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Generation Y at the Workplace

Updated on August 20, 2010
Generation Y at Work
Generation Y at Work

The youngest generation of today is entering our workplace and people hiring them are sceptical as to what they will see a supposedly lazy and laid-back generation do. Will they be able to fit in and do their bit or will the generation, which has gotten everything easily, become a misfit?

The story begins with the modern day lifestyle of Generation Y people. It is widely believed that the modern day generation of workers, entering our offices and factories, have had it easy. Studies have shown that these new-age employees are the least satisfied with their jobs and have little or no interest in what it takes to do the job right. Preceded by baby-boomers and Generation X, Generation Y has been said to be direction-less and less motivated or focussed as compared to the earlier generations.

They are more self-obsessed than any generation before them, almost getting themselves into the narcissism category. However, if we are to understand them better, and accept them into the workplace, we need to make an effort in the right direction. After all, we don’t really have a choice!


Vanity or self obsession is not an entirely invalid accusation on Generation Y. In fact, the University of San Diego even conducted a study to demonstrate that Generation Y people are narcissistic. However, there is a slight difference in the way Generation Y would be narcissists, as compared to the general definition on the street. Yes, Generation Y is ambitious, self-promoting and self assured. They are also achievers who are driven by success. Narcissistic? Yes, we can see why you would say that. However is there a side we are not looking at?

Generation Y employees are known to crave appreciation and praise, leading them to think that they are capable of anything. Going to the root cause of their problems, we see that Generation Y employees were born into families that were looking to compensate for the mistakes that their parents made, in their childhood. The entire generation missed parental affection and attention, therefore overcompensating at their end of the deal.

Generation Y was brought up on affection, praise, flattery and care. They only demand that it continues when they enter the work-place. They almost believe that they are entitled to it and, therefore, demands for constant appreciation of their efforts come up regularly.

However, calling them narcissistic for behaviour, which has been instilled by parenting, is unjust. There has been a significant change in attitude over the generations and this has not raised Generation Y as unmotivated, privileged brats, but confident innovators who can think beyond what is there today.


The baby boomers grew up with a different set of beliefs. They were work-centric and were unshakeable in their thoughts, although were a bit conservative. Their subsequent life-form, the Generation X variety, grew up with computers and began the era of innovation. Despite being fiercely independent, they were technologically adept and firm believers in the popular attitudes of their times. Generation Y is different and that makes it hard for the predecessors to accept that.

The constant need for attention, while viewed as coddling by predecessors, is merely a form of feedback for the newest line of employees. Their healthy self-image is nothing but an accurate representation of their confidence in balancing out work and private life. They have better private lives, something they aren’t scared to admit. They learn the job fast, require constant feedback and are involved in ground-breaking work. Narcissistic? Not really!

Generation Y Workplace Expectations

TRU London Future of Recruitment
TRU London Future of Recruitment


In most organizations today, the top, middle and lower levels of employees are not just differentiated on the basis of their designations or salaries. Today, the generation they hail from also has a large role to play. A healthy work environment will require all three generations, i.e. all three levels of the work force, to understand and accept each other’s roles and capabilities.

This means, the positives need to be promoted for all three generations. However, discord is normal and not entirely invisible, when dealing with such age-based segregations in the workplace. Growing up in different times with different likes and dislikes has been one of the key reasons for this disconnect. Baby-boomers are defined by their ability to work hard, their competitiveness and their independence and confidence in their abilities. Their beliefs are here to stay and at no point, can they deviate from their conventions of hierarchy. Generation X is slightly more subdued, and in direct conflict with the Baby-boomers.

Generation X has brought about a change in the attitude of work, and is thriving in that change itself. The entire generation is filled with people who have worked hard to get where they are and expect others to do the same. This makes them individualistic, pragmatic and yet, cynical. Generally, this generation is quite hard to get along with, until you can impress them. Generation Y is unlike anything the other two have seen. They are the most protected as well as the most exposed generation of them all. They have a greater connection to their families, primarily due to their careful upbringing. They look for mentors and, therefore, require constant updates on their situation. Their need for challenges keeps them motivated while regular work is drab and boring.

