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In Defense and Praise of Gen Y

Gen Y, also known as the Millennials, is a group with birth dates roughly from 1980 to 2000. Gen Y workers are often labeled with unflattering terms. 

As a consultant for organizational development, one of my specialties is generational diversity. I work with many different cohorts to help bridge generational divide and ensure that everyone, regardless of generation—Boomer, X, Y, etc.—works well together.

Of all the groups I work with, Generation Y gets the worst rap. It seems everyone has a criticism about this group, which was raised in an era of “helicopter parenting” and “everyone is a winner” mentalities (participation trophies are a hallmark of this era). The entire generation has been painted with a very broad, not altogether flattering brush, and I am pleased to dispel a few misperceptions about them.
Here are the five most common perceptions about Gen Y and what I believe to be fact or fiction.

Perception 1: Generation Y is entitled. FICTION.

I think this generation was raised to believe they were players in the game. They were raised in democratic family systems. They were raised to have a voice and a seat at the table, and they come into the workplace and expect to have a say. So it is only natural that they would expect their opinion to matter at work.

Perception 2: Gen Y is impatient. SEMI-FACT.

Gen Y grew up when things like technology moved very fast. Change today happens much quicker than it did when I started in the working world. I think Gen Y is ambitious and they want things to happen now. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


Perception 3: Gen Y lacks a work ethic. FICTION.

From what I’ve seen, Gen Y works very hard, very efficiently, and very purposefully. I’m not sure where this bad rap came from, except that they want things to move faster than others. And again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it means they get things done.

Perception 4: Gen Y prefers technology to face-to-face interactions. FICTION.

I don’t think this is true, though I do think Gen Y may not understand and fully appreciate the importance of face-to-face interaction. It isn’t that they don’t value it, it’s that they don’t make the same distinctions we do between face-to-face and virtual. Their toolkit is bigger, and they use everything they’ve got to connect with people. And that’s actually a great advantage.

Perception 5: Gen Y expects trophies just for showing up. FACT.

I hate to say it, but this one is kind of true. This generation is used to receiving a lot of positive feedback and reinforcement just for showing up. This generation got used to getting ribbons and trophies and certificates just for participating in whatever they did, and that’s not the way the real world works. Everyone is not a winner.

That said, I think much too much is made of this issue. This is something that is quickly disabused in the real world. They get over it pretty quickly.

I’m not sure how so many misperceptions came about, but I think Gen Y is well suited to the workplace and is doing just fine. In fact, I’m a big fan.

Check out my segments about Gen Y on News Talk and Let’s Talk Live! Click here to see our Media page.

Find out more about generational impact in the workplace.

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