Ed. Note: Nick Varner is a recent graduate of Central Michigan University and is going on for his Masters inEducational 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
For a couple of years now, all I’ve heard about is how the Gen Y generation don’t want to work. They think nothing of quitting a job after a year. Coddled by their parents to the point of complete lack of understanding of the pressures facing them in “the real world”. You have to talk to them gently. They can text, type, talk and listen… all at the same time. They think it’s OK to come in to work at noon in Berkenstocks and toting an iPod. And still be the company President in a year.
Some employers say it’s frustrating. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place because boatloads of baby boomers are retiring and Gen Y is moving in. They are more technically savvy and can do the work in half the time as their older peers. Their older counterparts are going to have to learn to work with them, if they want to work collaboratively at all.
I am seeing it in a different way. I have 4 nieces and nephews (ages 18-22) in college and they are all incredibly hard working (and I’m not just saying that because I adore them). They all held jobs through high school and still in college, while juggling sports, chores, friends, etc. They have turned out to be very respectful young adults and they don’t expect to be given anything. Now perhaps they are in the minority, but judging by their roommates and friends who are doing the same thing, they seem to be in the average.
True, Gen Y professionals don’t have the mindset, “stay at your company until retirement”, and rarely will they stay long enough to leave an impact, but in this economy is that such a bad thing? When I was in my teens and early 20’s, my parents kind of gave me the “Oh well, deal with it” shrug if I complained about a job. They also gave me the “You’re not living here if you don’t have a job and are going to college” look/talk. Needless to say I moved out at 21, went to school full time, and worked full time while paying for my own education. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
I am so glad I did. What a sense of accomplishment. The kids today are told they can come back to stay. 65% of kids move back home after college and they are OK with it, whereas I would have been mortally embarrassed to face friends AND family if I moved back to Mom and Dad’s. Times are different today. Parents parent differently today and kids expect things from their folks (imagine that!) but that is a whole other story!
So, what’s the conclusion to the story? Perhaps we judge too harshly EVERYONE in the Gen Y generation. There are still good, hard working young professionals out there, wanting to find a good job and stay there for many, many years. Not ALL people in their 20’s are “slackers” and reside in the “what’s in it for me?” mentality. Maybe they will help transform the workplace into a more flexible and friendly place to be– while still getting their work done and rescheduling their yoga times to evenings. Who’s to say? Anything is possible.