05/08/2014 - 17:33

Y all this hostility from gen X?

05/08/2014 - 17:33


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One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard given to members of gen Y at work is that they need to grow up and face the ‘real world’, and stop expecting everyone to give them what they want.

Y all this hostility from gen X?
Age should be no barrier when it comes to getting all employees on the same page. Photo: iStockphoto

Getting the best out of your staff, of any age group, requires a degree of empathy with their goals and aspirations.

One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard given to members of gen Y at work is that they need to grow up and face the ‘real world’, and stop expecting everyone to give them what they want.

All of the individuals who have made this commentary to me, or in my presence, have been gen X.

Most of my insights about these generational fault lines have come while researching my recently published book, Understanding Y.

And while the sample base may be reasonably small, consistent patterns of behaviour emerge.

I have come to realise that baby boomers more or less understand gen Y, or at least have a greater tolerance of their behaviour. I assume this might be because they are the parent generation and members of gen Y are likely to be similar to their children.

I can only share from my personal experience, but it’s clear that those who have displayed the most obvious hostility to gen Y have been gen Xers.

So does gen X have sour grapes or does gen Y need to grow up? Does it really matter?

I’m not sure, although I acknowledge my obvious bias towards gen Y.

Admittedly, I do sometimes think it’s like members of gen X (aka the forgotten generation) worked their entire lives by the rules – rules that baby boomers more than likely also played by or at least reinforced. It’s like gen X put their collective heads down and bums up and worked their tails off for that corner office their entire career. They did as they were told, they did as was expected; and with baby boomers approaching retirement age, gen Xers seemed closer than ever before to calling that coveted corner office their own.

Only it turns out the baby boomers are yet ready to vacate that office. Making matters worse, the new kids on the block – gen Y – are introducing these crazy ideas to the baby boomers in the corner offices about ‘activity based working environments, whereby the corner office is replaced by shared spaces. 

Gen X is left steaming about this younger generation, and is unimpressed by the rebellion. But could this be jealousy?

Of course it pays to remember that generational assumptions are generally just stereotypes. Not all gen Ys are disloyal, narcissistic or entitled or fixated on breaking the rules, just as not all gen Xers are resentful. Yet people take generation bashings seriously, as I have come across in various forms of feedback post book launch.

Here is an example of some feedback I received regarding the book. I have no idea what generation this e-book reviewer was from, although I have my suspicions.

Generation Y seems to be dragging that childish attitudes far into what it used to be an adulthood age. Of course it is hard to communicate with the kids because the only way you do it is by offering them either candies or fun in the playground. Workplace is where responsibility for produced services should be taken into account though, isn’t it? C Caruso seems to overlook that and she claims that employers should ask gen Y more often on how they feel about themselves – it is nothing more than a recipe on how to manipulate kids into doing something useful. I understand that if gen Y does not want to grow up the candy policy is going to be the only way to make them work. They still seek that parent type of acknowledgment that they missed out on while playing computer games in their early development.

Here is the situation as I see it.

For employment to exist, for employers to employ, work must be done. There must be a goal, there must be a desired outcome to be delivered. In order to achieve this desired outcome, a human being must put in some effort to achieve the required result.

To encourage the required effort, humans require motivation. Previously this motivation has been presented in the form of money, but in reality, it must be something that is desired by the human, enough so to motivate them to achieve the desired result.

With this in mind and going back to the review – haven’t employers always used the candy policy? The candy might have changed to suit younger taste buds, but I am fairly confident previous generations weren’t working only for pride and personal satisfaction.

If the taste buds of a younger generation have changed, wouldn’t it make sense that the organisations requiring the human effort, that need to engage, attract and retain a younger workforce for future survival should offer the type of candy these kids are motivated by?

Sure, they might accept stale candy, but I don’t imagine your desired outcomes will come as easily or effectively if that’s all you’re offering your staff.

Stale candy will never make you an attractive employer; those who are able to attract talented individuals with the type of candy they want are miles ahead of the game.



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