14 Dec

Generation Y | Lazy and Privileged or Misunderstood?

As a Generation Y entrepreneur I try to stay clear of the ongoing debate over young professional’s lack of motivation in entry-level positions. While Generation X and Baby Boomer managers complain about poor performance, Generation Y whines about a lack of responsibility and/or high demands in the workplace.

I am going to do my best at staying neutral throughout this blog post, however, I do have some very strong opinions on the topic. My main concern is the mass generalization that current managers are labeling my peers- lazy, rude, unfocussed, privileged, hard to manage and “willing to drop one job position and take up another elsewhere” (Darcie Springall).

I finally decided to write this post after Alexandra Levit published an article on CNN titled, “Scared Straight: How Gen Y has Benefited from the Recession”. While the intent was to promote a very informative and worthwhile webinar, Job Start 101, produced by Business Roundtable and the HR Policy Association, it also clearly stated the origin of Generation Y’s (so-called) work ethic problem:

“This new crop, all members of Generation Y (born 1979-94) had been raised by doting Baby Boomer parents thinking they were the most special and worthwhile individuals on the planet. They wanted to leave college one month and be running a company the next.”
– Alexandra Levit, CNN

Ok, so I am a member of the troublesome Generation Y. And yes, many of you will respond by stating how I am so like my peers by passing the blame along to my parents who raised me by praising all of my little achievements throughout the years. But, I think there is something to learn by examining the mass cultural shift that has happened as a result.

Generation Y was raised in need of constant approval for their achievements and little to no consequences for their actions. Their parents wanted to change the world for the better, and as a result, created false hopes. The following excerpt goes into further detail:

“Our upbringing was essentially an elaborate cultural experiment, unsurprisingly conducted by a generation who sought to improve the world. If they couldn’t change their own world and the people around it, they could change what their children are taught about the world. Not knowing any differently since no one ever told them any differently, they would create the world the boomers could only dream about – one in which everyone is special, all people are tolerated, no one is ever judged, war is never the answer, fossil fuels are evil, diversity is celebrated, opinions are shared, inclusivity is doctrine, political correctness reigns supreme, and the gravest sin on planet earth is to hurt someone’s feelings or damage their self esteem. Marriage is about love and you should go to college to learn, not to make money.”
– eMach, “Why Generation Y Doesn’t Stand a Chance

The result of our upbringing is the basis of this continuing argument: Generation Y’s work ethic. I will be the first to admit that many of my peers do not possess the proper skills to enter the workforce. Many are egocentric idiots who need constant reinforcement that they are “on-the-right-track” – seriously? However, this same mindset has led a few to become innovators and create products and/or services that have changed the world forever.

A desire to become the best, and become famous for their achievements, has led to true competition in the arts, technology and business. The false sense of entitlement has led many to ambitiously move forward on projects that matter to them on a personal level. Would you be able to wholeheartedly dedicate yourself to processing your boss’ expenses? Setting up meetings? Making coffee? Or escorting clients to and from the airport?

Every generation has their strengths and pitfalls. Every generation makes their mark. Generation Y, while motivated by self-centered hopes and dreams, makes theirs independent of what previous generations might believe to be the right-way.