What Boomer’s Don’t Understand About Generation Y Will Hurt Them
As a member of Generation Y, I often hear about how different we are than people only ten, fifteen years older – some positive, some negative. Let me take a stab at shedding some light on the myths and facts.
Fact: We love technology.
Yes. We love computers, cell phones, pda’s, iPods, gps, and anything else that will beep, ring, or buzz. We like getting news as it breaks, having instant communication at our fingertips, and the ability to buy movie tickets in the car on the way to the theater.
Point: We like to stay connected. We like to network.
I realize that watching your kid text their friends or check Facebook at the dinner table is annoying. Sorry. I apologize. But as we enter the workforce in droves, employers expect – demand – that we be at their beck and call. The good thing: we don’t generally mind being in constant contact or increasing the flow of communication with our employers. As kids we ran three, four, five instant messaging conversations at a time while we listened to music, had the TV on, and worked on homework. We’ve learned to multi-task. Those of us that have become entrepreneurs feel the pangs of success, and we don’t want to miss that one important phone call or see that email we’ve been waiting on that lands us that new, long-awaited account or client.
So, I feel your pain – I find it to be annoying when friends text while we’re out together, but I understand because believe me, when my boss calls, I’m answering it.
Myth: We’re lazy.
This complaint is usually in conjunction with griping about how Gen Y wants flexibility. Guys, flexibility does not equal laziness. Flexibility is adapting for maximum affect. Laziness is simply non-productive.
Most of us were latchkey kids. Having a parent stay home was almost unheard of for those of my generation. We came home after school and had time to ourselves. Sure, homework and chores had to be done, but no one was standing over us as we did them. It was expected that we would just handle it. We learned to be independent, self-motivated, and solve our own problems at an early age. Each of these attributes is a consequence of the way our generation was reared.
This mentality still exists within my generation. We know what has to be done and when, but we don’t need someone watching our every move. So when we ask to come in at 10:00 a.m. or if we can work from home, it’s because that’s what we’re used to, that’s how we work best. We embrace the freedom to be creative and appreciate being trusted to fulfill our duties, but within our own space.
Please, do not misunderstand; those of our generation seek the guidance and leadership, or mentorship, of our superiors in the workplace. We need the support and the praise that all humans need in order to feel needed, to belong. However, we respect those who respect us and those who are sincere in their leadership role. We are not easily impressed with one’s position, but we do have tremendous respect for one’s integrity, work ethic, honesty, and all of those attributes that every generation honors.
That said, we are not wholly unopposed to traditional settings. We did sit in classrooms just like you, after all. Generally, we’re just asking for some space and to be flexible.
Fact: We’re overachievers.
Perhaps this goes with the “lazy” myth. We might work nontraditional hours, but our hours are long. Some of my best work is done at midnight, so why shouldn’t that count towards my “day”?
Just because we were latchkey doesn’t mean that our parents didn’t check up on us or hold us accountable. Our parents were generally highly educated, or at least knew enough to ensure that we realized that education was important, even critical to our future success and ultimate pursuit of happiness. We’re also the first generation to have “helicopter parents” who called our teachers and read over our term papers – to the extreme. They demanded that we strive to exceed their level of accomplishment in the working world and in life.
We’re trying. That’s what motivates us to answer the phone in the middle of the night when our boss calls or why we work when we can’t sleep. For those in our generation, there is no second best – second place is the first loser.
Myth: We feel entitled.
As a consequence of our upbringing and technologies that provide instant access to a world of knowledge, we were a generation of kids with not only adult responsibilities, but also adult knowledge. We watched ourselves, and often our siblings. Instant access to a world of information allowed those of our generation to learn about adult subjects at a much younger age. We had all the information we needed and wanted at our fingertips. We learned about new and ever-changing technologies as quickly as they appeared on the market, and eagerly anticipated the introduction of new devices months before they appear in the market place.
We’re accustomed to those responsibilities, and as we enter the workforce we want to continue to be treated like well-educated adults. We don’t feel entitled to acceptance, understanding, and respect, but we do feel like we are capable of earning those things.
Let us be ourselves. Understand that although we are perhaps different from you, we know that we can learn from you – much like you learned from your parents. Boomers, you were radical compared to previous generations, give us room to do the same. (After all, we will one day be running your law firms and owning your businesses.)
Not to sound harsh or indignant, but: You made us this way. And we should thank you, because you taught us well.