5 Things Gen Y Needs to Know!

5 Things Gen Y Needs to Know and No One is Telling Them

You’re not the best thing sliced bread!: It’s ok to express new
ideas, to request new challenges, and to want to gain a promotion;
however, respect the politics, culture and communication practices of
your organization. Understand opportunities may present themselves – but
you won’t be the CEO overnight.

If you have needs, communicate them:
Don’t get frustrated if your
organization doesn’t do everything the way you think is most beneficial
to success. Don’t assume those around you are mind readers. Speak up and
communicate your ideas for positive changes, and do so in a manner
appropriate for your organization.

You can’t do it all alone: Gen Y’s attachment to technology and
drive for quick success often impedes the capacity to forge
relationships with other generations. Some people from other generations
may place more value on face to face communication as a way to build
lasting relationships over time. Some day you will have your bosses’
job; however, not yet. Instead of focusing on what you will do when you
get their job, focus on building relationships with them now. You’ll
need support and mentoring as you progress in your career.

Pay attention to the culture: You’ll never find an organization
that offers everything on your “work life balance” list. Decide what’s
most important to you. Two of the biggest complaints employers have of
Gen Y is that they demand too much too fast, and they often leave the
company within a few years. If you understand the organizational
culture, you can determine if it matches your needs; it then becomes
much easier to avoid these and other obstacles.

Learn when to shut up:
Open communication is a valued Gen Y trait;
however, that doesn’t mean say everything that is on your mind. This
doesn’t mean don’t be yourself. However, sometimes it’s best to keep
certain religious, political and social views out of the workplace. Be
cautious to not over criticize those you work with, particularly in
public. When utilizing forms of social media, be careful what you say
about your organization and those who work there.

So what is the moral of the story? Gen Y is a fast growing group within
the workforce. They are an innovative, talented, and ambitious
generation. Gen Y can be a positive asset if properly understood.
Understanding comes from communication. Gen Y needs to take some
responsibility for increasing cross generational communication and
understanding, and a first step in doing this is to acknowledge that
they too still have much to learn.

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Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@Scott – I’ve seen that article and I think it is flawed in the way it potrays Generation X and technology. Generation X is quite comfortable with technology having grown up with the personal computer revolution. In fact, many of the leading hackers are Generation X because they had to really learn how a computer works from assembly code and machine language.

I’ve taught web development for the last ten years and I am surprised at the lack of basic computer skills shown by my Generation Y students. Skills such as creating directories, renaming file extensions, FTPing, and so on. I remember the day when I did a very simple DOS command line program. The students were just amazed that you could do something without a GUI.

Nichole Henley

Well, I can appreciate this post for what it is and acknowledge that I (part of gen Y) like every other person on this planet have challenges to overcome. But as a thought, every other generation needs to learn how to communicate with each other and get along. I have met some really awesome baby boomers and have worked for some really tough traditionalists. I see our generations as just differences. Anyone in the workplace needs to be mindful of others views, working styles, approaches, etc. Instead of trying to single out one generation over another, how about we admit that there are pros and cons to all walks of life and concisely say “hey! we all need to just get along!” Some differences can turn out to be benefits.


But I’d also add in something….Don’t give up and get jaded. Nothing is worth than Gen Y who has already turned themself in after only a few years at work. And basically given up that nothing will change.

Scott Span

@ Bill…I am on the cusp of Gen X and Gen Y myself, and though I see that the latter part of Gen X has a somewhat higher comfort level with technology. I was referring less to coding and hacking and more to texting, 2.0 and Skyping. I still find that the front half of Gen X closest to Boomers is a tad weary at times.
@Nicole…sure we all have our own challenges to overcome. After all, if you’re a Gen Y a black female you have 3 challenges to overcome. I’m not Boomer bashing.I’m looking at one facet of diversity in this case, not ignoring many more exist. I do lots of various diversity work, generational diversity is just one part. I’m simply stating that the the different generations have some what different views and values to which where partly shaped by what was occurring in the world and workplace around them-and also share some of the same. Part of “getting along” is learning to understand the various diversity aspects that shape the personalities and viewpoints of those around you but, the generational part is just one of these aspects, and certainly not the only.
@ Govloop…I agree…keep up the good fight.

