlier years. We fail out more people than ever before. Luckily where I am I don’t need to be overly concerned about their level of polish or their drama, but we do place more of a focus on resiliency training, which helps to an extent.

    But ultimately we are finding not all young people are prepared and it’s not within our scope to fix that.

  28. Elle*

    I work with college interns and am not seeing this. I also work with parents and this is exactly the behavior I’m seeing from them, so it’s not surprising it’s trickling down to some of the kids.

  29. Czhorat*

    What stood out for me the most is this:

    “”A large part of our mission is to provide leadership opportunities and mentoring for college-aged women to help prepare them for life after graduation.””

    it is LITERALLY THE MISSION to help teach these young students workplace norms to prepare them for the working world. That’s the job.

    Yeah, this batch might be tougher for reasons that we all should understand – as I said in a comment above, there are a TON of personal reasons why a particular candidate might need some extra help; this might be hitting OP harder because it’s many all at once, but the answer is the same: that’s the job. If it were easy, anyone could do it.

    1. aebhel*

      Sure, but right now it’s a volunteer thing that’s starting to take over their life. I think it’s fair to try and figure out how to do this job without devoting several orders of magnitude more time to it than they were told it would take.

    2. MsSolo (UK)*

      It might be it’s a job that needs more resource right now, especially since it’s a voluntary position. OP is presumably being taken away from their actual job by the increased demands of this one. If the students need more support (and I agree with other posters, that the impact of the pandemic means this is going to be true for future cohorts too), then the programme needs more volunteers.

  30. Looper*

    I think that one thing all young adults of all generations need to understand/be made aware of is that they are also adults and have power and agency in their lives. I think one particularly difficult shift is relating to other adults as peers instead of as parents/teachers/counselors etc. In the case of this organization, I am not clear from your letter what role you are supposed to be playing for these folks, and that may be a problem. Kindly but clearly delineate boundaries and expectations. If you’ve positioned yourself in a “couselor” role, they may feel comfortable or encouraged to be more emotionally open with you. If what you’re trying to model is that of a manager or coworker, explain what that relationship should look like and what the expectations are. I think it’s okay to call egregious behavior out in the moment (“I’m not able to continue this conversation if you are going to scream at me”; “name calling and gossip aren’t professionally acceptable. Let’s stick to the facts at hand”) but also give them space to calibrate and talk their way through what’s happening.
    I think you and your staff need to take a bg breath and a step back and ease some of the tension. We’re all in a volatile time together, and it seems like the volunteer position everyone signed up for has expanded significantly. That may be a whole other area to address with the board, because maybe the bigger problem is lack of support, time, and resources for staff.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I think that one thing all young adults of all generations need to understand/be made aware of is that they are also adults and have power and agency in their lives

      I agree, and the flipside is: society needs to stop being so surprised that young adults don’t know this! Like, there is no switch flipped on your 18th birthday that means you suddenly take on that agency and it all goes smoothly from there. I do think there are specific challenges for young people who were teenagers and young adults during a global pandemic compared to the majority of recent generations, but honestly, as a culture we could give a LOT more grace to the large minority of young people who do not just click smoothly into adulthood and still need to be taught how to do things and social norms even when they are (gasp!) twenty-two or twenty-three.

      1. Looper*

        For real, people can be very hostile to young adults who don’t have it all figured out, and “figured out” often means “does things the way I do them”.

      2. Union Rep*

        I also think a major part of adulthood is figuring out all the things you don’t have agency over. You simultaneously get a lot of control over things that you couldn’t control as a kid (when you go to bed) and a huge number of new things that you can’t control (like paying your taxes), and the things you can’t control are often extremely consequential. Being told that “you’re in charge of your own life now, good luck,” just makes you more aware of how many things you can’t actually affect just by being in charge of your own life.

        1. bamcheeks*

          And that “agency” doesn’t just apply to “other people can’t make decisions for me”, but that “my agency impacts others”. All teenagers and young adults think they know this: I certainly knew this intellectually as a young adult. But I didn’t know it the same way I know it as an older adult who has gone through a few rounds of, “oh shoot, sorry.”

  31. Jeff F*

    You should meet with the other advisors and come up with a list of the major issues/behaviors you are all seeing and come up with trains with it is unacceptable along with solutions to them. You can then present it to the whole group about the observations the advisors have seen throughout the group so they are aware that they are not professional or acceptable. Maybe the advisors can role play these situations, say what employers see about the person doing it, and then role play an acceptable response (if there is one) so the group can reflect on what they see and learn what they should do in a similar situation in the future. Be sure to say that you are saying this because you want them to be successful and did not want to downplay the severity of it.

    1. Helewise*

      I agree with this. This cohort clearly has different needs than kids did a few years ago and things that worked previously aren’t working with them. There are a lot of ways that could look, but it seems clear that something needs to change.

      And thank you, from my bottom of the heart, for the work you’re doing. My own kids are all girls and all in the middle-high school range. We’re finding really random (but large) gaps in scholastic knowledge, but also seeing a lot of anxiety in basic leaving-the-house stuff and excessive drama in some of the friend groups. In our family we’re pushing for a lot more interaction/activities/independence than they’re interested in and working on “how we communicate with others when we’re upset”, but it is HARD. Thank you.

  32. they're trying their best!*

    I work really closely with undergrads and have before, during, and now after the pandemic. While students right now are definitely more challenging for me to work with than before, I’m trying to be extremely cognizant that it’s not their fault they missed out on so much social-emotional development, and that this can be a learning opportunity for them. If you haven’t clearly communicated your standards to them, try that first! Let them know what they can expect from you, and what you expect from them. And then give them the time and opportunity to get the hang of it.

  33. Non-techy tech editor*

    I see it with my own daughter, who went through the pandemic during middle school as well as could be expected. Both parents continued to work, nobody got terribly sick or missed a meal. But now as a high school junior, she’s nowhere near where she needs to be, socially, emotionally, or academically. Maybe it didn’t affect other kids as much, but did her. I really believe in “keep throwing them out there” but with support. They need it. They’ve got two years plus to make up for. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things.

  34. NomadiCat*

    Your specific example of accusing a professor of being “morally corrupt” after the student failed an exam they didn’t study for struck a chord.

    Social isolation during the pandemic may have exacerbated this, but everything you’re describing is a growing trend I’ve been seeing in the recent college grads I’ve been supervising for the last 10 years.

    Some of them are fine, and seem to have a conventional understanding of professionalism and society works in general. Others, exactly as you describe, have absolutely no skills with which to handle even the slightest challenge or inconvenience. They have no distress tolerance, no ability to step back from the situation and evaluate if their response is rational or proportionate, and will often ascribe sinister and amoral shadings to entirely innocuous situations with the élan of a seasoned conspiracy theorist.

    I’m not here to bitch about “Kids these days”, and frankly, I’m not that much older than they are. But I genuinely believe that these young adults, somewhere in their development, were totally failed by the actual adults responsible to prepare them for the real world. You have a great opportunity to help get their heads on straight in a supportive environment before they enter the workforce, and I fully support your instinct to keep trying to find solutions to their individual problems.

    One thing that I’ve found to be effective is multiple mentors working in concert to deliver the same message, albeit in their own ways and in their own words. As you noted, these young adults frequently resort to spreading lies in defense of their own poor choices, and ensuring that that is shut down and rebutted gently but firmly, followed by an examination of the actual facts and context of the situation, from multiple trusted sources is something that I’ve found to be effective.

    There are a couple who have refused to, bluntly, pull their heads out of their own butts. I’ve had to fire two so far, and I hope that the rock tumbler of life finally helps smooth those edges. But most of them really do need guidance and someone to help them get out of their own way, and will eventually figure it all out. Good luck being that person!

    1. Rara Avis*

      I teach middle school, and a big part of our disciplinary energy is spent on how to recover from a mistake. (Also, trying to get parents to allow the students to feel the impact of the mistake.) Not a new problem (I’ve been doing this for 31 years), but exacerbated by Covid. The students have to write about it: “So you didn’t study, panicked, and cheated off someone else. What led to that choice? What could you do differently next time? What support do you need from your parents and teachers?”

      1. NomadiCat*

        I love that!

        So much of the reactions I’ve seen from these young adults seems to be bound up in a skewed sense of morality combined with black and white thinking. The lashing out, the deflecting blame on to others, the lying… so much seems to come from a need to reassure themselves that they are “good people” and that anyone who challenges that are themselves the “bad people”.

        I mentor young writers outside of my work, and a growing trend I’ve been seeing is they can’t simply dislike something and articulate the reason for their dislike. They have to find a reason that the thing they dislike, or the writer who wrote it, is amoral and unethical.

        This method of discipline you’re describing is a wonderful anecdote to all of that! Being able to articulate the problem, the way they could have acted differently, and then assuring them that there’s a community of support sounds like it would inspire both self-reflection AND a sense of normalizing mistakes. As in “Enough people make these wrong choices that there is a process for handling it and a kind, restorative solution.” Love the behavior that’s teaching and modeling, and very impressed with your work!

        1. Managing While Female*

          This. It’s very much like shame-based thinking — “I couldn’t have done something wrong, because if I did something wrong, that makes me a bad person.”

          No, dawg. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is as bad as the worst thing they’ve done, and no one is as good as the best thing they’ve done. What matters is how you respond to the mistake. Own up to it, fix it the best you can, learn from it.

          I also see your point regarding the “I don’t like something and it can’t just be because it’s not to my taste there has to be something WRONG with it and anyone who likes it” a lot on the internet as well.

    2. bamcheeks*

      were totally failed by the actual adults responsible to prepare them for the real world

      I think this is very deficit-model thinking. I think you can just say, OK, you’re still in the process of learning this stuff, you haven’t got it figured out yet, you still need more help. It has never been the case that 100% of young adults were ready to behave like actual adults, and distress-tolerance, resilience, ability to keep things in proportion are all very normal things for young adults to still be developing. If there are more people in the “still learning” group four years after lockdown, that doesn’t mean they were “failed” or that they’re broken in some way.

      And yes, there is definitely a trend to using social-justice language / the language of rights to describe what are actually petty annoyances or setbacks. I don’t think it’s any different from, like, Rik from The Young Ones calling everything fascist, or 1960s hippies being enlightened or the language of Bright Young Things in the 1930s or Romantics in the 1790s. Taking an oversimplified framework and applying it to everything everywhere is also 100% a normal developmental state for young adults!

  35. DivergentStitches*

    I’d source out some articles on professional demeanor and send them to the group. And say something like, “please follow these standards while participating in this program. Unprofessional behavior can result in removal from the program” or some such.

    Give them the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t taught professional norms, teach them, and hold them accountable.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      This is what I was scrolling through the thread to look for; part of the issue is what to do with students who are behaving inappropriately NOW, but revisiting the way you set expectations for your program, for communication and professional behavior at the start of the program should help in the future.

      “We are happy to have you join our mentoring program, Cinderella! Our very first step is discussing and providing these handy resources regarding professional workplace communications, strategies for coping with challenges, and basic standards for workplace and professional behavior. We will likely refer back to these materials often throughout the course of our mentoring relationship to help you navigate workplace challenges and interpersonal relationships, so that when you launch into your professional career you will have good practice in these critical skillsets.”

      Then if Cinderella comes to you crying or lying about something: “Hi Cinderella, I understand you are frustrated by that situation. However, your current response is unproductive and isn’t consistent with the standards and strategies we discussed at the beginning of the program. Why don’t you pull out our article on Coping with Unforeseen Llamas and think about how you can apply those strategies to this situation. Put together some notes and then let’s talk about how you can productively and professionally address the issue.”

  36. badger*

    It’s important to remember that this immaturity is not these participants fault! They did not choose to be prevented from experiencing the normal milestones and learning of their age group, and are doing their best with the limited emotional and mental resources that being a teen during covid gave them. That might help to rephrase some of this.

