Gen Y in the WorkplaceIn Novem­ber of last year I went to Bold Fusion, the largest annu­al con­ver­gence of YPs in the Greater Cincin­nati area. It was my sec­ond year attend­ing, and it still has me think­ing about the Gen Y/Millennial/Digital Native gen­er­a­tion. Many senior man­agers and exec­u­tives describe Gen Y as enti­tled, over­ly con­fi­dent, unwill­ing to “work their way up”, dis­en­gaged, and eas­i­ly offend­ed by crit­i­cism. To ful­fill this stereo­type, as a Mil­len­ni­al, I am offend­ed by these accu­sa­tions, and here is why.

We, as a gen­er­a­tion, are not “bad”. We are just dif­fer­ent. My moth­er tells me sto­ries about using slide rulers in a seg­re­gat­ed south­ern ele­men­tary school, and how she was the first class of women to ever be admit­ted into Geor­gia Tech. I, on the oth­er hand, just nat­u­ral­ly use Google as a cal­cu­la­tor and in my gen­er­a­tion there are more women than men seek­ing high­er edu­ca­tion (20% vs. 15%) accord­ing to pewresearch.org.

As a species, humans do not like change. Most of us hide from change, and will only make a change when it is absolute­ly nec­es­sary. I believe this is why Gen Y has such a bad rep . We feel com­fort­able with change because in our few short years on this earth access­ing enter­tain­ment has gone from A/B cable & VHS, to DVR & DVD, to Net­flix, Hulu, iTunes, and Blue Ray. Enter­tain­ment is just one frac­tion of life and think of how much it has evolved. Gen Y has the poten­tial to be incred­i­ble inno­va­tors because we are not just com­fort­able with change, we bask in it.

The ques­tion now is what exact­ly do Mil­len­ni­als want to change?

Work-Life Bal­ance

Accord­ing to Forbes.com, the Mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion is not the only gen­er­a­tion that would like to main­tain work-life bal­ance. In fact, both Mil­len­ni­als and Gen Xers agree (at the same lev­els) that the demands of their work inter­fere with their per­son­al lives. To quote Emi­ly Matchar of the Wash­ing­ton Post, “the mod­ern work­place frankly stinks, and the changes wrought by Gen Y will be good for every­body.”

In Ms. Matchar’s arti­cle from WashingtonPost.com she lays out some pret­ty shock­ing sta­tis­tics. Few devel­oped coun­tries demand as much from their work­ers as the Unit­ed States. Amer­i­cans spend more time at the office than cit­i­zens of most oth­er devel­oped nations. Annu­al­ly, we work :

  • 408 hours more than the Dutch
  • 374 hours more than the Ger­mans
  • 311 hours more than the French.
  • 59 hours more than the stereo­typ­i­cal­ly nose-to-the-grind­stone Japan­ese.
  • Though women make up half of the Amer­i­can work­force, the Unit­ed States is the only coun­try in the devel­oped world with­out guar­an­teed paid mater­ni­ty leave.

Respect & Auton­o­my

Since birth we have been told we are spe­cial, smart, cre­ative, a win­ner, etc. Our par­ents gave us a lot of choic­es, and a lot of con­trol around the choic­es we made. We respect our elders, but also demand respect for our­selves. We are now clash­ing with the Baby Boomers and Gen X in the work­place, not because we have an over inflat­ed ego, but because the Gen Y gen­er­a­tion believes every­one should be respect­ed no mat­ter what their rank in an orga­ni­za­tion is.

We also believe that every­one can have great opin­ions and insight regard­less of rank and author­i­ty. The work­place is already mov­ing to a flat orga­ni­za­tion­al design, but I would pre­dict as more Gen Y’s move up the lad­der the orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture will start to be much more com­mu­ni­ty dri­ven.

Pas­sion & Engage­ment in the Work­place

What employ­er doesn’t want an engaged & pas­sion­ate work­force!? Mil­lenials under­stand that a HUGE part of their life will be ded­i­cat­ed to work, and want that piece of their life to be mean­ing­ful, con­gru­ent with their val­ues, and some­thing they enjoy doing. Mil­lenials are much more aware that life is not com­prised of silos. Every­thing in one’s world affects every­thing else. If a per­son is not engaged in their job they are not as engaged or sat­is­fied with their rela­tion­ships, home life, social groups, etc. 

The next time you come across a Gen Y resume look close­ly. Is that Mil­lenial just a job hop­per, or are they find­ing an orga­ni­za­tion and job that they are aligned with? In my lim­it­ed expe­ri­ence as a man­ag­er, when a Mil­lenial finds a job and orga­ni­za­tion they are engaged in, the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the work­er is quite astound­ing.

I bet you are think­ing “so, what exact­ly is the point of this arti­cle”?

Well, the point of this arti­cle is — do not under­es­ti­mate my gen­er­a­tion just yet. We are not whin­ing, self-indul­gent, self-rec­og­nized Princes and Princess­es wait­ing to one day be hand­ed the keys to the king­dom. We are valu­able assets in the work­force that can bring inno­va­tion, thought-lead­er­ship, and calm dur­ing the ever­last­ing change storm. And hey, don’t we all want a lit­tle more per­son­al time, respect, and pas­sion in our lives?