A Plea to Baby Boomers: Please Stop Bashing My Generation

It seems that everywhere I look, I see some article or blog post about “Gen-Y” or “Millennials” (Am I the only person who thinks that name sounds silly?) in the workplace. There are heaps and heaps of articles about generation Y: what they want, what their goals are, how to recruit them and make them happy. There are also many, many posts from managers describing how bratty Millennials can be. As a member of what could effectively be labeled “The Dreaded Generation,” I have definitely seen examples of bad behavior but at the same time I am resentful that my generation is earning such a bad reputation.

The adjectives “greedy,” “entitled,” and “know-it-all” seem to come up frequently when it comes to labeling members of Generation Y. The general consensus seems to be that Millennials are a product of a spoiled upbringing by helicopter parents in an on-demand, instant-gratification culture. Their sense of entitlement comes from being handed everything by authority figures, and their exaggerated bank of knowledge from being over-educated. I definitely agree that this could be true for a lot of people, regardless of what generation they were born into.

However, I have a different theory as to why Generation Y seems to be the most spoiled, overindulged and arrogant of all the generations that came before them:

They are immature.

And what’s more?

They’ll grow out of it.

Greediness, a sense of entitlement and overconfidence are all symptoms of immaturity and lack of experience.

It’s great that young people today are optimistic about their futures and want to accomplish everything they can in work as well as life. I think the problem stems from wanting everything at once, right away, without a clear plan on how to get it. That is the nature of youth. Conflict arises between older generations who are insulted by a perceived lack of respect and younger generations who are frustrated that they aren’t accomplishing their goals. I think that both parties can be happy by finding the middle ground.

My Advice to Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Beyond

What Millennials need from you is compassion and more importantly, guidance. Younger workers want more from life than a steady paycheck and the corner office. They might come into your office demanding flex-time, recognition or continuing education. Know that lots of workers, not just members of Gen Y, want these things.

If you’re a manager, instead of balking at the impertinence of such demands from someone who is only 7 months into their career, use these perks to motivate your employees. Impress upon the Millennials that if they can get from point A to point B, proving themselves along the way, that they can have more vacation time, promotions or whatever else they desire. It’s important to emphasize that perks must be earned and then outline the steps they can to take to deserve them.

By mentoring Millennials instead of alienating them, you will not only help someone find more happiness professionally and personally but you’ll be helping the bottom line by retaining productive and tech-savvy workers with years of contributions ahead of them.

My Advice to Generation Y

Even if you decide to run your own company, you will at some point, have to play by someone else’s rules. You’ll attract more flies with honey than by trying to catch them one by one in a jar and demand that they give you flexible hours.

The greatest asset of youth is that people are willing to teach you. Soak up all the information you can about your industry while you have none of the responsibility for failure. Sure you may be fetching coffee and making Xeroxes but you also have the opportunity to learn about the hottest new technology or stock. That information is valuable and you can use it later when you decide to change jobs or start your own business.

The biggest favor you can do for yourself at work is practice humility. What you don’t know will always outweigh what you do. Your goal should be to continuously try to flip that ratio while showing the higher-ups that you are worthy of reward and praise. Remember that a college degree is not a golden ticket to success, hard work is.

Working Together

If more managers could be just a little more understanding of the follies of youth and if more Millennials could be just a little more patient when trying to accomplish their goals I think we might just be able to take a few steps towards closing that generational gap.

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9 responses »

  1. Pingback: Pages tagged "immature"

  2. Oh come on, if we do not bash your generation, then we would have to look at ourselves. I have seen myself in the mirror and it is not a pretty sight.

    I think each generation faces basically a similar criticism, and to me it seems to revolve around the work ethic and the expectations of what the employer should provide. Both of my parents grew up truly poor, and when I was a teenager the faced bankruptcy. They were always generous to me, but I never did receive the luxuries of my peers. Millennials are no different from those that I grew up with, and it took us some time to mature as well. It is something that we like to forget.