    I’d echo the other suggestions of a “come to jesus” meeting, or at least some specific resilience training (which there are lots of good organisations that provide). But also, just know yourself that you don’t need to put our every fire or hold their hand through everything and some adversity will help along them to do the growing and learning necessary to give them emotional and mental resilience. Maybe putting specific time limits on when you can be contacted and for how long will help with how much of a burden this is being?

  37. ELT*

    Faculty member here: thankfully I don’t see these extremes in my students, but we’re definitely seeing cohort effects of the pandemic (e.g., one cohort is far, far more disengaged as they progress through the program than others before and after). No advice – just solidarity. I appreciate your efforts.

    1. Calico Tabby*

      From a long-time high school teacher, more solidarity. We are also seeing cohort effects, especially a widespread conviction that no administrative rule is really a rule and no deadline is ever final. Students were offered a great deal of latitude during the pandemic; they experienced about three years of enormous flexibility about attendance, handing in work, and level of engagement in class. My school has tried, in the last year, to shift back to its previous high standards, but it is a long process. I’m afraid that many young people did not learn very good self-regulation during the pandemic years.

      1. Molesarefun*

        Yes-this exactly! As a high school science teacher, I’ve been spending more and more time over the past few years working with students at all levels / backgrounds to establish productive collaborations, persistence and resilience, self-regulation and awareness, and executive functioning. If it’s a part of your mission and you are able to help your students strengthen their skills and capacities in these areas, the time you invest will be tremendously valuable for them. I will also say that the frank conversations mentioned earlier in the thread can be effective ways to address problematic behaviors or attitudes, but they only work when used SPARINGLY, when they are initiated from an established foundation of mutual respect, and when they give your students/interns a vision for how they can “make it right”. Otherwise, those talks can really backfire.

        When I think about it, I’m honestly pretty amazed with my own students, even though it’s often been an exasperating few years. Their childhood/adolescent learning and social development was impacted by a smartphone/social media “explosion” even before the pandemic. For better or worse, they’ve experienced many crucial developmental milestones differently than any generations before them, and I’m sure we’re going to be learning a lot from them in the very near future…

  38. AD*

    I’ll be curious to hear what others say but as someone also in the higher ed space who works with students…..the generalizations and conclusions reached by this letter writer make me uncomfortable and wary of responding to the claims being made here. Maybe you’ve had some bad students in the mix lately….but the gender stereotyping and other conclusions you’ve come to are frankly bizarre and unhelpful imho.

    1. Beth*

      I got the impression that OP refers to the students as women because it’s a gender-specific program, not because they’re stereotyping women in particular as behaving this way. They just aren’t interacting with male students.

      1. AD*

        Fair, but the emphasis on these students’ emotions and “dramatics” here are really leaning into gender stereotyping in ways that set up some red flags, in my experience. We only have OP’s word for how the behaviors they’re describing are actually manifesting…which is why I said this letter made me uncomfortable in leaping into offering advice here. Just my two cents.

        1. RainyDay*

          As a former teenage girl – these all sound like very plausible actual instances, not generalizations. I have absolutely witnessed this kind of behavior, and that’s without the horror that was COVID isolation. I don’t see any red flags here, just women who need some extra guidance.

          1. Bella Ridley*

            Yes. None of this is outside of the realm of plausibility, and yes, those of us who work with this demographic are seeing these exact things without exaggeration.

        2. dot*

          The emphasis is there because that’s the problem? Screaming and crying are completely unprofessional and immature responses to a problem, no matter the gender. We’re supposed to take letter writers at their word, so yeah, if they say this is how the behaviors are manifesting and these are the consequences they are seeing as a result, then we should trust that.

        3. tabloidtained*

          Stereotyping would be to typecast a behavior as belonging to a specific population–all women are hysterical and emotional and dramatic. But it isn’t stereotyping to identify actual behaviors in actual people, even if they fall within stereotypes about women.

        4. JSPA*

          This uncharitable reading presumes that the letter writer has suddenly developed striking biases regarding age and gender between previous classes and this one…and furthermore that the same is true for all of the other (female) mentors in this (all female) program. Or that the letter writer is a complete liar.

          We are (as one of the very few rules of commenting on this site) asked not to presume (on zero evidence) that the letter writers are mistaken, biased, ignorant, etc.

          Surely it can not have been your experience that no female person has ever been [dramatic / entitled / a rumor-monger / a spreader of blame]?

          And that from time to time, a group of people take on a group attitude that is significantly better, worse, or somehow different than average?

          The idea that people who have been under heightened stress, heightened isolation, and a potent mix of unusual permissiveness and unusual control, and an excess of screen time during their formative years might exhibit behaviors more common in soap opera characters seems quite reasonable to me! They have literally not seen how the world works.

          What might be effective could be to dissect the difference between the world of the office as it is portrayed in entertainment, vs how office environments actually are.

          In addition it might be useful to split people into smaller groups, mixing and matching people, and see whether there are behaviors that track with certain people or combinations. I’m not saying you have to boot the people around whom trouble somehow swirls. But you might choose to separate them out from people who are actually going to use the program to launch themselves successfully, And do more remedial behavioral norm-ing work with the people who are their own worst enemies (?).

        5. Myrin*

          The “dramatics” OP describes are her own from the past: “my own catastrophizing and dramatics”. She also actually contrasts those to the behaviour she experiences from the mentees now.

      2. TheBunny*

        This was my take as well. LW isn’t saying only the women in a mixed group…it’s a group of only women.

        1. AD*

          That….wasn’t my point at all. Which is why I’ve phrased my comment(s) as I did. Generational and economic and political differences can make (female) administrators and instructors and (female) students at odds with each other in sometimes unfortunate and unhelpful ways. I’ve seen it. Worth having in mind. That’s all.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yes this did rub me a bit as being “special snowflake” type language that is rarely offered in good faith. But, I’m choosing to take the OP at her word that this specific cadre of students is having some unique adjustment issues for some reason, and not choosing to apply that to a whole gender or generation. I think my suggestions are a) Level-set expectations at the outset b) Offer some support in terms of, say, a recorded webinar on “what are professional norms around behavior” or some reading materials (this blog has some good ones!), and c) kindly but firmly hold your boundaries up to yes, telling certain students they cannot continue in the program unless they agree to respect certain norms – as this is actually a very meaningful way to teach and learn.

      1. AD*

        That’s the fence that I’m balancing on here, which is why I phrased my comment as I did. Are there behavioral problems going on here? Are these older faculty members (of perhaps different political perspective than the students) condescending to real issues the students are facing in this current climate (I’m assuming this is taking place in the U.S.).

        The details are important here and I could see this situation from either way from what OP describes here. In my work I’m seeing student issues manifesting in classrooms and beyond that are requiring some tact and understanding to address — that are sometimes genuinely disruptive. I’m also seeing older administrators and faculty members of more conservative political leanings who are sometimes making unkind generalizations that are breaking down differently by gender. It’s worth mentioning that — or so I thought. I’d be very curious to learn more about OP’s work and the work of their colleagues.

        1. Pyjamas*

          AD: You do realise the older volunteers in this org—women run & devoted to helping women—are prob second gen feminists, even if they didn’t make it to Woodstock. Ageist maybe?

    3. Hyaline*

      Well, yes–the letter writer has had an unusually high number of problematic students in the mix, that’s precisely why they’re writing in! I don’t think we can assume anything about “gender stereotyping” here when the LW is working with all women undergrads and is reporting behaviors they feel are problematic as they see them. Sure, there’s an ugly history of misapplying “ugh women are so dramatic,” but that doesn’t mean that it can’t actually be true in a given circumstance that catastrophizing, inappropriate emotional reactions, and other issues are happening!

    4. SnackAttack*

      I don’t think there was any stereotyping at all going on in this letter. OP was describing real, actual events that she’s witnessed. Is she not supposed to describe it that way simply because some of the mentees’ reactions might play into traditional stereotypes? She didn’t use words like “Mean Girl” or “bratty” or “bossy” – she just described their behavior. As a Millennial, I think we’ve become so sensitive to older generations’ critiques of us (which is fair – there’s been a lot of unwarranted criticism thrown at younger generations) that we get defensive over any sort of rebuke on a Millennial/Gen Z individual’s behavior.

  39. Just Here For This*

    These problems predate Covid, and I think a lot of people are taking cues from social media about what is acceptable, as well. But, I know multiple people who are no longer willing to mentor based on the behavior of the mentored. I haven’t stopped being willing to train yet, and have dealt with some great young people. But I would say that half the time, the person is wasting my time, and that percentage is too high. I have been asked to sit outside of open office doors as a witness to a conversation on multiple occasions, listen to a trainee get a perfectly polite explanation as to why something was wrong and how it needed to be corrected, only to hear a dramatic story of how abused they are. If I hear someone be polite to you while you get an explanation of what you have to fix and it will be okay – it just needs some more work, and then I hear you tell anyone who will listen you did nothing wrong, got no support when I spent dozens of hours backing you up, and were screamed at while I listened to a trainer be endlessly patient with you – I will write you off. I got no time for it. I do think some of what I see is not being thorough enough in the interviewing and hiring process, to be fair.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      OMG….YES! The victimhood angle is alive and well. I have been training new hires in a professional position with a long training track (18 mos-2yrs) for the last 5 years, nonstop. The amount of behavior that I have seen that is exactly what you are describing is astonishing. I can say that it is not generational or gendered, which frankly surprised me because I did come into it with some assumptions about different generations. In that regard, it was a learning experience for me.

      In general, I just see people who are less willing to accept responsibility for their actions, don’t take constructive feedback well, and seem to expect that they will be “hand-held” at every step, which is just not realistic in most environments. There is also the inflated sense of their knowledge and abilities. Like you cannot complete Basic Task – Level 2 without assistance from me, but you believe that you should be promoted to a position where you will succeed at Complex Task – Level 25 and others will look to you for guidance! I’ve been left speechless more than once.

      I totally understand why people wouldn’t want to mentor individuals who behave this way.

  40. Olive*

    I volunteer with children and one of the things I have to constantly remind myself is that the people who are the most difficult are also the people who need the program the most. If they aren’t the people I’m there for, what am I doing there?

    Which is NOT to say that you can’t and shouldn’t have any boundaries on your personal time. It’s ok to end a call at a reasonable time, even with someone who is crying.

    Role playing might work better than trying to explain in words. Act out delivering bad news or even being mean and unfair (following a script that isn’t too harsh), while the other person has a safe space to practice an appropriate reaction.

  41. ElderMillenial*

    Oof. I feel this so much. I hate that I’m sounding like a certain segment of the population that rants about wokeness and people being “too sensitive” these days, but I have also seen a staggering change in the maturity level and lack of resilience in young people in the past few years.

    I would also like to hear advice, because in my experience, being direct (while also being kind) has led to meltdowns and accusations of discrimination on various grounds, and being subtle does not work. I, and others, have bent over backwards to make accommodations and give grace, but it’s **so** difficult to work with this demographic and I am legitimately concerned for the future if it continues this way.

    1. Silver Robin*

      One thing that has helped me reframe my approach actually came from gentle parenting videos about how to deal with toddlers and tantrums; I later saw the same thing in a book on trauma, so it has almost certainly been around a while and I missed it. Apologies if you have heard it already.

      Basically, when people are in the middle of their feelings, (aka “activated”), the higher order thinking systems (empathy, future planning, self reflection) is not in the picture. In order to get to those systems, we need to be regulated. That requires some form of validation (I hear your frustration; that sounds complicated; etc.) and then reestablishing connection (with kids, that can be hugs, for coworkers it would have to be some other form of comradery). Once we get to reestablished connection, the activation has subsided, and the more complex thinking systems are back online. THEN we can say something like, “you mentioned you were feeling overwhelmed and this task was just another ask on a pile of asks, did you talk to your supervisor about your workload?” or whatever it is that you need to discuss.

