As a kid, I always would look up to people in higher grades and wait for the day when I, too, could be like them. They'd get out of school earlier, or have the option of a late start, or ... fill in the ellipses with whatever it was the older kids had a right to that I didn't. I'd sit back and wait patiently for my turn, as was expected.
When I grew up a little bit, I joined the Boy Scouts. Once again I was struck with the dichotomy between the "new guys" and the "older Scouts." One of the biggest ones was that the older Scouts were allowed to cook meals for the Troop, and the younger Scouts always did the dishes. Not quite fair (particularly on spaghetti night), but the older Scouts had been around longer and had thus earned the right to go outside and play after the meal. The younger Scouts would have to wait their turn to earn such a right.
Even older still, and most of my friends and I have entered the workforce. Unfortunately, I see this trend of "waiting" has turned most of my peers into cynics. Just the other day I was chatting with someone who strongly believed it would be 3-5 years before he would be allowed to take a week's vacation from work. He was the "new guy" and had to prove himself before earning the right to take time away from work. And he was perfectly OK with this system.
Another close friend of mine is having trouble with seasonal lay-offs at work. Had he not accepted a supervisory role (something he hadn't wanted to take in the first place), he would have been the first worker laid off. Now, as a supervisor, he's worried about laying off the low men on the totem pole because, in reality, they are harder workers than those protected by the seniority roster.
There are too many people who believe tenure in the workforce is a herald to some higher form of earned entitlement, be it vacation, pay, or a real sense of accomplishment. Why? Our system of entitlement — reward for tenure — has turned us into a society of cynics. We have branded ourselves as a world that places more value on the number of years spent performing a task than on the actual quality produced.
In the business world, a brand represents not just the end product, but also the people and the culture that went into designing it. With that said, if America were a business, how would this particular aspect of our culture define our brand?