That is what makes Generation Y a boon at the workplace. They are stylish and competitive, daring and extremely inquisitive. Fighting this situation will just make things harder for everyone. Giving them space to grow at their own pace is usually a better option at any point of time.

Generation Y is extremely adept at picking up new things. Using them to quickly finish up work, in a better way, is the best way to utilize them in the modern day scenario. Generation Y is normally in search of mentors in the Baby-boomers generation. Using this fact, and the fact that Baby-boomers always enjoy their groupies, a fantastic relationship can be created amidst the two.

While it is easy to see why such a relationship between top and lower levels of employees can cause heartache to those in the middle, Generation X needs to be smart enough here. They can get Generation Y to do a lot more work than they could, primarily due to early exposure that the youngest generation receives.

Generation Y is also in the need of a wider range of skills and that means, no stagnation. Stagnation is good for Baby-boomers and Generation X but for Generation Y, learning new skills gives them a feeling that they are moving ahead in life.

Generations In The Workplace

Generation Y staff
Generation Y staff


This can be quite the task for those who are not accustomed to pampering and coddling. While the process is not exactly pampering or coddling, Generation Y has been accused of demanding too much attention. However, the key to getting Generation Y to do your bidding is to communicate.
As employees, they have all the required capabilities to burst ahead when given the opportunity. With communication channels wide open, Generation Y will get the constant assurance and appreciation it requires to maintain its high self-confidence levels.
This is, however, a hard task for Generation X or the Baby-boomers. Neither is accustomed to such a mode of contact and neither understands the importance of it either. Their belief in the hierarchal system keeps them away from such contact. However, this isn’t a lot to ask and Generation Y can give a lot more in return.
Praising them in public, making others aware of their good work, is always a great way to motivate them. This keeps their self-confidence levels at a high, making them ideal for any working situation. The higher their confidence levels, the better their output.
Changing work timings to suit their private life is also a great way to make them work better. Generation Y loves its private time and will not let professional life hinder it. Generation Y has grown up amidst technology. That gives them the edge in picking up new tricks and techniques. This also allows them to pack more into their days and therefore, setting clear goals is extremely invaluable for Generation Y employees.
If you want your organization to be free of age-based differences, you need to emphasize on a middle path at all levels. Simply demanding a change from the newest generation coming in is not just harsh, but also not the right way. Conforming to their ways is easier than it is for them to conform to yours.
Give them space, time and freedom and you are likely to see innovations that couldn’t have been dreamed of, otherwise. Generation Y is a goldmine of ideas, thoughts and innovations. If we are smart enough to address their needs and give them what they want, they can truly redefine the way work is done today.

Learn to love the change that Generation Y is propagating! It is truly worth it.

Generation X and Generation Y
Generation X and Generation Y

Generation Next - Muse Communications - Millenials

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Submit a Comment
  • gmwilliams profile image

    Grace Marguerite Williams 

    7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

    Good hub! As a Baby Boomer who has retired, I have not encountered many millenials. While I was working, they were pursuing their educations. You have made an accurate assessment of your generation.

    I believe that Generation Y or the millenials are the first postindustrial generation. Yes, you have computer savvy and smarts- I shall grant you that! Your generation is still young and have a lot to learn in the workplace.

    We Baby Boomers are aging. However, do not say die. We are still active and will remain so until the end. Yes, we are work-centric. I concur with you on this a milnillion percent. We are also a strongly ethical generation. We are also the first post-World War II generation.

    Yes, your generation was affluent; however, so were ours. Our parents survived the Great Depression and won World War II in order to make our lives more affluent and give us the opportunities that they did not have. We had our values-we were the generation that help revolutionized and save the world.

    Yes, each generation is different. I have worked with plenty of Generation X people. I admire their toughness and stamina in addition to their ability to make lemonade out of lemons. They are the generation to depend upon when things get rough! I admire them very much. In other words, each generation has something to contribute!

    When I started working decades ago, I worked with people who were the G.I. generation(World War II generation) and the Silent generation. Both generations had something to contribute and I learned plenty from them! Great hub nevertheless!


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