      Is this a lot of work? Absolutely. It is so much emotional management and ideally folks would have learned to self regulate at work. But we are not living in an ideal world and these new cohorts lost a lot of their opportunities to do that learning beforehand, which means that a lot of it is going to have to happen in contexts not originally meant for that type of nurturing (like first jobs and college).

  42. CommanderBanana*

    You know how preemies have their actual age and their adjusted ages? I feel like people this age are kind of in the same boat. They missed a big chunk of developmental opportunities at a time when that’s really crucial.

    Granted, the worst behavior I’ve ever had to deal with in the workplace has never come from young people, it’s come from middle-aged white men.

  43. Stuart Foote*

    I think there is a not-great trend in our society (especially on the internet) that encourages people to be extremely judgmental, sensitive, and to catastrophize everything. The attitude is that if something is bad, it has to be the absolute worst thing ever and completely black and white with no nuance whatsoever. Obviously mental health is important, but many people have taken it to such an extreme that any bump in the road is unacceptable and that people have zero agency.

    Facebook wasn’t great for news, but it seems to me that Tiktok/Reels is much, much worse. I’m not even on those apps much, and I still see a wild amount of stuff that is completely inaccurate, mixed with people presenting their lives as utterly perfect and full of fun. Combined with social isolation, it’s not hard to see how this would destroy people’s mental health.

    I think modern parenting plays a role too–parents are way too concerned about making things easy for their kids and give them zero agency. My parents were that way, and it did teach me a certain amount of helplessness as a young adult. It’s just not healthy. But the flip side is that kids are pressured to excel at a very young age, so they get the worst of both worlds–tons of pressure in the wrong places, and not enough in others.

    That being said, it does seem like kids today tend to be nicer than kids in the recent past, maybe because they do have parents working harder to remind them to be kind. I also think that many of the younger generation of parents are maybe avoiding some of the mistakes their predecessors made–healthier food/lifestyles, less phones, more supportive but also maybe a little more independence.

    I also think that all generations are a little messed up and usually eventually figure it out, so I’m sure these kids will too.

    1. tabloidtained*

      “I think there is a not-great trend in our society (especially on the internet) that encourages people to be extremely judgmental, sensitive, and to catastrophize everything. The attitude is that if something is bad, it has to be the absolute worst thing ever and completely black and white with no nuance whatsoever.”

      Agreed. It’s a cultural shift, rather than a generational, but the generations most impacted are going to be the ones who are most impressionable and most exposed.

      1. Stuart Foote*

        It is a good point to say that it is cultural shift, because from what I see there is another generation that is super sensitive, desperately seeks victimhood, and freaks out about everything but shows zero critical thinking skills to analyze the issue, and that generation would be Facebook addicted boomers. Neither generation is doing great (obviously with many, many exceptions), and both probably need to get off the internet and stop being so socially isolated.

  44. Mztery123*

    I will try to keep this brief, but I doubt I will be able to. I’ve been teaching at the college level for almost 15 years. I’ve been teaching online since the pandemic. College students have stresses that we can’t even imagine right now – especially if they are not your typical college student who has family and financial support. My students are stressed, tired, and most of them work at least part time not to support themselves, they just support their families who may have lost work during the pandemic.

    When I scratch the surface with individual students, I made aware of the incredible sacrifices they made and the challenges in case and completing their education. Even the students have issues around failure, success any of them did not have a background that would make college and working easy places for them to inhabit.

    It may be your program is well intention, but not meeting the needs of the students who have come through the pandemic with years of online learning and not a lot of exposure to current norms. Maybe the program could be structured to often a bit more intensive help for those who need it. And I like the idea of having group meetings where some of these norms are reviewed we do that a lot in my classes as I do teach teach business and professional communication. We have breakout rooms where people can test interview questions, students take selfies with their business casual dress so they know what to expect in an interview – any of those kinds of interventions can be quite helpful. And I have no problem telling student “that might be a fine response while you’re in school, but if you told your employee, you didn’t do their report because you had to take your sister to the doctor that might not be a great way to approach it.”

    I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

  45. Mztery123*

    PS I’d reframe the “immature” epithet – how can you be mature when you haven’t had a chance to learn the kinds of things that encourage maturity?

    1. Kay*

      Yeah, at this point we may have to acknowledge that the markers have just changed. Adjust expectations instead.

  46. HonorBox*

    OP, I’m seeing a lot of this behavior with my teenage daughters. What I’ve done is what I would suggest to you. I’ve told my daughters that no one is out to get them. Teachers aren’t holding them to unreasonable standards, and someone having expectations of them is something they’ll have throughout their lives. Failing a test doesn’t mean the professor/teacher is bad. It means that they need to put in some additional work to have a better grasp on the subject matter.

    The best thing you can do is to be clear and honest with these students because when they enter the workforce, they’re going to have situations that aren’t always awesome, and they’re still going to be accountable to someone for their work. They need to realize that because for whatever reason or reasons, these students are like my own daughters and they don’t have an accurate picture of how things work. If they’re not open to what you’re saying, you’ve at least painted an accurate picture. And perhaps with time, they’ll come to understand that what you were saying, while perhaps direct and seemingly (to them) harsh, was actually something that was intended to help them.

  47. TLH*

    I work in higher ed but I have a therapy background. Be curious and approach conversations by validating the emotion behind it but not the behaviour. So “It sounds like you are very upset by what happened with your course. Failing the exam would be stressful for anybody. [This current behaviour – identify what it is] isn’t going to change the outcome, so what can you do that’s productive?” And then make it a learning point: “When you’re in employment, you can’t choose your manager and there will inevitably come a time when you disagree with their plan or assessment. You might feel like you do now. What do you think would be productive in that situation?” It’s important to emphasize that feelings are absolutely fine, no matter what they are. It’s about how they act on the feelings.

  48. Educator*

    This is a very practical angle, but I think it could be helpful–

    It sounds like the current objectives of this program are too broad for the current cohort of participants, and you need to narrow your scope so you are able to actually achieve results. You cannot mentor these students in so many areas because the need is too great, so it would be better to really support them in one or two areas.

    If participants only learned one or two things from your program, what would you want them to be? (That might be a conversation for the board.) Then, zoom in on achieving just those things really well. Be upfront with participants about what this program offers and what it does not, and really stick to those boundaries.

    1. Anonymous Koala*

      Agreed; I would also add that it’s likely that the OP’s next few cohorts will have similar challenges, so temporarily restructuring the program a bit (reducing the mentor/mentee ratio, or reducing scope as Educator suggested?) may be helpful for the next few years.

    2. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

      I think this is great advice, because it removes some of the onus from LW to handle all things. LW shouldn’t be superhuman.

  49. deesse877*

    I am a lifelong university-level educator, and my population is very similar to the letter-writer’s. THIS IS SO REAL. Students are shutting down more often and blowing up more often. The middle range, of appropriately-scaled and -expressed emotions and desires, has disappeared. It is not a “kids-today!” issue. This is an emergent minor crisis.

    I don’t have specific advice, except that it’s really important to understand that (a) you see the reaction, but not necessarily what the student is actually reacting to, and (b) they are trying. Not-trying doesn’t look like “being unpleasant to people who are trying to help you”; not-trying is dropping out.

    So in practice, I wouldn’t assume that students are trying to manipulate with their extreme reactions; they may have legitimate gripes, and they almost certainly lack the cultural capital to understand what is really happening to them. College has always involved a “hidden curriculum,” a set of unstated rules that help the more-privileged achieve success. This fact was always profoundly unfair, and it probably feels even worse now, with the whole world blowing up around us.

    1. Letter Writer*

      “Not-trying doesn’t look like “being unpleasant to people who are trying to help you”; not-trying is dropping out.”

      This is absolutely so true! If they didn’t want to be here, they wouldn’t be. It’s that simple. I know they’re trying, and I’m proud of them for what they’ve accomplished. There are so many good things they’ve done! If we can better figure out how to navigate this particular issue, they could be truly unstoppable.

  50. Crencestre*

    Since OP described flagrantly inappropriate behavior, that would be a good place to start. OP, please let these young women know that, fairly or not, screaming, crying and behaving like a teenager will only play into negative workplace stereotypes about women (we’re too emotional, we can’t handle pressure and challenges, we revert to behaving like little girls when the going gets difficult, etc. ad nauseum.)

    Ask them how they want to be perceived and treated on the job; chances are that they’ll use terms like “respect” and “being taken seriously”. Then use that to segue into a discussion of how they’ll need to act to get that respect and to be taken seriously. Put it in behavioral terms – use examples of observable behavior. Try role-playing ways to handle supervisory criticism, for example, and emphasize how handling it well will get them much better results than handling it poorly.

    You’re right that they missed out on two years of socialization, which means two years of learning emotional maturity; concrete examples of your recommendations will be more effective than abstractions, which they probably can’t yet translate and put into practice. Keep it behavioral and keep stressing how learning these “soft skills” will directly benefit them. Because, of course, it will!

  51. E*

    Parent of a current high schooler here. I’ve noticed general immaturity of the students at my child’s school and of my friend/relatives kids of the same age. They seem to lack the self motivation and/or skills to find solutions to problems themselves as well as act younger than high schoolers of the past. I personally think it’s partially due to the current culture of access to instant info all the time. They are so used to being able to Google everything that they haven’t had to develop critical thinking skills to know how to solve problems on their own. It’s a challenge I’ve been working on with my daughter, but if no one has ever taught these kids those skills they are lost and melt down when faced with something new/difficult. It’s a kindness to try and help them before they get fired from all their future jobs and hopefully we can make sure the future kids develop these skills earlier.

  52. Kay*

    I used to teach first-year college writing courses, and I ended up spending a LOT of time teaching the freshmen HOW to be adults/college students. I found that being candid was the most helpful, since it can be so hard to pick up on norms. I told them very clearly that they were going to have to learn how to deal with personalities on top of doing their work – and sometimes that was fair, and sometimes it wasn’t. I would basically say, “People are weird, and you always want to err on the side of caution when interacting with them. Be really polite and more formal to start.” Some of these strangely unreasonable professors (whether or not that’s a fair assessment) will mirror the strangely unreasonable bosses they may have in the future. That’s not to say they shouldn’t stand up for themselves, but they’ve got to pick their battles. When it came to discussing professional communication, I gave them email templates to work with, which a lot of students appreciated.

    I also told them that sometimes, they would just HAVE to fail. They would just have to let some things go and accept the consequences. If they had a huge paper that was worth a large percentage of their grade due on the same day they had a quiz that was lower stakes, they just might have to fail the quiz. It sucks, but juggling and finding that balance is something we all have to do. Instead of demanding a retake on the quiz, try to accept it and keep moving forward – because there aren’t always chances to redo something in the “real world.” You just have to learn to prioritize and go from there. Similarly, I told them that sometimes you can put a lot of effort into something and still come up short. Again, it sucks, but you have to learn from it instead of insisting that your effort be rewarded.

    I really think that acknowledging that some of their feelings are valid even if they’re not productive can go a long way. It’s easier to go from there than to try to manage their emotions or tell them that they shouldn’t feel a certain way. To be fair, a lot of things about how academia AND the working world function just don’t make sense. Getting worked up won’t change anything, but it’s not hard to see why someone might get upset. They’re allowed to feel frustrated, but they have to learn how to handle it.

  53. ticktick*

    I don’t work with that age group, but I do work with some primary school kids in a program, and I’ve found that asking them, “Why do you think your behaviour is appropriate?” in a non-judgmental, serious manner is a good way of getting them to stop and engage the intellectual side of their brain rather than the emotional, reactive side. It helps focus them on their own actions, and opens the door to reframing their expectations to something more realistic, as well as directing them on how they could be better served by behaving or reacting differently.

  54. TPS Reporter*

    I’m curious if there are any guidelines on the structure of the program and the responsibilities of the mentors and mentees. As a past volunteer mentor for a wide range of ages and backgrounds, the most helpful programs have been ones where the guidelines/expectations were clearly written and we had intro and interim meetings to enforce those expectations.

