Writing about Gen Y and post millennials sounds like I feel old. I don't and I'm not but even if I feel 30, the fact is that I'm in my 40s and I'm a Gen X. I’ve worked with Gen Y in multiple countries, they’ve been part of my team, I’ve coached them, more recently I’ve worked for one and I’ve admired many. I must admit that seven or so years ago I was perplexed by some of my Gen Y experiences. I was shocked by the young graduate who burst into my office unannounced to tell me what she wanted from life. Or, the over-disclosure of one’s personal life in detail in open forum prior to a meeting start. Worse, the continued and unabashedly clear needs for promotion or "they’ll jump ship" discussions.
As a Gen Xer woman, it was only normal that I was shocked. I grew up in a big business culture of conformity, hierarchy, long working hours in the office, loyalty through length of service and a 'don’t speak unless you’re spoken to' undertone. Oh and a selection of very diverse white, men over 50 to aspire to :-(. But change is good isn’t it!
I did ok and in addition to hard work, determination and luck I received some fabulous support from men of the baby boomer generation. They saw past the generational differences or the typical female stereo-types and misogyny soup du jour. I made an effort to learn from them and I learnt a lot.
Gen Ys are exactly what the world needs. Last month, I was at a UTS Hatchery for entrepreneurs breakfast. Sally Hill and Yvonne Lee, founders of Wildwon spoke of their time in business and creating meaningful experiences using creativity for social good. What a fabulous couple of Gen Y women talking about their very successful, and growing purpose driven business. They are change makers and they are an example of what’s great about Gen Y.
As well my work at The Change Rooms, I spend a day at The Wayside Chapel. My boss, a Gen Y woman and my colleagues 70% Gen Y are a pleasure to work with. They are not lazy, they are not selfish, they don’t lack commitment. They are motivated, intelligent, educated people. They take feedback and they work on it. Yes they have expectations and opinions but so did we. They are just not afraid to tell them..to anyone.
Our bodies' strive for homeostasis, constantly rebalancing a complex system as it evolves to keep us alive. New generations, in my view, do the same. These next generations are renewing and rebalancing the world so it can tackle what we've created and what’s to come. Sure there’s growing pains but isn’t there always with any change?
While we are still finding ways to understand Gen Y and begin to move on to the same discussions about the next generation, perhaps we should consider how the whole is greater than the sum of it parts. Our focus only needs to be on understanding the uniqueness, strengths and benefits all generations and bringing them together.