Andrew Krzmarzick

I agree with Bill on the technology piece…and I would add young Boomers to the group of folks who are driving and deriving benefit from social technology. Gen Y seem to have a more limited portfolio, using primarily FB and texting…potentially adding YouTube to their most-used tools. It feels like Gen X and young Boom9ers are the ones experimenting with a more varied set of tools…another place where Gen Y could learn from their more seasoned colleagues?

Nichole Henley

I agree Andrew. I think we understand the “gist” of it all but we don’t have the hands on experience with most of the tools. I went to a info event last year about web 2.0. Never really heard that term before and I learned a lot about interfacing in a web 1.0 environment vs today’s of web 2.0. Sure, I knew of the tools available now but I didn’t know HOW things have changes. I also came away with different applications of the new tools available in our web 2.0 environment.

Scott Span

@Nicole-An interesting generational differentiation, much of what you refer to as web 2.0 Gen Y refers to as Social Media, Govloop is an example. I would be curious to hear some of the applications of new tools to which you found out were available?

Nichole Henley

When I went to the event, I attended with the intent to use the information to help build our office’s web portal. So with the perspective in mind, I left the training with 1) authorizers to consider (who can post info, monitor it, etc); 2) podcasts to share just in time info; 3) policy blogs; intern program wikis, etc. While keeping in mind that 70% of learning that takes place in an organization is informal learning.

Nichole Henley

It was a presentation from the Partnership for Public Service. They may have the slides on their website still?

Kate Hash

I generally agree with what you’re saying, but I think the communication/knowledge/understanding issues work both ways. As a 26-year old member of Gen Y/Millennials/Net Generation (whatever we’re being called these days), I can tell you that some of the great things that we, as a generation, have to offer in the workplace are often overlooked. I actually host a webinar series on this exact topic: http://katehash.com/?page_id=20

Scott Span

@Nicole. Thanks for sharing. I’ll look for the info and if not still posted reach out to my contacts at PPS.
@Kate. I agree with your point. Matter of fact, I try and take a cross generational point of view to this type of diversity, however have also done some work from the Gen Y perspective. You may be interested in my other posts on the topic. They can be found on my blog: http://thetolerothinktank.blogspot.com . I’ll take a look at your webinar and we can chat offline as a follow up.

Nina Adrianna

I was going to shut up on this one, but:

“respect the politics, culture and communication practices of
your organization.”

Really? Nope. The culture needs to change, so that we can catch up to what society needs.

We need the naive idealism that Gen Y (and others) bring to the table. Don’t tell me to lose my optimistic outlook of the future. It’s why I’m here.

Scott Span

@Nina- No need to shut up, I enjoy various perspectives and dialogue! I also agree on your point. To clarify, I was not saying the culture does not need to change. In my view organizations have no choice but to change to remain sustainable). I was saying that as Gen Y we can’t simply barge into our bosses office and slam the door and start yelling “…this place sucks, you never listen to me, what is it you don’t get…” We need to understand the structures, communication practices and styles of our organization and those we work with so we can present our insights and frustrations to them in a way that they need to hear it and will make them most receptive. It’s difficult for one to live out their optimism without first having understanding.

Scott Span

@Bill…interesting and frustrating article! Sadly, I find in many cases the more complex the organizations the more dysfunctional the communication practices (not to say that is in all cases, and of course some small orgs. can be just as bad).

Kevin Lanahan

@nina, “The culture needs to change, so that we can catch up to what society needs.”

I have a feeling my society may have different needs from your society.

The best thing GenYers can do is show us Boomers/Xers how to reach the next generation. But saying “You’re doing it wrong!” doesn’t help. Showing us the tools GenY uses and explaining why those tools are effective at reaching that audience allows us to understand the process (even if we don’t understand why you’d want to communicate that way).

The culture of a workplace or government does not have to reflect the needs of society. The products of the workplace or government do, though.

