I am a man in his fifties who spent the majority of his career as a manager of people. During that time I have managed Boomers, Generation “X”, Generation “Y” and even a few Traditionals. (Traditionals are people now in their late sixties to early nineties). Of all the age or generation groups I had the privilege to manage I accomplished greater things and had more pure enjoyment with Generation “Y” than any of the others.
Generation “Y” are now people in their late teens to early thirties. They are the young, vibrant people you see on the street; they are the fashion models you see on the runways and the scholars you see strolling about the campuses of the best Universities: They are the people who will soon control most of the world’s finances and create most of the world’s future inventions and innovations. In short, the next wave of professors, power-brokers and storekeepers will all be Generation “Y”… They will soon rule the world!
Generation “Y” is often characterized by employers, co-workers and business writers as being spoiled, lazy, rude, irresponsible, and flippant. Many older people seem to think that they have no ambition and no desire to do good work. The Boomers and Generation “X” parents who nurtured, educated and moulded the minds of Generation “Y” children now seem to feel that their progeny will be almost useless in the world of business and industry. We are products of our environment and if Generation “Y” is a deficient generation their parents have no one to blame but themselves.
In fairness to Boomer and Generation “X” parents; they were only trying to be the best maternal and paternal influences they could be. They wanted to provide their kids with everything they were deprived of as children because of the shortage of discretionary income that their Traditional parents had during the fifties and sixties. As the western world grew generally wealthier and every garage had at least one and half cars in it, the material possessions of children became more elaborate and more expensive. Children began to understand that almost anything was attainable and all they had to do was ask for a new toy and it magically appeared. On the other hand, as children in the fifties, most of us had to play with broken and dirty toys that had been handed down from older siblings.
Most Generation “Y” kids have the best of everything and wear jeans and shoes with famous labels on them, the cost of which I still have trouble believing. I have known parents who purchased brand new cars for their children on the day they qualified for a driver’s licence. I have even known parents who took out loans or mortgaged their houses so that their kids could drive nice automobiles! I have seen numerous children taken out of school by their parents during an important semester for exotic vacations or less important things like family reunions and out-of-town weddings.
The evolution of the school system has not helped Generation “Y” fit into our old-fashioned view of work ethics and diligence either. Schools have gone from honouring excellence and holding back failure, to treating everyone the same regardless of scholarly ability or relative achievement levels. Sports days went from recognizing higher athletic ability with ribbons for only the top three kids in any event, to giving a ribbon to every child that shows up. Children are now advanced to the next grade even if they have not actually done the work and passed the necessary examinations in order to earn a pass. Apparently it is unfair to hold them back and much better to move them into a grade they are not prepared for…I don’t get it!
Kids are now taught that all anyone can ask a person to do is their best…even if their best is not good enough to get the job done. If they fail at anything they are told that that as long as they did their best everything is okay. Imagine an engineer who fails to put enough steel or concrete into a design for a skyscraper. When the building falls down, he will have difficulty convincing anyone that his best was good enough. It seems that educators and parents have not prepared Generation “Y” for life in the real world as we know it.
No wonder they are demanding and rude (by our standards); no wonder they want to start at the top of the pay scale; and no wonder they want time off from work whenever they feel they need it. No one has ever said NO to them and no one ever told them that they were not very good at everything they tried. They have amazingly high expectations because we told them to expect to get everything they ask for. Remember too, that their parents and teachers taught them never to settle for second best and to always stand up for their rights. They are products of their environment and they are everything they should be, considering the world they grew up in.
Most of the Generation “Y” people that worked for me had the kind of upbringing that I have described here. Despite that, when I took the time to understand what they wanted and how they wanted to go about doing their work, I found them as capable as any Boomer or Generation “X” worker. When they are doing a job they enjoy and are allowed the freedom to do it in the manner that makes them most comfortable, their work ethics and intellect are as strong as anyone else’s. As in every generation, there are exceptions (good and bad) but as an overall group I love the enthusiasm and initiative that Generation “Y” is able to bring to the workplace.
I can accept that working with Generation “Y” might require a little more patience for older managers and co-workers, but I believe the results will make the effort worthwhile. When Generation “Y” people are at their best, they are unstoppable. It is up to the managers and leaders of the world to draw the best out of them and give them the freedom to fly.
Always keep in mind that we made our children into the Generation “Y” they are and we nurtured every positive and negative element of their personalities. Since we are responsible for them, let’s give them a break and help them realize their true potential as they become the guardians of our legacy.
All the Best
Wayne Kehl

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