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.
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.