Gen Y: The kids are alright

Lame t-shirt

Lame t-shirt

I’m in the midst of researching an article on Generation Y (aka Millennials) and what we bring to the workplace. It’s been really fun so far, because research is essentially like reading my horoscope, only instead of being categorized in one of 12 months, it’s one of six 20-year spans. I get to read tonnes of material and feel validated because I relate.

Can we really lump millions of people into one category and call it an identity? Probably not. After all, not everyone born after 1980 is a tech-savvy, hyper-consumer with an Arts degree and a quarter-life crisis under his or her belt. There are plenty of exceptions to the non-rule.

However, if people are products of their culture, there could be something to the generational tendencies. While we don’t all line up on the Myers-Briggs personality test, we did experience the same social and political events in our formative years, which probably had an effect on our collective values. If nothing else, I think it’s worthwhile to pay attention to patterns of emerging paradigms, especially when they are as awesome as ours. The more I find out about what Gen Y is doing in the workplace, the more I’m glad I was born in the eighties.

Here are some highlights. Millennials:

  • are less likely to accept command and control, top-down communication; we prefer collaboration
  • are more likely to prioritize work-life balance over money
  • are less likely to work for socially irresponsible and unethical companies

This is great stuff. We are a generation that wants meaningful lives.

Gen Y-ers aren’t always met with open arms—labelled entitled and whiney, much like our post-war predecessors. As a group, our reputation for job hopping is met with disdain, as is our lack of willingness to wait around and pay dues.

To me, these aren’t necessarily bad qualities.

Dissenting tradition will always be frustrating for those who have clung to it for a long time. But I think it’s called fresh air when earning company loyalty takes more than a paycheque and when quick solutions are more valuable than keeping up appearances.

Like us or loathe us, Gen Y is a group to be reckoned with. As children of aging Boomers, the Gen Y population is large enough to make the changes that Gen X couldn’t. Now it’s a matter of what we’ll do with the influence. As not to be too proud, I am reminded of the hippies who grew up to run the very corporations they once despised. I’ll revisit this topic when I have a mortgage.

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5 thoughts on “Gen Y: The kids are alright

  1. Hmmmmmm. I love Gen Y. I really do. But, does the size of a generation determine its ability to change the world? I don’t think so. Generation X will rise to power in their careers at the precise time the planet needs it most. We will map out plans for a zero-carbon, zero-waste world. Women will have more choices, as will all people in developing countries – b/c of choices Gen X makes and leadership they deliver.

    I wish you the best and invite you to walk along side us, knowing that members of my Generation will help you any way we can. We did not, from one jen to another, have this help from Baby Boomers. The world will be different for you, and in many ways, b/c of the hardships on the shoulders of Generation X. Blessings and keep blogging. -jenx67

  2. @ jen: You raise a good point about numbers. Certainly even one person could change the world (e.g. Jesus).

    Didn’t mean to diminish the Xers; they’ve done their share. My point was only that the Boomers outnumbered you guys, and, by sheer size, Millenials represent a group that go head to head (vote to vote) with Boomers. It was a strength in numbers thing.

  3. I think that there is an important difference between Millennials and older generations: namely that Gen Y’s have chosen to revolutionize the system from within the ‘system’ (aka voting in increased numbers, looking for high engagement at work, etc.), compared to the Baby Boomers who fought to overthrow the system. We’ll probably have to wait twenty years to see which avenue was better, but I am hopeful that change can come from within.

    Also to further your research, you may want to check out these two studies. They refute many of the misconceptions that people have about Millennials in the workplace:

    Article on Millennials and a link to a scientific survey that shows Gen Ys are engaged at work:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080414.wlmillennial14/BNStory/lifeWork/home

    Survey by PWC that shows Millennials are no less loyal than other generations:

    http://www.management-issues.com/display_page.asp?section=research&id=5342

  4. Numbers and numbers alone will decide the depth of each generation’s foot print. A “Gen X” person may be in a position of leadership and have a great impact on society, but they will make decisions based on the numbers. The greater number of “Gen Y’s” will command more respect in the decision making process in the same way the “Boomers” have controlled the marketing/policital process for the last half century.

    Good writing Jen.

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