Thursday, 21 March 2013

What’s Wrong With GenY?

Greetings from the lazy, entitled generation! You may know us as those lazy know-it-alls, who need constant positive reinforcement, ridiculously flexible work hours and a promotion every five to ten minutes. What happened to us? Why do we seem so much dumber than everyone else?

I think the real issue we have is a lack of communication. Much like the traditional married couple, where one stays home and takes care of the children, and the other is the primary breadwinner, there are arguments that are standard and could be avoided if both took time to see the other’s point of view.

For example: The person who goes to work all day often feels as though the stay-at-home partner is spending all their money, taking advantage of them, and is lucky to be staying at home. The stay-at-home partner often feels undervalued, because their contributions to the household aren’t measurable in currency.

I know this, because it has played out in every sitcom since the 50’s. If Archie and Edith Bunker can come to an agreement, surely the Boomers and GenY can figure something out. Let’s try and understand some things.

We Spend too Much Time on our Phones

Perception: We don’t look you in the eye when you’re talking, because we have a sweet game of Fruit Ninja on the go. Also, what you’re saying isn’t super important.

We don’t socialize the way people used to. I recently attended an Oscar party, where we were all watching the show together while simultaneously reading and tweeting commentary on our phones. This is how it works now. When we have dinner or go out for drinks, phones are on the table and active. You may find it annoying, but trust me…it’s only going to get worse.

Complaining about smart phones in 2013 the like complaining about rock music in 1984. Don’t be John Lithgow… nobody likes John Lithgow.

P.S. We’re not being antisocial, we’re experiencing life in augmented reality.

We’re Unprofessional

Perception: We dress too casually and we’re too informal.

Business attire is not a well-defined term. You can’t write it on an employment contract and expect everyone to dress how you think they should. I feel perfectly professional in a dress shirt, a blazer and a pair of jeans, so I will be surprised when the manager in the Cargo pants, that haven’t been ironed since the 70’s, tells me I’m inappropriately dressed for work.

Our communication style is admittedly more relaxed. Younger generations have been corresponding with their peers via the written word since before they were taught how to write proper correspondence. As a result, the English language is in the process of being completely destroyed. Emoticons are now accepted in work emails. Other less formal styles of writing will follow. Eventually, Twitter style abbreviations will become acceptable. As we transition, know that younger employee’s will jump the gun and start emailing that they will “tlk 2 u l8tr.” Be sure to correct this, because right now that sh*t’s annoying.

We Need Constant Positive Reinforcement

Perception: We need our hands held...pretty much all the time.

Having studied Human Resources, I know there are studies that indicate that positive reinforcement DOES motivate people. I also think some of us have taken this waaayyy too far. I actually find it condescending when someone throws out one of these.

“Thanks for putting that report together.” (i.e. Thanks for doing that thing I told you to do)

We don’t need the reinforcement as much as we need to know what the goals are, and if we are attaining them. We are much less likely than past generations to feel satisfied in a position where we’re doing what we’re told just because we were told to do it. You have to manage people like they’re people now. You can’t just tell someone to “push this button every hour” without telling them what the button does. My Dad has told me that if the boss isn’t complaining, everything must be fine. I’ve encountered enough managers who avoid negative feedback in performance appraisals to know this isn’t true.

We Expect Too Much Too Soon

Remember the olden days when you started at a company as the intern, and you got coffee for people until you were able to prove yourself, and you slowly moved up the ladder until you finally did something less degrading? I don’t…but I’ve read about it in books, and saw it on Mad Men.  What happened to this era?

Two Things Happened
  1. An undergraduate degree costs as much as half a house. We can’t afford to get you coffee for a year before we start making money.
  2. Google happened: Companies started publicly telling employees that they weren’t worthless or completely replaceable … and it just ruined us. 

Every generation thinks the younger generation are idiots. I used to think it about freshmen when I was a senior. I thought it about undergrads when I was a grad student, I currently think it about some new graduates entering the workforce and I fully anticipate to feel this way about each upcoming generation. The important thing is that I know that they are not ACTUALLY all idiots, but I will perceive some of the things they do as unprofessional or stupid because they are different. As a younger generation, we also have a duty to manage and understand the expectations of our more senior counterparts. A lot of what we think is normal really gets under their skin.  The purpose of this post was not to call anyone out or justify anything, but to initiate an open dialogue to facilitate some kind of understanding. 

CAVEAT: There are some flagrant generalizations in this post. I chose Boomers and GenY to illustrate a point. I have met Boomers who blatantly answer voice calls in the middle of meetings, and have peers who glare at me when I check my phone. There are people at both ends of the spectrum in either age-range.