Generation Y Explained: William Spindloe

gen y





The Me, Me, Me, Generation. Lazy,  entitled, narcissists”

That was the front cover of Time Magazine a couple of years back, that explored Generation Y, or Millennials as they are also called. Effectively those who were born somewhere between 1980-1995.

So exactly who are they? What do they want? Are they really lazy, entitled, narcissists? And how do they affect the workplace?

Entitled? Well they are the first generation who have been born with the kind of technology that seems to govern our lives.  As a result the technology and the internet has democratized the kind of knowledge and opportunities that were previously only available to the wealthy. As Joel Stein states in his article, Why Millennials will save us all,  in effect they have adopted the same kind of entitled attitude as rich kids had before. So are they entitled? perhaps they are, but mainly because they feel that they don’t have to be constrained by geography, class, race or sex.

As to whether they are lazy, it would appear from all of the research and studies that they certainly seem to have an expectation for a better balance between work and play.  Generation Y don’t seem to have any problem in articulating this to their bosses. Many seemingly are prepared to vote with their feet if they do not feel they are getting what they want too. A related factor here is that so many more than the previous generation live at home for much longer. The financial pressures are perhaps not the same as if they had a mortgage. This seems to be born out by the numbers of CV’s that pass my desk with a fairly heavy turnover of jobs in a short space of time.

As for narcissism?  Well our world is now full of so called entertainment about narcissists and for narcissists. The Kardashian’s, Big Brother and every other reality show on the TV and Internet. Facebook profiles that have one or two pictures of the family, maybe and another 85 selfies. Twitter, sharing every banal aspect of life in 140 characters multiple times a day sometimes. I think there maybe a good case to made for Gen Y being somewhat narcissistic. The English teacher, David McCullough Jr.’s address to his High School’s graduating class seems to underpin this. It was entitled “You Are Not Special,” it was a hit on YouTube.

“Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you,” he told his students

On the positive side they do know how to brand themselves and they certainly seem to have more confidence than previous generations. Even if this sometimes feels a little misplaced. The create their own micro celebrity status among their peer groups. They have ‘followers’. With the right kind of direction and guidance, harnessing this kind of self belief could lead to some great innovation and success.

I think of them as the Why Generation, hence the title. They tend to accept way less. They seemingly want to challenge conventional wisdom and look for ‘better’ ways to do things. That ‘better’ way I also feel gets confused with laziness, and sometimes that may well be the case. But things only get better when questions are asked after all right?

If you look there is likely plenty of evidence and data to support the feelings of laziness, entitled and narcissistic, but its too simplistic for Generation X and the Baby Boomers to view Gen Y this way. And anyway they are fast becoming the majority in the workplace, so the message is surely understand and adapt or suffer the consequences.

William Spindloe
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