    You write ” What was promised to be a 1-2 hour per week commitment on my part has turned in to at least an hour per day putting out fires and fielding phone calls where I tell them, no, I don’t think their professors are “morally corrupt” for failing them on an exam when they didn’t bother to study.” You have to stop being available. You’re a volunteer. Be available only for that 1-2 hour per week timeslot that works with your schedule.

    Do you have a specific mentee or are you just available to all? Having one or two assigned to you would probably be more manageable. I also in the past have asked mentees to create an agenda before every meeting and give them “homework” in between- such as write a cover letter and we’ll go over it (or some other particular thing they’re working on or want to work).

  55. LunaLena*

    I am curious, what is the mentor/mentee ratio here? Do mentors and mentees get paired up depending on similar fields of interest and study or career paths?

    I ask this because I work in higher ed, though I do not work directly with a lot of students. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but the students I’ve worked with have mostly been as sane and mature as the pre-pandemic students I worked with (though there was definitely a huge uptick in vandalism and other misbehavior on campus in general for a couple of years. It seems to be receding a bit now). Since I only work with 1-2 students at a time, there’s a lot more room for thoughtful and in-depth conversations that are tailored specifically to them. But if the mentors in OP’s program are being assigned several mentees, it gets harder to tailor the advice, and easier for the mentees to dismiss it as “well that might apply to other people, but not *me*.”

    A few years ago, I also volunteered for a mentor program at the school and was assigned a student to mentor. I liked the idea behind the program, but I quickly found that it wasn’t as helpful as it could have been – the student I was assigned was in a completely different field of interest from what I do (I work in a creative field, she wanted to go into health and nutrition), and she was on a path to get a Master’s degree whereas I have no interest in going beyond my Bachelor’s. So I wasn’t really able to mentor her very much, since I had no experience in applying for a higher degree and couldn’t advise her on much beyond general things like offering to review her resume. In hindsight, if our interests had been more aligned, I not only could have given her better advice, the advice I could have offered her would have had more weight, since it would have been born of experience and not general life advice. I just wonder if having mentors who are in the fields that the student mentees want to get into would similarly pack more of a punch when they’re told that they need to learn to be more professional etc.

  56. BehindTheComputerScreens*

    From my own experience (I work at a university in a non-teaching role), when you’re dealing with immaturity and entitlement issues, you’ve got to be blunt as all heck and very persistent. It’s not going to be easy, and I would strongly suggest setting some internal boundaries for yourself before you get started. i.e. “I will tolerate X but if a student does Y, I am allowing myself to hang up.”

    Tell the student they are acting badly when they do X, that yelling and screaming is not appropriate or acceptable behavior, they they are behaving childishly or acting extremely entitled. Then tell them what some appropriate responses or reactions would be. Be specific and detailed. They may have never seen real adults in professional settings before. Even in their parents/caretakers worked from home during the pandemic, things were really fuzzy then professionalism-wise for a lot of folks.

    If entitlement is a particular issue, “why?” is my favorite response. i.e. “My professor failed me and it’s so unfair. ‘Why is it unfair?’ ‘Because I need a passing grade to graduate on time.’ ‘Why is that the professor’s problem? Why isn’t it your responsibility to study harder/go to office hours/seek out extra credit?'”

    It can be really hard, but try not to call the students themselves childish or entitled. They are Acting childish. The Behaviors are not inappropriate. They can and should do better, and you expect them to because they are perfectly capable of it. There was a lot less telling students “no” and there were fewer consequences for poor behavior for many students during the pandemic. Name the behaviors and give them the information to do better next time, but if they carry on refuse to engage with poor behavior. Introduce them to the fact that, with you, actions have consequences.

    For example, if you’re trying to help them with an issue, and they just want to ignore it, flat out tell them “It doesn’t sound like you want to deal with this problem. Did you call because you needed to vent to someone, or do you want me to help you figure out how to deal with this?” If they needed to vent, cool. If they need help dealing with it, ask “How would you like me to help you? What are you looking for from me right now?” If they can’t give a good answer, then say “Okay, why don’t you think about what I could help you with, and call me back when you have some ideas. Then we can work on fixing this together.” Then, say goodbye and hang up. Either they will be a mature adult and deal with it themself or get back to you, or they won’t. It’s ultimately up to them.

  57. Silver Robin*

    I handle these kinds of things (which I do a lot, for friends and peers), with what I call “emotional due diligence”. It is really fun/cathartic/tempting to be petty/angry/righteous at other people. But before I get to be those things, I have to make sure I am unassailable.

    Basically, I take an audit of all the options I had available to me throughout the experience and review which ones I chose, what their consequences were, and whether there were reasonable alternatives that may have worked out better. I try to figure out if I dotted all my emotional i’s and crossed all my communication t’s etc. If I made a reasonable decision, but I did not communicate what was happening (aka, I chose not to study because I was sick, but did not tell my professor that), then the problem is on me. If I made a reasonable decision and did my best to communicate it, but was held to unreasonable standards (I chose not to study because I was sick, emailed my professor, and my professor told me I should have studied anyway), then I am in the clear.

    This involves a lot of seeing things from the other person’s point of view and applying the relevant cultural norms. I check in with myself, my friends, my therapist depending on how big a deal it is. Most often, I realize that I am not unassailable and that actually the path forward is some form of accountability/cooperation, or that I just needed to vent to someone and then I could move on and make a plan.

    Is accountability and cooperation always fun? No. Do I sometimes feel bitter and frustrated? Absolutely. Maturity is a rough pill to swallow. But I have people who can walk me through those emotions beforehand and I am now somebody that a lot of people put a lot of trust in. My opinion is valued and my relationships are strong.

    Sometimes (like once every five years), after all that work, I get to dive into the petty, righteous, angry emotions and rip someone else’s nonsense apart. And that is an incredibly powerful moment.

  58. Justin*

    I teach young grad students (like early 20s) so I see a lot of this. I don’t get mad, I just remind them that I won’t penalize them within reason, but I don’t have the power to override the final deadline for grade entry.

    So, similarly, I would say, provide as much leeway as one reasonably can but be clear there is a boundary (or boundaries plural).

    And frankly I do this because I’m neurodivergent and understand executive dysfunction, but I’m also Black and know I don’t get but so much leash if I were to fall off path, so I do have to hold folks to standards.

    I have both empathy and standards.

  59. BellyButton*

    I do similar volunteer work with the same age range. I do believe a big part of it is because of the pandemic, but I also have to hold the parents and the school system accountable too. Helicopter parents when into full force with this group of recent high school grads. Previously helicopter parents made decisions, did activities, did their homework, projects, and shielded them from negative feedback. This new group of helicopter parents do all of that AND have taught them that any thing they deem as disrespectful is and should be fought against. They missed a step in there– the critical thinking through a situation to determine if it is disrespectful or just something you don’t like.

    OP- Here is what I do. Instead of 1 on 1 meetings I have put them into cohorts. This is so that they can work on peer coaching, this also allows us to walk through what the situation is and break it down (critical thinking skills) and get different perspectives. This allows them all to hear someone’s interpretation of an event and to think about it and give their own perspectives. Studies have shown that adults learn more from peer coaching than they do from a professional coach.

    If you break down the skills needed for critical thinking they are; seeking out contradictory evidence, making risk: benefit assessments, recalling relevant information when it is needed, monitoring your own performance and deciding when additional help is needed, demonstrating an advanced ability to read and write complex prose, determine credibility and use this information in formulating and communicating decision (among others!). Now, you- as the facilitator and coach for these women, you begin asking questions that will require them to tap into those skills.

    Seeking Out Contradictory Evidence:
    How else could this situation be interpretated?
    In the event Jane describe, was there anything that was contradictory to her opinion?
    Making Risk-Benefit Assessments:
    If Jane were to file a complaint/yell (at the person) what are some of the things that could happen?
    Does the risk out weigh the benefits?

    Remember your role as a mentor is not to tell them what to do, it is to guide and coach them to the right decisions. You are also not their therapist. You have to set boundaries that your time with them is not a dumping session- it is to work through issues and for them to learn and grow so when they hit the “real world” they are ready and able to handle that reality.

    I hope this helped!

    I will put some links into the comment below.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      I do think cohorts is a good medium between bringing them together as a group for a meeting about behaviour most will assume doesn’t apply to them and working with them all individually, especially when a large part of what has been missing in their high school experience is group socialisation. You learn so much more about norms and self-regulation when you have to temper your behaviour because there are other people in the room.

    2. BellyButton*

      In school there is so much pressure put on kids to get good grades, be in all the clubs, do all the activities- they are stressed out and so focused on the result, they are rarely praised for HOW they achieved something. Their whole life has been focused on WHAT, instead of WHY and HOW. Getting them to examine why they got the grade they did, or how their behavior led to result is likely something they haven’t done or at least not often.

      I feel so passionately about helping the younger generations be successful I sought out a company with the majority of the employees under 35. I think in a lot of cases they got a raw deal and most people do not know how to coach and teach them, they learn differently than we did- heck they learn differently than people did 15 yrs ago. They had different opportunities, different expectations, different parents, different school systems, a different world– we cannot expect them to know what we knew and do what we do.

      WE are the ones who have to adapt and change to their needs. That doesn’t mean we tolerate bad behavior, it means how we coach and mentor them through those situations is different than the way we learned to navigate that same situation 25+ yrs ago.

  60. PotsPansTeapots*

    Could it help to reframe things in your mind? You signed up to do mentoring of college students, and you wound up having an experience more like mentoring high schoolers. You have to focus on different things and they won’t get as far at learning skills as you’d like, but, well, what else are you going to do?

    You can still mentor these students, but maybe reframe the goals and techniques in your own mind. One excellent place to start would be to kindly but firmly enforce boundaries around your time and listening to these students’ outbursts.

    Another thing to consider: I was pretty immature in college and cringe at some of the things I said and did, but wise counsel from various adults on campus did stick in my mind. I (unfortunately) didn’t take some of those lessons, then, but I did after I graduated.

  61. CM*

    This is a program designed to teach professional skills. I suggest offering a series of workshops on leadership, time management, and communication skills. That way you can address these issues head on without pointing fingers at anybody, and frame it as, “here are common issues for people starting out in their careers, and here are some ways to handle them.” Setting this groundwork will help you set boundaries in your mentorship — in fact, you can even explicitly tell people as part of the guidelines for the program, “your mentor is here for questions like X, Y, and Z, if you’re having issues with something else, you can refer back to the workshop materials.”

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Adding in some skills practicing activities would be a good idea, as well. ie. Role-playing what happens in a fraught conversation, so people can develop the self-control and instincts about how to address the issue without getting derailed or losing their cool.

  62. Hyaline*

    I know it’s almost universally accepted at this point to let Covid shoulder the blame for these issues, but the problem predated Covid, and I put a lot more weight on the issues creating those experiences than I do the lockdown itself. As a professor who works with a lot of freshmen, they have been underprepared for college for quite a while, in very large part stemming from the expectations they experienced in high school. I’m not blaming secondary ed teachers for the circumstances they’re trying to navigate, but the end result is that many students have not been exposed to “high” standards or given honest and accurate feedback before, and many have never failed at anything. Many have simply never been held to any kind of rigorous standard before–if they showed up, they passed classes. If they turned in papers of the correct length, they got A’s. If they tried at all, they were rewarded–and you can appreciate how having the game suddenly change could be very disorienting!

    In short–these students didn’t end up immature and underprepared on their own, and if they’ve been thrown in the deep end without learning how to swim, it’s understandable why they’re struggling. If you see the inappropriate behaviors as symptoms of that, it does kind of make sense.

    My advice would be to approach them with that understanding–they ARE immature, underprepared, and probably overwhelmed. You may need to scaffold their experience much more than you needed to before. You may need to write out expectations and codes of conduct that seem obvious. You may need to have policies and procedures you never needed. I know you’re stuck putting out fires now, but could you reorient moving forward or with the next batch to have group sessions or seminars that address these issues proactively?

