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How about Generation “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

Thanks to all who commented on my earlier post about supervising Generation Y – it generated some insightful conversation about the generation gap, so I thought it worthwhile to continue…

I have to admit that before now, I hadn’t thought much about how my own generation is perceived in the workplace.  While I wasn’t so much surprised to learn that you believe we’re innovative and tech-savvy (that’s pretty much how we perceive ourselves, an attitude that might explain why we’re also seen as narcissistic…), I was a little taken aback to read words like “lazy” and “disrespectful” in reference to us. 

Even more surprising was the stark contrast in opinion as to whether we have potential to be the next great generation of workers or the worst thing to happen to corporate America, as evidence by the results – all 124 million of them! - of my search for “generation y”. 

Here’s what I learned about my kind, according to the blogosphere:

Also, we sometimes go by “Echo Boomers” – which was a new one to me – “Millenials” and “Generation Why” (…that last one hurts).

While I definitely don’t agree with every opinion out there, I’ll say that I can begin to understand how my generation’s desire to be recognized for hard work might tend to come across as a need for constant praise (we don’t need it…it’s just nice is all); or how a few (maybe even several…) less-than-yearlong jobs on our resumes means we have no sense of loyalty…. 

As for the entitlement thing…well, can you blame us? We watch (from our entry-level desk jobs) as peers like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg build a multi-million-dollar business right out of college, and frankly, it makes us feel like suckers. 

I won’t argue that we’re definitely different from our older counterparts in terms of our work ethic. But that’s not to say that our differences are a bad thing (maybe it’s just one of those tomato/to-MAH-toe situations).

What really baffles me, however, is why my generation’s “entire entire perception of how companies treat workers is entirely different than any generation before them,” as one reader puts it. 

My first guess would be to say that because we’ve grown up in a world where there’s no piece of information we can’t Google, we’re simply convinced that, while we might not know everything, we know exactly how to quickly and easily find the information we need.   

But while it’s easy to say that growing up around all of this advanced technology has made us at once impatient – after all, we’re used to getting what we want when we want it – and resourceful – knowing how to get what we want – is it really that simple of an explanation?

What do you think, readers?  Being the (allegedly) needy millennial that I am, I’m now looking to you to help me figure out how to explain this disparity…

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
3 comments
Jonathan
Jonathan

These are interesting thoughts. Being a bit of a geek, this kind of conversation makes me think of the overall changes that have occurred in Western culture in recent years. As far as I can see, we Gen Y-ers (and I think Gen Why-ers nails me) are the first generation to grow up entirely under the widespread existence of postmodernism. Countercultural things like the hippie, punk rock, goth, etc. movements in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s marked the emergence of postmodernism and anti-modernism from the halls of university English departments, but it has taken a while for it to get into the minds of people in general.

In light of that, what if many of these things we are seeing are a cultural shift, rather than a generational shift?

Just to look at the list of characteristics in the post, what if we need constant praise because we have grown up under the idea that everything is relative, and what is good work for one employer, or on a given day, may not be good for another, or on another day?

What if we are disrespectful because we have been given a framework of thinking that legitimized itself by questioning and dismantling every form of authority with which it was presented?

What if we feel entitled because we have been given thoughts of creating our own realities?

What if we have no sense of loyalty because the senses of loyalty that postmodernism reacted to were responsible for horrible things from slavery to wars to genocides?

I suppose knowing what we want and knowing how to get it has passed me by... I spend too much time asking rhetorical philosophical questions.

And what if we value social responsibility because we fear being responsible for continuing the same horrors of previous generations, or paving new roads of failure?

Just saying. I don't necessarily have an answer for any of those questions, but I think they are valid ones to ask, especially in light of the fact that the generations that come after us will inherit the same cultural framework that we have.

Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions
Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions

I understand that when you look at people like Zuckerberg you "feel like suckers." However, for every success like his there are thousands of failures which, of course, never make the front pages. Because of the length of time that my generation (and I am 61)has been in the business world, we know that the Zuckerbergs of the world are exceptions. We have seen many more business people build good, solid businesses over a much longer period of time. We have seen many "great" business models and management fads come and go. I can't tell you how many people half my age told me during the dot-com boom that I just didn't understand the "new business model."

As for respect, I do believe there is less respect today because oppotunities are more plentiful and benefits no longer tie an employee to a company. Years ago, people showed respect out of fear of losing their job. The longer the employment with a company the better the benefits and the greater the job security. Today that is not the case.

Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions
Ron Meledandri - Sentra Business Solutions

I understand that when you look at people like Zuckerberg you "feel like suckers." However, for every success like his there are thousands of failures which, of course, never make the front pages. Because of the length of time that my generation (and I am 61)has been in the business world, we know that the Zuckerbergs of the world are exceptions. We have seen many more business people build good, solid businesses over a much longer period of time. We have seen many "great" business models and management fads come and go. I can't tell you how many people half my age told me during the dot-com boom that I just didn't understand the "new business model."

As for respect, I do believe there is less respect today because oppotunities are more plentiful and benefits no longer tie an employee to a company. Years ago, people showed respect out of fear of losing their job. The longer the employment with a company the better the benefits and the greater the job security. Today that is not the case.

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