September 24, 2008

Gen Y Lambasting

Posted in Millenial Mumblings tagged at 10:33 am by R

I was at a conference last week for a client. It was an extremely interesting event. I got to put a lot of names with faces, be a part of the 2009 strategy launch and was one of only a handful of Gen Yers in attendance.

As part of the conference we discussed how to engage younger users and how to attract, keep and grow younger talent into leadership.

During the section on generational differences, the presenter asked:

What are some characteristics of Millenials?

When from across the room in response, with out raising a hand, came a drenched-with-distaste:

Entitled. Everyone needs to get a gold star.

People around the room lightly chuckled in agreement. It wasn’t so much the actual statement, but the way  it was delivered that really got me — and the crowd’s reaction. There’s some downright bitterness toward our generation!

Our presenter asked what other characteristics there were. Several other people answered with less-than-flattering comments, generalizations and other stereotypes (like lack of patience, “job-hoppers,” and impatient) about Gen Y. Finally I’d had it. I raised my hand and said:

We grew up with technology. The entirety of our formative years has taken place at a time when the world was obsessed with going at a faster and faster pace because of new technology. We have little patience for paper or elongated processes because we’ve been trained to know there’s probably a better and faster way to do it.

Silence. Just silence.

In that silence, I realized we are a conundrum unto older generations. They just don’t know what to do with us. It’s hard for people to understand what we are able to contribute and it seems that the focus is on “breaking” our “bad habits,” not utilizing the natural skills we bring to the proverbial table.

Some of the questions I heard posed that day included:

  1. How do I make them adhere to my values?
  2. Why don’t they do things the way they ought to be done – the way they always have been done?
  3. Why don’t they work as hard?

If I may quickly dispell these:

  1. Whoa. Why can’t we share our values? Isn’t it possible there’s some common ground there? Collaboration and acceptance is a big thing for Gen Y. It takes everyone to be a genius.
  2. The way things are done is simply not the way they will continue to be done — in everything. Tiiiiiiiimes, they are a’ changin’. Millennials have a fresh perspective and forward-looking attitude on technology. Change is scary for many, especially those who aren’t superb with new technology, but it’s happening anyway. Gen Y’s natural aptitude can be an asset in this transition.
  3. WHAT!? I’m attached to my Blackberry 24/7. I work from home at night, on the weekend, on vacation. Being a hard worker doesn’t mean being in the office any longer. The office isn’t a requirement for working hard. It’s not out-of-office-off-of-work anymore. That’s a paradigm that’s going to change forever.

We’ve got to be ambassadors for the positive characteristics that our generation can bring to the workforce. We have to help people ease into the inevitable change and wave of things to come. That’s one of our strengths; to adapt to technology. And there’s a few more…but that’s another post.

And hopefully, other generations will consider the ways we can benefit the workplace, not just the nagging stereotypes that have clearly been branded on us.

Gold stars for everyone!



1 Comment »

  1. Greg Rollett said,

    I give it up to you for standing up in a room like that. That alone speaks volumes for our generation. Number 3 that you point out is critical. We are consumed with our work and being attached to media. Other than work-life balance, that has got to be a good thing. We are ready to get and always consuming.

    Great post!

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