    Honestly, I would also consider removing students from the program as a viable and useful tool in your toolbox. Set transparent standards, set clear disciplinary procedures (one warning, one follow-up discussion, then dismissal if the problem repeats–or whatever seems workable to you). One of the major problems I’m seeing with my students is that they have not been held accountable–we don’t change the problematic behaviors stemming from that by continuing the pattern. Be clear, be accommodating to helping them learn, but also be firm. Wishing you all the patience!

    1. Hyaline*

      (Sorry meant to add–changing how the program works may be something you don’t have much direct control over, but some of this might be worth raising with someone who does. “Others have raised removing students from the program, but I think we need more transparent expectations before doing that…” etc.)

  63. Nonanon*

    “What was promised to be a 1-2 hour per week commitment on my part has turned in to at least an hour per day”
    So, obviously not the larger point of the letter (newer college students having difficult times adapting), but how many students are assigned to each mentor? There is of course some nuance since different mentees are going to have different “maintenance levels,” but three higher maintenance mentees (hour long daily phone calls) and three low maintenance mentees (hour long weekly meetings). Is there any way the organization can adjust the caseload to compensate for this uptick? Your time and your mentorship are valuable; if you and your team are being stretched too thin, there may be other adjustments that can be made to help with your burnout (obviously NOT kicking out any of the current cohort for being “too emotional” or “not productive” or “having generational entitlement”, because there’s a difference between kicking people out and “we’re adjusting our policies for the 2025 year to give 1-1 mentoring rather than each mentor having a 4 person cohort”).

  64. Fluffy Initiative*

    Would it be worth sitting down with them (the mentee cohort) at the beginning of the program and with defining as a group what Professional Behavior looks like, how to handle bad news/disappointment in a professional capacity, what is/is not appropriate to ask for at work, then document that into a mini handbook that they keep throughout the duration of the mentorship?

    Talking through expectations ahead of time, and having something to reference if they do have a meltdown (“Remember we talked about handling disappointment? You can ask your professor during her office hours to go over your essay with you, but don’t scream at her for giving you a bad grade. That is not acceptable.”) might help give them the tools that they haven’t gotten anywhere else yet.

  65. Harper the Other One*

    I have an observation that emerges specifically from my experiences parenting neurodivergent kids. The amount of information we expect kids to absorb by osmosis is ENORMOUS. Now, you have a generation of kids who were around people for multiple years when they would theoretically be doing that “osmosis” learning. It’s no one’s fault that it happened, but it shouldn’t be a surprise they haven’t learned something we never explicitly teach!

    (Side note: my oldest is currently considering a high school that actually has an explicit study skills teaching element and you’d be amazed how many parents think a class in that is a waste of time.)

    So, my advice would be to create a short curriculum you can use when you onboard a new group. Take the most common problems and actually spell out how they’re supposed to handle them. Make sure they hear it as part of a presentation but also give reference material. This will have two equally useful results: 1) the next cohort will have actually been taught these skills and 2) then they can’t claim they didn’t know their behaviour wasn’t appropriate.

  66. Madame Frozen*

    Ok, so the language might not have been the best, but the problem does actually exist. This isn’t just a normal “offer people grace” situation. This isn’t a gendered thing (except for the fact that OP seems to work exclusively with women) or a generational thing, except for the fact that this very specific age group has had a different than normal type of setback and deficiency. This isn’t about young people not knowing how to work, or “young people these days”. This is about a group of people who were emotionally, academically, mentally, and socially stunted during some very formative years. This is a different crop of people. And hopefully, temporary.

    Their behavior is Not Normal. This comes from kids being passed on to the next grade without putting in effort to pass. Kids didn’t have to turn on their camera or speak for zoom school, they didn’t have to complete the work, they didn’t have to do it well, they didn’t have to do it within a timely manner, they didn’t have to do anything in order, they didn’t have to do anything according to any standard. This comes from teachers being expected to do backflips in high heeled roller skates while the kid is expected to be “offered grace” because they’re “shy” and don’t want to “write all those words” or “speak” to anyone. So yes, now those kids are young adults who haven’t had any real accountability, and who have been shown that throwing the slightest little fit will get them their way. It comes from any slightly inconvenient, slightly challenging, or slightly unknown moment needing and getting an accommodation, which usually somehow translates to “they don’t need to do it.”

    Of course, this is where I say that I 10000% know, understand, appreciate and love that accommodations exist in school and the workplace, that I do not need to know the ins and outs of everything. But also that I wasn’t born yesterday and I do see every day how “something is challenging” and ” I need an accommodation” are easily conflated.

    A way to combat this is to be clear and hold them to high expectations. You aren’t a teacher where you get blamed for the kid not doing anything. You have more freedom and power. Hopefully they will learn what they haven’t yet: consequences. If they don’t do ABC, they don’t get XYZ. (Not in a punitive way, of course. Ex: If they don’t apply for the job, they don’t get the interview.)

  67. CMBG*

    Students did not spend “half of their formative high school years isolated at home” — at least, not in the United States. In the spring of 2020, campuses closed in mid-March, essentially meaning summer vacation began two months early. In the fall that year, most schools started as normal on campus, and some started with remote classes and eased into on-campus classes by winter. Take-out restaurants were open; teenagers had summer jobs there and with delivery services. Some camps were closed that summer, and some were open. Some sports leagues were closed, and some were open. My kid took driver’s ed that year; he wore a mask in the car for driving practice. Friends’ kids were in baseball leagues. Our church services were online for a while, but we had outdoor events in person. Nobody had to isolate at home.

    I can’t speak to the maturity of the young adults this person is writing about, but I don’t think it makes sense to blame anything on a supposedly severe isolation (“half their formative years”) that has been greatly exaggerated.

    1. NotARealManager*

      I think how open things were was highly location dependent (and family risk level dependent). Where I am didn’t feel truly open again until the end of 2022 or Q1 of 2023. Yes, stuff was not locked down anymore, but things were still very different in my area until just a little over a year ago.

    2. Educator*

      This was different in every district–and sometimes in schools depending on how the buildings were set up. A lot of students had a much longer isolation experience than yours did. I live in a cold place with old buildings and high case counts, and it was a much, much bigger battle to get kids in-person.

      More importantly, as someone who works in secondary education, I think adults need to understand that the pandemic triggered a huge change in how many students engage with school that goes way beyond that period of isolation. For example, we have unprecedented attendance issues, more students who need to contribute, via work or childcare, to the stability of their families, and teachers leaving the classroom in droves. Isolation may be over, but the isolation of students from their peers and their school communities definitely is not.

      I think I will probably be facing down the consequences of the pandemic for the rest of my career.

    3. Milka cow*

      Nope, not where I live. We were isolated and cautious through 2022 and parts of 2023.
      Fast forward to today, it is April 2024 snd our school district is still sending “Your child may have been exposed to covid” emails. I think these will end this month.
      So, yeah, everyone’s experience is different.

    4. LW*

      Where I am located absolutely nothing like camps or summer jobs even began to open until March 2021 when vaccines became available.

      Some schools had rotating days in person with half the class online, half in-person with desks and lunch spaces placed apart, which is really just not “normal” at all. Stuff like prom and graduations did not happen in 2020 or 2021, only resuming in 2022. It wasn’t the same as a “lockdown” that happened in the first few months of the pandemic, but it wasn’t business-as-usual either.

      I don’t think those steps were unwarranted given the severity of what we were facing, but kids absolutely did not experience normal socialization, school, work, etc. for two full years where I live.

    5. MeepMeep123*

      Exactly. We actually did isolate at home until 2022 since my kid has a heart defect and I wasn’t sure how we could protect her in a school environment. But even we sent the kid to school when she was 6, just with a good mask on. She missed out on a year of school, I guess, while we homeschooled for kindergarten (and a lot of people did that pre-COVID).

      What we noticed when the kid did go to school was that she was significantly better socialized than the other kids in her class, who never isolated at all. She encountered, and told us stories about, some pretty awful behavior. It wasn’t bullying directed at her, but it was just pretty poor socialization in general that happened often enough that it was regarded as totally normal. At some point, she started joining in the bad behavior to fit in – being mean to other kids, purposely causing messes in the school bathroom, acting out in class, that sort of thing. And this was a fancy, ritzy private school with crazy high tuition fees, and none of those kids isolated at all – the school never closed for COVID at all.

      So no, this is not “isolation.” My theory is that COVID causes brain-damaging effects in children as well as adults, and that repeated COVID infections are not good for anyone. My kid’s friends are sick all the time and miss playdates for illness all the time. We don’t know what this is doing to their brains.

      1. Katy*

        The more likely explanation is that it’s the screens. We are seeing the first cohorts of iPad and smartphone kids who grew up with their brains fused to a dopamine machine. The pandemic affected two years of their development, but some of these kids have been on screens since they were infants.

  68. Oh great*

    The fact that the other advisors are “giving up” on a group that needs mentorship more than anyone is horrible. “I can’t help you because you need too much help” only works if there is another higher level of help that can be offered. If not, they’re it! Hopefully someone tries to figure this out!

    1. Person from the Resume*

      But these are VOLUNTEERS for what they were told a 1-2 hour a week volunteer job. They can and should set boundaries on their time.

      The solution for the national philanthropic organization may be more volunteers or less mentees in the program. And the immediate solution may be to focus on the ones that are taking the advice rather than the ones that are not.

    2. Angstrom*

      There’s nothing horrible about realizing that you’re in over your head, and that the job you are doing is not what you signed up for.
      I’ve volunteered in many areas, and I know what happens when the load exceeds my capabilities. It’s not good for anyone.

      1. Bread Crimes*

        Precisely this. I’ve taught a number of college classes for a number of years at this point, and one thing I’ve had supervisors talk to me about is the need to set healthy boundaries. Especially with students I am really trying to help! Because I am not a trained counselor or therapist or life coach or any number of other things–frankly, I’m lucky my program actually trained grad students in some manner at all before throwing us at classrooms to teach, because I have heard STORIES of departments that do not–and if I try to be those things to my students, I’m going to do a shoddy job of it AND burn myself out.

        “I am a volunteer who is trying to give this college student a few hours of mentorship in professional norms each week” is a very reasonable definition to remember and stick to. “Let’s do amateur group therapy on all of these young women and pour several hours a week into the work, each, because that’s what these women need” is not actually a good idea.

    3. Dinwar*

      This is REALLY ungenerous to the LW. The propensity for caretakers to give too much of themselves is a well-documented phenomenon, and not everyone is trained in everything. Just because you need help doesn’t mean that I’m obliged–or even qualified–to give it to you, especially if you’re acting horribly and disrespectfully. We’re not talking about a medic coming across someone bleeding out on the side of the road; these women have an obligation to show a minimum standard of respect towards the volunteers helping them. It’s absolutely fair and just for an organization to say “Your behavior is unacceptable and you’re no longer welcome here” in some of the cases the LW describes.

    4. Rara Avis*

      Except that the mentors are volunteers who are finding themselves giving much more of their time than they expected — let’s give them some grace too. 1-2 hours a week to 1-2 hours a day is not a reasonable shift. These mentors presumably have full-time jobs, families, other responsibilities. The volunteering I do is strictly limited to one 2-hour shift a week. That’s all I can handle without impact on other parts of my life. Luckily the cats don’t call me at other times! The volunteer mentors do have the right to say, “This isn’t what I signed on for.” And the letter writer is looking for solutions to keep the program going and avoid mentor burn-out. Just saying “Suck it up” doesn’t help.

  69. Pita Chips*

    I don’t know if the book, “The Rules of Work” has been updated recently, but I found it quite useful even after I’d been in the workforce for years. Sounds like these students might benefit from it.

    Having had interns, I know for certain that nobody teaches them how office etiquette works. I don’t remember being taught it either. I did mini workshops about writing office emails vs casual emails.

