Rarely, in the few months I’ve been posting to this blog, have I been so motivated to react to an article than to the one recently featured on the Brazen Careerist homepage. The title of the article, Gen Yers lack confidence, behave like idiots, is not only blatantly untrue but offensive enough to merit not just a response, but moral outrage that something like this could even pass for professional journalism.
Reading more like a high school newspaper, the article opens with this:
After a Gen Y talk recently, an audience member shared an interesting story that went something like this: He — an Xer — was running late for a meeting, and he called down to tell the other employees, all younger, to start without him. Only nobody answered. So, thinking the line was tied up, he ran down to the room, only to find the seven Yers looking at each other, evidently unsure of what to do in the presence of a ringing phone.
Now there are a lot of reasons for this behavior, not the least of which might be stupidity, but I think it may have more to do with something that’s been obsessing me lately: confidence. For all the talk of our narcissism and unrealistic expectations, we also seem to lack a certain go-it-alone bravado that’s characterized many great leaders — bravado that just can’t be cultivated when you have a whole universe of parents, coaches, nannies, teammates and Facebook friends ready to rescue you at a moment’s notice. Like any toddler whose mother runs to him every time he falls, we’ve just learned to cry for help (really loudly), not pick ourselves up.
All I can say about this is, “Wow.”
Aside from the fact that this one example should not a stereo-type make (Were the members of the team equipped to even lead the meeting? Why was the boss late? Is he, as a manager, setting a poor example for his employees?), the most shocking thing about the article was not its content but the fact that a member of Gen-Y actually wrote it! Her name is Nadira A. Hira. Her bio is included with the article and you can feel free to email her at NHira@fortunemail.com.
The article continues with the “toddler-calling-for-mommy” metaphor for several more paragraphs:
What is that about, if not confidence? At least that’s what the folks at Hayden-Wilder, a firm that counsels recently minted college grads and rising seniors through the entry-level job search, told me when I spoke to them last year about the emerging Gen Y persona. “These young people don’t understand that they need to distinguish themselves,” says D.A. Hayden. “It’s almost wrong to reach out and say, ‘I’m a leader,’ They’re trained to work in teams — in school, in extracurriculars — they travel in groups of people, they don’t date singly. Everything is in this touchy-feely team environment. That’s all fine and merry when you’re a very junior candidate, but when you start moving up through the ranks, you have to put a stake in the ground…
“Because this generation has been so coddled,” says Michael Wilder, pointing to Yers’ ever-present boomer parents, “when they do have to make a decision on their own, they’re looking for affirmation. They have no basic experience to allow them to be confident about the decisions they’re making.”
If Yers are too afraid to distinguish themselves, why are so there so many young business/career bloggers in the blogosphere? Why does Generation Y have more entrepreneurs than any of the generations before them? I hate how professors, managers and older workers seem to have completely written off our generation (many of whom will not even enter the workforce for another decade) before we’ve even had a chance to get our bearings. And how can we present a positive image when members of our own generation seem hell bent on sabotaging us in an attempt to move their own careers forward?
Members of Gen-Y are given mixed messages by our bosses, peers and the media. First we’re told we’re narcissistic and demanding but then that we also lack assertiveness. We’re told we’re the most educated generation ever but then also that we’re idiots.
Is it no wonder that maybe we’re lacking a little confidence? Who wouldn’t under these circumstances?
And members of Generation Y are afraid to be leaders? I highly doubt that. Maybe you just don’t see many young people in leadership positions because management deems them too young and immature (thanks to articles like the one above) and refuses to put them in those positions. I’ve blogged about my very own troubles with being promoted to a leadership position. How can we say that Generation Y are not leaders, when they haven’t yet been given a chance to lead? How can you ignore the outpouring of young entrepreneurs and claim that Generation Y cannot work independently?
Folks need to open their eyes, get the facts, and stop relying on anecdotal evidence provided by some bitter old farts (said with all due respect to you older folks out there). While I can agree that my Generation isn’t perfect, whose generation really is?
And by the way, I was once in a meeting where the conference room phone rang–and guess what? I answered it. How’s that for confident leadership?