Caryn Wesner-Early

I don’t think these problems are the exclusive province of Gen Y – I’m a Boomer, and I still remember the shock of discovering that, as the newest employee in a given job, I’d get the worst schedule and the lowest pay. I was appalled that my employers didn’t seem to want my advice on how to run the office, and even seemed to resent my correcting their spelling! And I still have trouble with the “shutting up” part.

I’ve always loved this quote, variously attributed to Socrates and Plato:
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

The younger generation has always been going to hell in a handbasket, but somehow, we never actually get there!

Scott Span

I understand what you’re saying. As I mentioned, regardless of generation we are all human, as such we all have the desire to be valued, competent, significant, and heard among other things. It is how we prefer and expect to have these basic needs met and what we do when they are not that differs slightly from generation to generation. Thanks for sharing the quote. I love it!

Stephen Buckley

Caryn (et al.),

Thanks for citing the quote from Socrates/Plato (I was trying to remember it as I was reading this discussion). It really puts the “generational differences” that into the larger perspective.

That is to say, each the evolution of each generation, through history, has been — fundamentally — the same as all others. The elders complain about the impatience, etc. of youngsters. The youngsters get older (and wiser) and then they complain about youngsters. And on it goes.

Having worked for government in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s (and now in my 50’s with children in their 20’s), I have the advantage of remembering and comparing those stages in my life.

Each time that I reached one of those decade-birthdays (20, 30, 40, 50), I looked back at the previous one, and thought “Gee, if only I knew then, what I know now.” And haven’t you said the same thing? Apparently, as we get older, we get less “smart-alecky” and more humble in the idea that, maybe, we don’t know as much as we think do.

Of course, the dilemma is that everyone (and every generation) likes to think they are soooo different from all the others, so I don’t expect that Gen X, Y or Z to act significantly different in how long it takes for them to realize that, yes, they are slowly turning into their parents. (“OMG!! I sound just like my father!”)

As such, I am not so much writing this for them as for my peers, to reassure them that the youngsters are pretty much the same as we were when WE got all excited (a generation ago) about using personal computers and the Internet for improve the quality of democratic government.

Back then, we thought that once everyone learned how to use a modem and get on the Internet, mass-communication would just naturally improve. But, wiser now, I realize that technology is just an enabler, NOT a guarantor of better communication (which, BTW, is not the same as one-way information dissemination).

Ask anyone who been online discussing this subject for the past 15-20 years, and they will tell you that, although the Quantity of online discussion has increased, the general Quality has not (and some would argue it is worse) even with all the new “2.0” social media apps.

I like technology, but it will NOT compensate for our other communications weaknesses. Sorry kids, but there is no “killer-app” that will turn smart-alecks into good listeners. (I really wish there could be.)

And the sooner that we (all) admit the differences between generations is relatively minor, esp. the limit of “tech-heavy” solutions, then the sooner that we can start talking about about how to overcome the more difficult “non-tech” (cultural) barriers to changing the status-quo.

Your thoughts?

Stephen Buckley

Scott Span

Thanks for sharing your thoughts-and your experience. Very well said. We should all start talking. My thoughts, if you invent that smart-alecks ap, I would buy it! Per difference being minor among generations, some are and some are not. I find it depends on the cultural, social, and personal events that occurred during the time periods that the individual is from – a particular generation. The generational view is just one of many diversity lenses to explore and consider. With that, as mentioned in some of my other writings, I do often try to focus on similarities. We all want to feel heard, respected, significant, competent etc. how and what makes us feel things may differ slightly from generation to generation (and other diversity factors) – however we still all look for these basic fundamentals.

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

I’m not sure for whom this post was intended, nor why it’s being lodged against “Gen Y,” or what this post even means when it refers to them.

Three of the items, “If you have needs, communicate them,” “you can’t go it alone,” and “learn when to shut up,” seem to be contradictory, or at least they point to vastly oscillating behavior. The person who needs all three of these pearls of wisdom would be, at the same time, uncommunicative, overly independent, and over-sharing. A shallow read of a generation that’s been in the workforce for about a decade already.

Someone else has already quoted Socrates, so I won’t recap, but this whole post seems a little on-edge for little reason, and any “advice” offered in this tone is worth the price one pays for it.