  70. Eris*

    I had to explain to an intern (and with previous working experience) that yes, it would be bad if the work computer issued to you was lost, and no, we don’t just replace those things, somebody would need to know what happened to the old one. Huge difference now and ten years ago.

  71. librarianmom*

    This may or may not be relevant, but I found that with younger colleagues they have a hard time not personalizing everything. A bad mark on a paper or a work criticism is not about you as a person, but about your work product. While not pleasant and sometimes uncomfortable, it is not a personal attack. The overreaction is because they can’t objectify and immediately get defensive. Help them see the difference.

  72. KatieB*

    Having grace and patience makes sense in the context of “this generation grew up without the usual opportunities to socially and emotionally mature.”

    That being said, I don’t think you’re doing them any favors by not clearly articulating – and then enforcing – natural consequences for this behavior. In fact, I think that would benefit them in the long run.

    Because while it’s true that in the past they didn’t have as many opportunities to learn and grow, they *do* have that opportunity now, in the form of your program, which specifically exists for mentorship. You can give them the gift of a chance to change by clearly spelling out what behavior needs to change, and how they need to change it.

    For example, “[X] behavior is unacceptable in the workplace and may even cause you to lose a future job. I want you to succeed in future roles, so let’s talk about different ways that you can handle your anger/stress when something like this happens again.”

    I’d also caution you not to paint this entire “crop” of mentees with the same brush. The examples you gave of their behavior ran the gambit from being immature but probably coachable (shutting down, ignoring the problem) to behavior that may be more of a deal breaker (lying, spreading rumors, screaming.)

    Some of these actions seem – to me – to be the product of inexperience or immaturity (like not yet understanding how to effectively communicate during conflict.) Others (lying, screaming) are conscious choices on their part and speak to something lacking about their _character_, not their immaturity.

    Basically, if I were you I’d step back and reevaluate what behavior is tolerable/coachable, and what isn’t.

    For the behavior that isn’t approachable, talk to the offenders and clearly and describe what specific behavior needs to change.

    Spell out the consequences of not changing the behavior by X date (or however you want to do it) and then let them go at the end of that time if they hadn’t nipped it in the bud.

    But yeah I’d be super careful about putting all of these folks in the same bucket and painting their behavior with the same brush, because “doesn’t communicate well yet under pressure” and “deliberately lies/spreads rumors” are two VERY different issues, and need to be handled with different approaches.

    Don’t give so much grace that you set them up to fail at their next job, basically. Explicitly spell out what acceptable workplace behavior looks like, where their behavior is currently falling short, and what will happen if they do not change it.

    Then let the repeat offenders go and focus your energy on the ones who truly do want to improve themselves, and just truly didn’t have the opportunity til now.

    Good luck!

  73. Moussesauce*

    I work in a high school. I think my students are awesome. What kind of teachers give up? These students lack some maturity. They lived through a pandemic. It personally broke me, an adult so…I personally am impressed by the kids I work with. Help them prepare for jobs and deal with life’s ups and downs. And give them some grace.

    1. Just a Teacher*

      Grace doesn’t fix the problem. Grace is how we got here. Lowering expectations and allowing students to get out of responsibilities because they are difficult, accepting inappropriate, behavior, and just letting them get away with these things is failing them.

      1. Joe Lies*

        Yes! As someone who trained the next generation of nurses, it’s a little scary out there. Personal responsibility and conduct have been huge issues in my field for a while. Showing up late, no call no shows, constantly texting in rooms with patients. Wanting friends to visit on the floor, “can I leave early when I need to?”…lots of stuff that might be workable with an office job but is out of line with 24/7 care positions.

        I made it my business to be kind but when you’ve told someone 4-5 times to get off the phone and check their IVs, it’s frustrating.

      1. Moussesauce*

        Then they shouldn’t be volunteering if they actually do not like the age group they are supposed to be mentoring. I would work in HS forever. I love the age, I am a great teacher and my job is very fulfilling. If you don’t like volunteering with teens….don’t.

        1. Dahlia*

          OP isn’t really volunteering with teens though? They’re working with college-aged adults, not high school students.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      I’ve considered giving up — even had some job interviews. (Got close a couple times, but nothing panned out.)

      And it’s because “giving them grace” INVARIABLY means extra work and extra emotional labor (in the Hochschild “strictly limiting one’s emotional responses, especially to bad behavior” sense) for me.

      And ain’t nobody given me any grace on that. Certainly not the students I’ve had who behaved as OP describes.

      Give teachers grace, please.

  74. Yup*

    I really wish older generations would stop calling today’s young people entitled, spoiled, pampered, “snowflakes,” or any of a long line of insults and stereotypes designed to put blame squarely on the shoulders of these kids.

    Although I have HUGE empathy for anyone having to navigate the workforce with young people who are less prepared than previous generations, we need to understand where this comes from. These kids missed on on key formative years in school. They were forced to learn online and it became their whole world. Kids are suffering from more mental-health issues than ever. Healthcare services are a mess and it’s hard to access or even find help. They are emotionally overloaded with media, social media, expectations of perfection, and feelings of depression and sadness. They are bombarded like never before, and can’t get away form feeling scrutinized.

    So let’s please not give up on them! They need us to step up and help them navigate their way. It’s easy and honestly selfish to say “Kids these days…” and wash our hands. We need to do the hard things so they can be productive, well-adjusted, and capable.

  75. Angstrom*

    You can and should set firm boundaries with how the students treat you and your fellow volunteers. They may be angry or upset, but being angry AT you may be a good reason to end the session. You can’t control how they behave outside your office. You can enforce standards while you are with them. It’s better for you and for them.

  76. Empress of Awesome*

    Seconding what everyone else said about how the isolation and remote learning* induced by COVID (on top of deaths, disability, job loss, etc) have just really [REDACTED] these students over, I’m going to be That Jerk and suggest another reason for the “that professor is out to get me because they made me face the consequences of my own actions!!!” reactions that the letter writer is seeing:
    These students have probably grown up with parents/guardians who have never told them no or otherwise set any boundaries or responsibilities for them or let elementary/middle/high school teachers do so either. Any difficulty or obstacle was probably smoothed over before it even cropped up. Combine that with the global-wide psychosis that is the last several years and dump all that on a still-developing, hormone-ridden brain that’s doused in TikTok all day???
    Yeah, none of this is surprising.

    1. Empress of Awesome*

      Forgot to add that in a lot of schools (or even just classrooms in individual schools) the “learning” that was going on virtually was very hit or miss. Even in “well off” schools! Raise your hand if you have at least one relative or friend whose kid’s teacher just basically effed off from March 2020 onwards as far as virtual teaching, and then the following autumn, the next grade’s teacher was like “well now I have to adjust the first half of my curriculum because all the kids from Ms. Smith’s class last year never learned fractions apparently!!”

      In short: it sucks to be any of these students but I also feel for OP trying to deal with all this

    2. Dinwar*

      There’s a term for the parenting style you’re describing: Lawnmower parenting. Just cut down whatever’s in the kid’s way so they sail smoothly through school. Then once Mommy and Daddy stop coddling the kids, they get smacked in the face with reality without having developed the tools to handle it. A lot of these kids are having meltdowns because what’s happening now is the worst experience they’ve ever had, and they simply don’t know how to cope.

      Unfortunately the way to build resilience is to encounter resistance. They learned that in the original Biodome experiment (the real one, not the movie!): The trees kept falling, because the trees never experienced wind and thus never built the strength necessary to stand up. Humans are the same–we need to experience some adversity in order to strengthen our mental resolve. In the past school, sports, and the like offered that; lawnmower parents prevent it, and Covid (by eliminating a lot of those things) only made it worse.

      It’s a problem that’ll sort itself out eventually. After these kids get fired from a few jobs they’ll slowly realize that the problem is them. But it’s a rough process, and unfortunately there’s simply now ay to make it easy.

      1. Yup*

        But how much resilience should students have when faced with an onslaught of fake/false news, political mayhem, climate change, incredible pressure to get into a good university (i.e. exceptional grades, many extra curriculars, events, sports, etc. etc.), underfunded school systems, no mental-health resources, and the list goes on?

        This generation is bearing the brunt of a lot of pressure from all sides with expectations to be just about perfect. In my day, you could get into college/uni with OK to decent grades and not a lot of extras on your CV. Now you have to show exceptionalism–and without funding for the resources to help get you there. It’s no wonder kids are coming apart at the seams. We really need to start seeing what it is they’re facing instead of telling them to buck up or that they’ll learn the hard way.

        1. Dinwar*

          Resilience, like all skills, needs to be taught in age-appropriate ways. It’s one reason we have the kids in martial arts. They’re learning that you can do your best, try your hardest, beat your personal record–and still lose. There’s also chores–this needs done, and your feelings on the matter don’t matter, it still needs done. (How much the feelings don’t matter is obviously something you have to judge as a parent; if Junior is dry-heaving you can clean the cat litter for him!) As they get older the responsibilities increase and the acceptable excuses decrease. By the time I was 14 my parents knew I had a job but had zero say in where I worked or how I managed my career (except for my dad informing me that there was no acceptable excuse for missing work, advice I ignored as I was in food service!).

          Most of the stuff in your first paragraph shouldn’t be put on any child’s shoulders to begin with–these are adult concerns that need to be addressed by adults. As for education, you’re right, the system is incredibly screwed up. Still, part of what kids need to learn is to handle failure. Not getting into your first choice school isn’t the end of the world, and you absolutely can still make a good living without a college degree. With a CDL and a 24 hour MSHA training course you can work as a haul truck driver in a mine (which is a far safer environment than people typically think) and easily make six figures. Or do an apprenticeship and work in HVAC. Both are literally begging for people. Part of the problem is that we as a culture have drastically narrowed the range of acceptable options for careers, so they never even see these options.

        2. Dinwar*

          Sorry for the double post, but the mental health resources thing is eating at me.

          In the past–and I’m only 40, we’re not talking ages ago–there were NO mental health resources outside of family, a few REALLY close friends, and maybe a priest. Anyone who went to a psychologist was considered dangerous and to be avoided, and the experience was shameful and hidden. There’s more awareness of mental health issues and more availability of mental health resources now than ever before. Yet resilience is still lacking.

          There’s a very good argument (see the Astral Codex Ten posts [by a psychiatrist] on the topic for an overview) that this increase in availability of mental health resources is in part contributing to the decline in overall mental health. Psychologists and psychiatrists don’t get rich curing people, and a lot of what really are normal ups and downs in life are now considered pathological. It could very well be that some of these kids need LESS mental health resources, and more “That’s life, suck it up.”

          To be clear, I’m not convinced that’s the case. There’s an equally strong argument to be made that what people in the past considered normal parts of life was in fact real mental illness, it’s just that they didn’t have the tools to identify it, much less do anything about it. And it’s worth noting that the rise in mental health awareness corresponds to a decline in overall religiousness in society–priests and religious officials acted as a lower-tier mental health resource, and since that’s gone for many people they go to the upper-tier ones.

          Still, the idea is worth considering. How much of our mental health awareness and resources is contributing to the lawnmower phenomenon? Ideally mental health resources should teach resilience, but frankly this is an extremely new thing in our society and we’re still figuring it out. (And I’m not saying mental health professionals are bad at their jobs. I’m saying that it’s going to take a long time to figure out what being good at this job looks like, especially because humans are tremendously diverse from a biological standpoint. Like diet and career paths, we should expect a tremendous variability in mental health needs, and we simply haven’t had time to figure out what those are.)

          1. Yup*

            We did not have social media in my day. School issues did not follow us home. We were not bombarded with images of what we are supposed to be like practically 24/7.

            And I need to push back on your religion point. This may be causation/correlation, and honestly the number of adults today who talk about the dire harm religion and religious members did to them–without having access to mental-health resources et alone being believed–is pretty drastic.