  3. You know that part in Orwell’s “1984” where Winston Smith tells us, ‘the best writing tells us what we already know, but in a way we could not possibly express on our own?” That’s what I thought of as I read this. Very sound advice on something not typically discussed.

    I suppose it makes sense in any aspect. With a more affluent upbringing, the sense of entitlement is greater. Eventually we realize we can’t buy the world though.

  4. One thing I’ve heard about this is that our generation is less willing to drop everything for work, and the older generations that employ us are irritated with that. But I think it’s a good thing, to a point. Maybe there is some immaturity causing it, but there does need to be some flexibility in the workplace to allow people to have balanced lives, especially since the people working now (men and women) usually don’t have a housewife at home to take care of the rest of life for them (which I think is a good change, but one we haven’t worked the kinks out of yet).

  5. Trouble is, it seems as if you’ve done the same to my generation as you say we do to yours. Egad, I hate being lumped into one group of people just because of my birthdate! My older sibling seems to fit the above description but I don’t and neither do many of my generation. Some of us -especially females – have faced similar, if not the same, issues as you do now as well as trying to make life easier for the females who followed. And nope, I’m not a feminist but just someone who’s had to work hard for just about everything I have.
    It would be nice if everyone cooperated and perhaps in time that just might happen I doubt it though as it does seem as if every generation isn’t happy with the work ethics of the newest one. I wonder what will happen in 30 years when several generations will be working together – they say those of my age won’t ever retire. gee, lucky us.
    As for Anonymous’ reply that people usually don’t have a housewife at home etc … hmmm. There was an article in our newspaper stating the contrary. ‘Seems a lot of ‘mid-20’s’ are still living at home laughing about how their parents are still doing everything for them.

  6. In the sector I tumbled into: tech, I don’t see this at all. I see my generation working long hours, often at well below market. I think the differences are here. One, we are more savvy and have more info at our disposal. So we know when the boss is bullshitting when he says the late nights and normal and our low pay is high. Two, I think there is an effect of a smothering narrative going on in the media. Namely, what we are seeing is the media pushing a myth (that my generation is bratty, has a poor work ethic, etc) in a way that is often used to justify shitty treatment. It wouldn’t be the first time managers have used age differences to exploit their relationship with younger employees.

    There is also a trust deficit. Who do you know who trusts the people or the company they work for these days? You can bet that plays a part.

  7. Pingback: Newly Corporate » Blog Archive » Getting Past No: Negotiations For Generation Y

  8. I really appreciated your comments Office Newb. As a gen X’r (40)I remember Douglas Copeland’s book, Generation X, that I read in the early nineties. We were tagged as slackers, young kids who were “directionless” and anarchists. Personally, it didn’t affect me since my business acumen began at an early age is my family’s business. At times I did feel resentful at the tag. A lot of my friends are in their twenties and employees that I manage. Its very refreshing to see the ambition and tap into their enthusiasm. Being in the creative industry, observing how this younger generation uses technology is the greatest litmus test, if your doing web based marketing for example. I was in the heart of it during the .com boom, but things have changed so fast, although guiding business principles have not. If you’re a good manager, you have to be open to change all around and extract those elements that are beneficial to everyone as a whole. I have run into Y’s with an obligation mindset and those that understand paying their dues. Reality sets in faster for anyone with an unrealistic expectation. I have also run into Boomers with the same expectations, when in fact their facing obsolescence because of their reluctance to learn new skills.

    Keep up the good writing. I admit, this is my first blog posting. So I have to learn just like everyone else!

  9. Being a Gen X myself, I’d say that you Gen Y’ers are fine. I wouldn’t bash you guys. You work cheap :-), are agreeable/flexible with doing different tasks, and productive (especially compared to your Baby Boomer brethern).

    As long as you get shit done I wouldn’t mind about requests for flex-time or perks (this applies to everyone). Your “greedyness” is fine too because everyone else is just as greedy (the Baby Boomers perhaps even more) and at least you are not afraid to express it.

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