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As a nation in recession we can't afford to be seen as lazy

THE words of PayPal's Louise Phelan may only sound like the venting of an annoyed executive, but few in business would dispute her claims.

Off the record, executives from a wide range of industries are quite happy to speak about the attitude problem of young staff today.

That is even more pronounced in the mid-levels of major companies, and is something I have experienced first-hand.

As an employee in a US investment bank in the middle of the last decade, I had to run a team mostly in their early and mid-20s which at its peak numbered about 15.

The vast majority of the team were humble, hard- working and I would have trusted them with any task. Sadly, that was not the case with all of them.

Whether it was routinely arriving in late and leaving early, or missing targets at the end of the month, it was the same few people who came bottom of the list every month.

It was also the same few people who couldn't understand why they hadn't got a good end-of-year performance review, despite their failings being repeatedly flagged to them.

The bizarre thing, at least to me, was that despite staff turnover, the ratio of good to bad remained about the same.

Not hungry

These people had had the best of everything growing up, and in raw intellect, were probably smarter than most people in the office. They just were not hungry.

During the boom years they could get away with it though. They could complete a contract with one firm, and immediately sign on with another, regardless of their previous performance. That has changed drastically, however.

It's true that these people are in the minority. After all, the thousands of young people who have emigrated for work are clearly not in this category and neither are most of those still working here.

A country's reputation can turn on such things though.

We already have a big problem with the international perception that we're all alcoholics. We can't afford to be seen to be lazy as well.

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