            Again, I continue to make a case for more understanding, because we all came from generations of less understanding and it has done lot of harm–to our sense of self, our ideas of work/life, our families, our overall well-being, and the list goes on. “Suck it up” is a compassion-less way to look at vulnerable people, and it has lifelong repercussions.

            1. Dinwar*

              “Understanding” is the new “self esteem”: in practice it’s vague to the point of meaninglessness and generally consists of allowing the worst behaviors to go on unchecked. I can understand someone’s behavior, still find it unacceptable, and still refuse to allow them to use me as a verbal or physical punching bag.

              Further, why are we supposed to be “understanding” to the person causing the disruption, but not the teacher down-thread that has students screaming in their face? Or the other students who are trying to learn? Fundamentally it’s not the people saying these actions are out of line that lack compassion and empathy; it’s the person causing the disruption. (The analysis is obviously different if the disruption is involuntary.)

              I’ve read a few articles about emotional intelligence in harsh conditions (my job is fairly harsh, and my wife and my hobbies can get rough). Most of them agree that overly commiserating is detrimental to the mental health of the person complaining. Sometimes, as harsh as it seems, the best thing you can do is tell them “Suck it up, get some water, and get back in there.” It doesn’t mean that you don’t care–it means that you care more about the long-term wellbeing of the person than their immediate comfort.

              As for the rest of your post, I can only assume that our experiences were very, very different. I grew up as a nerd in a football school, so the idea that social media is necessary for mental anguish is laughable (physical anguish too, for that matter). I had sisters, and I remember the inundation of media they were exposed to, all advertising how they “should” be. And I grew up in a small town–school followed me home, to the grocery store, to the park, to baseball games, to the grain elevator (it was a really small town–that was a social hot-spot for men), etc. And my experiences weren’t terribly different from those of my peers. The idea that these are novel is simply not true. It’s a new form of the same crap that has been going on since Plato was arguing that reading was rotting everyone’s minds.

  77. ManyFew*

    Is there space to discuss and set norms with the participants? If you work with the students to create norms, they will feel more ownership of them. And then if you do have to remove someone for violating the norms, it won’t create the same fear response in the students that it might if the removal comes from an opaque top down process.

    Because you might have to remove some of the students. I understand wanting to support everyone, but you are doing a disservice to the group if they are being disruptive in a manner that impacts other participants. It may be that this crop of students has certain challenges broadly from remote schooling, but it is also possible that a small group of very loud students is setting the tone.

  78. BB8*

    I work at a university with a lot of folks who are just out of undergrad and are entering their first jobs, or who are in grad school.

    And what you are seeing is not isolated, and at times it is really frustrating, but I find it helpful to remind myself that its not these folks fault that they didn’t get the same opportunities to grow as people/professionals/etc in the pandemic that I did at the same age. Yes their behavior needs to change, and that change is not always easy especially when they are so resistent to feedback, but I try to approach with some empathy.

  79. Kelly*

    I’ve found that it can help to set up a situation where they will fail then help them work through it. I’m training a lot of this age group and am not much older myself. I’ll give them incorrect or incomplete instructions so they fail/make a mistake and then help them solution how to move forward and find x the mistake. This gives them some experience and confidence to work through something that’s a minor mistake or failure. I’ve also found the book the positive power of negative thoughts super helpful to help them work through the hyperbolic talk. Basically step through what would happen and what would you do if the worst case on your mind did happen. Asking questions around a situation that hasn’t yet happened is a bit lower stakes and less emotional and helps them pick up some workplace norms. They can say what they would do and I can explain what would happen and how I would handle it. We have been using examples from Alison’s book “Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work”. I’ve also been using the book No Hard feeling by Liz Fosslien. That’s had really helped them with emotions at work. It’s probably common knowledge for those who have been in the work world for years but it breaks down how to handle emotions at work with specific examples, jokes, cartoons etc.

  80. El Esteban*

    My advice is to remember that every single generation since antiquity has thought the next generation were a bunch of layabouts.

    The kids will be alright.

  81. Mim*

    Covid is a vascular disease that can affect the brain. It’s not a surprise to see deficits in people whose brains are still developing during a time when the pandemic is still greatly present and barely anyone is taking proper precautions to prevent infection. I’m sure that social and educational disruption has also played a part, but it’s been a few years now since most schools had major disruptions or changes that affected the day to day experience. My kid was remote or hybrid for a total of about a year (spring 2020, and back to full in person before the end of the following school year), which I know from having friends around the US was pretty typical, though there was obviously variance. I honestly find it alarming that most folks are still going to years’ old school disruption as their first guess and, at least where I live, never putting a mask on anymore. This is going to keep happening until we stop getting reinfected with this thing over and over. While that doesn’t address the OP’s immediate concerns, movement toward recognizing these deficits as the disabilities they are is relevant to the workforce in general. It is really needed.

    1. MeepMeep123*

      Thank you. I’m glad I’m not the only one flagging that. If 3 months at home could have done that kind of damage, shouldn’t we have seen that every summer vacation?

      1. Jackalope*

        Summer vacation is so different from quarantine and lockdown. During summer vacation you aren’t forced to stay inside your house and isolating from everyone except immediate family, or immediate family and a small pod of people. You can go to the grocery store, church, music lessons, sports practice, the library, or summer camp without fear of catching [COVID, or any other disease that leads to quarantine], and those things aren’t cancelled. There’s no widespread fear that summer vacation will cause you to die or that you will get sick and cause your beloved family members such as grandparents to die because they catch it from you. I could go on but I hope you get the idea.

        And in my area at least, kids were schooling from home for around a year. Then when they came back there were very strict rules about how close they could sit to each other, wearing masks, the inability to do some of the regular activities that were normal in schools before that, and so on. I don’t remember how long it was before the schools went back to business as usual, but it was several months at least, coming up on 2 years of either school at home or semi-quarantine procedures in-person. And some kids kept doing school from home for longer than that, often because they or their family members were high risk. Two years of interrupted schooling is in no way comparable to summer vacation.

        1. MeepMeep123*

          I dunno. I spent pretty much every summer vacation “isolating” with my family – we would usually go somewhere just as a pod of immediate family, and we generally wouldn’t hang out in group settings. Didn’t do me any harm.

          I have a school age child, so I can tell you exactly how long it took for schools to get back to normal in our area. It wasn’t even a year. My kid entered the school system for the 2022-2023 school year, but her friends attended school in 2021-2022 with minimal to no masks, and things were pretty normal for them with no restrictions on activity. By 2022-2023, my kid was one of only 3 masked kids in her class, her teacher was unmasked, and everyone was fully in 2019 mode. They did all the regular activities that were normal in schools – I know this because I had to wave a doctor’s note at the school to get them to let my kid opt out of the higher-risk activities.

          Unfortunately, the cost of all this 2019 cosplay is now borne by the kids whose health is damaged by their neverending COVID infection.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        No, because people don’t generally spend summer vacation in their homes, interacting with nobody but their families.

        And it wasn’t just three months. There were nearly two years when normal life was pretty restricted, at least in a lot of places. Here, we locked down in March 2020. The schools did not return until September 2020, so they had summer vacation onto the lockdown. Then when we did return, all the desks were separated so kids were sitting two metres apart at all times. They had to wear masks throughout the schoolday. In January 2021, we locked down again. How long this was for depended on what year you were in as they brought back some years before others, but it was around Easter. The following year, we probably should have locked down after Christmas because even though it didn’t happen, there were two or three weeks when there were so many teachers and students absent that there was really no learning taking place. Like I had classes where maybe only 2 students were in out of a group of 6.

        A lot of people missed a fair bit of school because at one point if you were a close contact you had to stay off for two weeks.

        It wasn’t just the lockdowns. There was a meme at one point towards the end, pointing out that kids that were then in 6th grade hadn’t had a normal school year since 3rd grade and those in 12th grade hadn’t had a normal school year since 9th grade and so on. Ah, this is a version of it: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FAbL6EAX0AURXBC.jpg:large

  82. Ladyoflasers*

    Professor here. My teaching experience has just been with the post Covid generation of students, and I definitely see the learned helplessness (although surprisingly I don’t see the emotional outbursts often). One of my classes is mainly taught to freshmen, so I’ve thought a lot about how I can best support them. Things that have worked for me:

    1) I go in treating them with respect and as adults. I find if I come in treating them with respect, most of them rise up to the occasion. This includes building in a lot of flexibility into attendance requirements, so if they need to miss class they can do so without having to explain themselves for every circumstance

    2) I try to model accountability for them. If I mess up (which I do at least once a semester) I let them know, apologize, and I let them know how I’m fixing it. I never penalize a student for my errors. If I make a factual mistake in the lecture, I let them know as soon as possible.

    3) Other people have mentioned this but I always try to go into an interaction without making assumptions. So for example if I notice a student has not completed every assignment, I’ll reach out to the student, report what I’ve observed, and ask the student if there are any circumstances preventing them from doing the work. I’ll either find out the student is going through a hardship preventing them from getting work done, or we end up having an honest conversation about time management and using resources available to them. I’ve found it’s really important to let the students do the bulk of the speaking, I’ve had to become more comfortable with opening the conversation and then letting the student process through their own performance.

    These kids need so much help finding their internal resources, thanks for trying to help them catch up as they launch into the world!!

  83. Marta*

    I haven’t experienced any of this personally so no real advice.

    I do want to say that at if these young women are confiding in you to this degree, you and the other mentors must be doing something right. Hopefully that means they’re willing to listen

  84. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    We’re having the EXACT same problem, to the point that someone recently referred to our first-year graduate students as a bunch of NPCs.
    The only advice I have is the same advice I’d give when working with ANY group of traumatized students. Offer as much feedback as you can, as much support as you can, get really granular, and readjust your expectations. And be humane about it! These people are trying their best with what they have.

  85. BBB*

    I hate the term ‘give them grace’ lol
    but it sounds like OP is already doing that. you are approaching the situation with a lot of nuance already and giving these kids a lot of slack.
    for yourself, I would talk to the coordinators or whatever about the issues you are seeing and hold to stricter boundaries so you don’t burn yourself out!
    as for the kids… id approach it the same way I’d deal with a toddler throwing a tantrum. don’t engage, let them get it out of their system and once they are calm, discuss their behavior and why it’s unacceptable/better ways of dealing in the future. for the more extreme outbursts, have an escalation plan in place ‘if this behavior continues you will be asking to leave for the day/leave the program entirely’ ect.
    it’s tedious af and not what mentorship has traditionally been about but there’s nothing traditional about the past few years we’ve had. these kids have been dealt a bad hand but at the end of the day, you can’t care more about their success than they do.

  86. Katrina*

    The phrase “The rules are different here” works wonders for students of all ages.

    Preschooler wants to climb on school furniture because she’s allowed to at home?

    “The rules are different here. Get down.”

    College student who has never had to struggle in class is blindsided by a poor grade?

    “The rules are different here. One test can really make or break your grade, and some professors won’t be flexible. You study until you know it or you fail.”

    This is not to belittle their struggles in any way. But the nice thing about the phrase is that it has no judgment attached. You’re not saying it’s fair or not fair that the adult world is like this, simply that it IS, and your job is to help them successfully navigate that world. So whether the professor was “fair” or not is beside the point; the grade won’t change on its own–so what do we do going forward?

    Redirect the conversation away from moral judgments about the situation (not because they’re invalid but because they won’t change anything) and towards what they will do to fix the problem. Or at least prevent it from re-occurring.

    Easier said than done, I know, but I hope it helps at least a little!

    1. MA Dad*

      I feel like I agree with you, but I get stuck on the unfairness. College students are just entering adulthood where they’ve been bombarded with experienced adults either acting like selfish buffoons from things like COVID or in high positions where they can be unfair to others with little to no recourse (corporations, politicians, etc.).

      We tell people to be the change they want to see but also tell them to adapt to the “real world” as soon as they fight for something they believe in.

      It reminds me of the old anti-drug commercial, “I learned it by watching you!”

