Gen Y: Whiners or Winners?

Dawn Papandrea | July 24, 2008

Just read an interesting study about Gen Y that I thought was worth sharing. In a nutshell, 50 percent of Gen Y workers give employers six months or less to “prove themselves” before they move on to a new job. I guess being from Gen X, I find this concept bizarre. After all, I was always from the school of thought that is was the new employee that had to do the proving. But today’s workplace is far different, even from 10 or so years ago when I entered it. Says the press release:

“Gen Y’s are the most technology-savvy generation and grew up with immediate access to whatever they needed such as information or connections. They are able to identify new opportunities much more easily than any generation before them, so they tend to be impatient when told they have to wait and pay their dues.”

That from Executive Consultant Tim Vigue of Novations Group, a global consulting organization based in Boston who released the study. OK, I’ll buy that, but I think part of the phenomenon may have something to do with a feeling of entitlement that some of the younger generation’s workers graduate with. Of course, if a job or career doesn’t feel right you shouldn’t feel obligated to stay, which is why many people go back to school to try something new. But I think it’s fair to say that some people’s expectations are a little over the top.

For instance, I have a relative who was offered a near six-figure job right out of college. (Yes, I’m a tad jealous!) Just three weeks in, he started complaining that they’re working him too hard because he’s in the office until 8 p.m. every night. But what he neglected to mention was that he doesn’t start his work day until 11 a.m., and goes out for an hour-long lunch everyday with his bosses, on the company’s dime. Yeah… must be rough.

Vigue goes on to advise employers to let a new hire know that during the first several months, while the focus is on learning a job, mistakes are expected and may be viewed as opportunities for learning. “Reassurance such as this can go a long way to improving the likelihood that your Gen Y employees will stay.”

Come again? Maybe I’m too old school for my own good, but I just can’t picture my CEO apologizing in advance to an entry level worker for potentially hurting his feelings when he’s told he screwed up. New workers shouldn’t expect high-level executive decisions to get run by them either. Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way in the real world. At least not in my experience.

I was lucky that I found my fit and stuck with it. But I’m pretty sure my tolerance level and flexibility to go above and beyond my job description — even back when I was an intern — had something to do with that. And believe me, the nature of my work has dramatically evolved over the years. Incidentally, even after 10 years, I still try to prove myself everyday.

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