Ed. Note: Nick Varner is a recent graduate of Central Michigan University and is going on for his Masters in Educational Leadership. As part of Generation Y, Nick wanted to share some Gen Y insight and set the record straight on a few misconceptions…
Flip-flops, iPods, and e-Meetings are arriving in the workplace, and arriving in numbers. This change in workplace decorum seems outrageous to those who are experienced members of the workforce, but for those just arriving, this is standard. These changes have been heralded by the next generation of employees, Generation Y.
Generation Y typically refers to people born between 1977 and 1995 that are now entering the workforce. As this generation arrives, so do all the myths concerning them. Generation Y is often thought of as lazy, laid-back, and self-serving individuals who don’t understand the meaning of hard work and commitment. This view only allows Generation Y to be a liability, while ignoring the aspects of the next generation that makes them assets.
One big generational difference is the concept of ‘putting in the hours’. The previous generations conceptualize hard work as maintaining a 40 hour work-week and working steadily through the week. Generation Y does not accept this model; they focus more on workplace efficiency than the hours spent in the workplace. They strive to find the most efficient methods of accomplishing tasks, not because they are lazy, but so they can spend their time more wisely.
Another big misconception between the generations is the idea of commitment. The baby boomers believed that they would find a job, work for thirty years, and then retire from that same company. This is not the case for Gen-Y. Whereas the previous generation looked for a workplace, Gen-Y looks for workplace opportunities. They will work at a company for 3-5 years in order to gain a specific skill set and knowledge base, but then move their talents to another company. However, where Baby Boomers might see this as a lack of commitment, Gen-Y sees this as a quest for knowledge. They strive to increase their knowledge base and the way to do this post-academia is through varied work experience.
Finally, there is the charge that they are lazy. This is often promoted due to a new mindset held by the members of Gen-Y: they work to live, not live to work. This is a drastic change between the generations; whereas Baby Boomers were defined by where they worked and what they did, Gen-Y refuses to hold such titles. They define who they are by what they do outside of the workplace. This is not an attempt to be lazy and ignore work, but an attempt to live a well-rounded life in which their contributions at home gain as much recognition as their contributions in the workplace.
Generation Y has arrived. They are sporting tattoos, wearing flip-flops and have a new mindset, but this is not the end of the world. Rather than dismissing an entire generation, focus on what they can bring to the table and how their addition can truly help your organization.
Nick Varner can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org