  87. Pounce de Lion*

    Sounds like you are doing the work of a high school teacher without benefit of the training and peer support a high school teacher gets. Employers would be wise to educate their older staff on how to support and work with Generation P[andemic] in the same way I was once educated about the Millennials.

  88. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I’m sitting here thinking about this question and wondering if it’s a more esoteric issue than just “here are behavioral norms”.

    One result of pandemic/online-everything etc is that we have a current cultural exposure to a lot of people by themselves in a room watching other people alone in a room talking about their own personal topics. The disconnect is real.

    I think one of the most valuable lessons you can teach a person in this scenario is how to see things from another point of view. An interactive role-play where people swap hats midstream could shake up some of the Me-ism that goes on.

    It’s a developmental task that we learn and relearn at different points of life, and I think that we’re losing track of the time when we learn this to be an adult.

    1. Katrina*

      Agreed! I don’t know if it’s something that’s in OP’s schedule or skill set to do…no one wants to admit they’re being self-centered, after all, so the exercise would probably not be met well…but it’s likely something they would benefit from.

      Ideally a lot more college students would be seeking therapy after such a difficult high school experience but there’s still a lot of stigma around that.

      It’s much easier to assume you (general you) are fine and everyone else has the issues.

  89. nnn*

    I can’t tell through the internet whether you’ve already tried this, but one thing I do with interns in general is specifically tell them how to handle problems in our context and why.

    Example: “If you realize you’re not going to be able to meet a deadline, the most important thing to do is tell your supervisor right away. Often we can reassign the work or split it with someone else, sometimes we can renegotiate the deadline. It has happened to everyone at one time or another and salvaging the situation with plenty of warning is much easier than trying to fix it at the very last minute.”

    As an added bonus, this moves it completely away from “Your behaviour is bad and wrong”, into the far more benign “Here are our processes.”

    1. kiki*

      I don’t know how much this relates to cohorts impacted by the pandemic, but this lesson was a HUGE one for me. I had always been academically successful, but motivated by a deep, deep fear of failure. In school I was always given tasks that were achievable by design– they might have been challenging, but I could always get them done with the resources I was given in the time allotted. That’s not how the working world is, though, so I had no idea how to handle issues I couldn’t tackle. I had no idea how to ask for help. I completely panicked and probably seemed like an absolute clueless menace. I’d often avoid tackling issues I identified much earlier because I didn’t want to “get in trouble” and hoped I could resolve them on my own even though it should have been clear that was an unreasonable load of work for me.

      The mentors who saw that I was lost and panicking, not a person who simply didn’t care, were able to coach me through the right way to work through mistakes at work. Being a human means making mistakes and doing things imperfectly– what matters most is how you work through challenges.

  90. Lizzo*

    If the needs of the people the nonprofit is serving have changed, can the nonprofit adapt to that?

    The problems you–and they (women) are facing–are so much bigger and more complicated than they were five years ago. Can the type of mentoring and support provided as part of this program evolve accordingly to help close that pandemic-induced gap?

    1. Specks*

      Ah, what a wonderful comment getting at the bottom of the problem and suggesting a thoughtful path forward. I’m so disappointed by all the “tough love” suggestions, clearly lacking understanding of what these poor kids went through during their key developmental years.

      1. Yup*

        Same. I look at those comments and see my kid and her peers struggling, and it breaks my heart. Tough love never fixed anybody.

      2. MA Dad*

        Agreed. “Tough love” always struck a nerve with me because it gives the “love giver” free reign to be a jerk and maybe it was because I was bullied a lot, but it never ever felt like love (and I was given talks like that a bunch growing up)

    2. BellyButton*

      Yes! I was wondering what kind of training the volunteers are being offered. WE have to change the way we mentor, coach, teach, and manage the younger generations. They had different opportunities, different parents, different schools, a different WORLD- what they need and what they know is different than what we did 5+ yrs ago

    3. Letter Writer*

      I’m going to kick this idea up to the national organization. I think we may need to adapt to fit the needs of the population we’re trying to help.

  91. Christmas850*

    “ I feel that I have a responsibility to these students, and as long as they continue to show up, even if they’re not taking my advice, then so will I. I want to see them succeed.”

    If they aren’t taking advice, then it sounds like you want them to succeed more than they do. It’s admirable of you to continue to show responsibility, leadership, and guidance, but you can’t want them to have their job more than THEY do! If guidance and redirection isn’t working, the only way they will learn that unprofessional behavior is unacceptable is to be dismissed from the job.

  92. Annony*

    I do think that you should have a written code of conduct that lays out expectations and lists reasons for dismissal from the program. Some of what you describe should result in them being dropped and honestly may be the only way to keep people interested in mentoring and getting across to the students that their behavior is absolutely not acceptable.

    If they cannot treat their mentors with basic curtesy, they do not deserve spot in the program. It goes both ways. Mentors also need to treat the students with curtesy. Same goes for lying and spreading rumors. If you want the program to survive, you cannot force mentors to put up with that.

    Some things deserve more grace. For example, a student who cries at negative feedback should be coached on how to handle it in a work situation. If they shut down or try to shift blame, coaching could help them to recognize why that behavior is counterproductive.

    But for people who are screaming or not productive, you should try to shift your perspective. Dropping them from the program might be the best thing both for them and the program. You cannot keep the program going if no one volunteers and that means that the mentees cannot be abusive or waste the mentor’s time. Giving bad behavior a pass or a slap on the wrist reinforces the idea that they can get away with it. Sometimes allowing bad behavior to have consequences is the best way to teach someone.

  93. Specks*

    I have to say, speaking of generational entitlement… could you remind some of your older volunteers (I imagine the ones making these comments), that this generation was shut at home for 2 years, isolated away from social and educational opportunities, primarily to protect the older members of our global community? We all know schools were not shut down for as long as they were mostly due to dangers to the kids themselves, but to prevent wider spread. These kids sacrificed key developmental opportunities to ensure some of the people complaining about them would still be with us, and the absolute least we owe them is grace and guidance.

    1. Mim*

      Where were schools closed for 2 years? My kid was remote for 3 months, and the next academic year hybrid for about half the year, then back to in person for the rest. That was pretty typical based on friends with kids around the US. The last time my kid had a hybrid schedule was 3 years ago.

      It’s not a year of partially disrupted in school time that ended 3 years ago. It’s a literal vascular disease that hardly anyone is trying to avoid anymore.

  94. Boof*

    Boundaries/own oxygen mask/can’t save everyone. It’s noble to try but don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm. I say that because by what you write, LW, you are already investing 5x or more the effort you intended, and the effort sounds like it’s not feeling productive, since other members, who are presumably experienced, are tempted to give up.
    Ultimately, there may be more here than you can fix. I think it’s worth accepting that you can only control your part, you can’t control the outcome. With that said, how much effort are you willing to put in, both from the perspective of “I have done enough to know I tried” as well as “I’m not sacrificing more than I want to and will feel resentful if I don’t see the results I’d hope for from this”.
    So, boundaries. How much are you comfortable doing, even if your mentees don’t actually seem to change their behavior?
    With that being said, I think it’s worth considering dropping the biggest drains. I think it’s also worth being explicit with them about it and giving them a limited chance to turn things around. Have one conversation about what you are willing and able to do, and what you want to see from them. And that if they can’t adhere to that, you can’t be a resource for them. Enforce it. It sucks that some of this probably happened because of things outside their control, but doesn’t mean you can fix it, doesn’t even mean if you burn yourself out trying it will make a difference. So choose your battles, give these folks a chance to turn things around, but walk away if they can’t/wont. Maybe they will learn later, maybe in another year or two, you aren’t the only think that can possibly help them, and most people will change when they’re ready to change, and not before.

  95. Commenter 505*

    Perhaps you could try “provid[ing] leadership opportunities and mentoring for college-aged women to help prepare them for life after graduation.”

  96. Addison DeWitt*

    20 years ago, political scientist Michael Barone wrote a book called Hard America, Soft America, whose thesis was that we have the least competent 20-year-olds and the most competent 30-year-olds on earth, and the challenge for a kid (or his parents) is making the leap from the very forgiving world of school to the no-nonsense world of adult employment. Those who can pull it off go far in life, those who expect Participation Trophies for the rest of their lives will find it very frustrating. Good luck– and look for the kids who seem to get what’s needed as they advance into adulthood; they’re the future.

    1. BellyButton*

      Not going to lie this makes me angry. Those 30 yr olds are now 50 yr olds and the parents of these young people. Those competent 30 yr olds raised these people, and now we adjust.

    2. anon1987*

      It’s fascinating to watch so many adults convince themselves, for every single cohort of 21-year-olds, that these 21-year-olds are uniquely unacceptable in some unprecedented way.

      I felt welcomed into the adult world at 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. Then when I was 21, in 2008, American society had a huge freakout about how millennials were supposedly horrible people with no skills or drive or ability to make money. By that point, at the end of an intense undergraduate degree, I no longer felt treated like an adult, but I kept doing the adult things I was accustomed to doing. Eventually the rhetoric mostly subsided, but I was left with a bizarre sense of betrayal and of having been asked to question myself for no reason at all.

  97. Marmot*

    First, thank you for giving them grace. I was a socially akward, ADHD kiddo and needed a lot of grace on entering the workplace even *without* the pandemic as a factor. And subtle feedback didn’t always work for me. From your post, I’m wondering if you’ve tried to give too much grace – if you haven’t been direct enough about what you’re seeing.

    Have you had a more blunt/frank conversation? Maybe one or two… “Workplace Norms Boot Camp” type presentations for the whole group – to get everyone on the same page and (hopefully) keep you from having to handle the same issues again and again with each individual. Follow this up with some Very Serious conversations with individuals as issues come up.

  98. CzechMate*

    I work in college student advising . Putting the pandemic attitude thing aside–one issue I see is that you seem to have created an environment where these young women feel that you are their shoulder to cry on. So, I recommend approaching THAT much like you would with any other employee–sitting them down and saying, “I want to help you, but we cannot have conversations like this. I am here to be your professional mentor, but not your therapist” or whatever.

    Before I was in college advising, I actually would help coordinate these types of internship type programs at nonprofits. A big part of that included mandatory classes on HOW to behave in a workplace because, let’s face it, some of them just never got that experience before. We actually would have them do a twice-weekly class that talked about things like communication and managing emotions in the workplace. So if you’re going to have cohorts of new interns in the future, it could be worthwhile to consider that something like that might be necessary.

    For now, I’d recommend setting up a meeting with all of your interns about professional expectations. This can be framed in a nice, educational way, rather than a lecture, but they 100% need to be told that they cannot act this way (and point to their offer letters or internship contracts, if those exist). You may also need to set up 1:1 coaching with them to regularly discuss their performance.

    Going forward, I’d recommend the following:
    -If the internships are related to a college course, set up closer communication with the college/university. If an intern is really going off the rails, and they’re doing an internship class, you can sometimes have the university intervene on your behalf. You could even consider setting up MOUs with certain universities/colleges and having set language about what is expected of the interns and when an internship can be terminated. This also in theory helps ensure that the advisors/career offices/field site placement folks are also coaching the interns on professionalism.
    -Have an orientation for all interns where you discuss professional expectations. Have an intern professional handbook and/or contract and discuss what the consequences will be if they fail to adhere to the professional standards.
    -Make them have check-ins with their site supervisors. This is both to help with the professional coaching and to put out some fires before they start.
    -If you have the time and resources, you can even consider having regular meetings/class with all interns to talk about what they’re learning in their internship and how they can deal with issues they’re having at their worksite.

    Good luck!

    1. CzechMate*

      Forgot to add that being FIRED from an internship is also a valuable learning experience. I had two students this year who were fired from their internship sites. With the most recent one, we had a couple of long conversations about why it happened and what she learned, and, ultimately, it’s turned out to be fairly positive for her in a lot of ways.

  99. Dido*

    Threatening to remove the worst offenders doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. Either it’ll be the wake-up call they need to get