I first stumbled upon this article at PBS NewsHour thanks to a post by Boston Gal and think it has quite a bit of relevance with the readers here. Those of us who are in their twenties or thirties have likely experienced a bit of generation gap in regards to older co-workers.
In many companies, it’s now common to have four generations — those in their early 20s, Generation Y, working side by side with people in their 70s, the baby boomers, and the 30-somethings of Generation X.
This disparity among co-workers can certainly cause problems as each generation has their own way of thinking and solving problems. As older generations are beginning to focus on retiring you have younger people coming in hoping to move up in the ranks. All the while you have the fresh new talent out of college who are trying to jump ahead of everyone in line. Work ethic is one area that has changed drastically over the past few generations:
The baby boomers are “work, work, work.” It’s a very important part of their live. Gen X is “work, work, I want to work some more, let’s talk about it.” And Gen Y is “work, work, you want me to work even more? How lame. I think I’ll I.M. my friends and tell them how lame you are, asking me to work even more.”
This shift from very hard-working to just working and expecting more benefits comes from a sense of entitlement, which the article talks about a bit and I have discussed here a few times as well. As products of positive reinforcement and our teachers telling us we can be whatever we want to be it has created a sense of individualism and entitlement, whether good or bad. Clearly it is possible to be anyone or do anything, but it takes more than a stroke of luck to accomplish this. One young worker says:
We feel like we are entitled to have creative jobs that are very interesting, that are high-paced, that we’re our own bosses.
Unfortunately that could be an unrealistic expectation. Not all jobs are creative or interesting, some are very slow-paced and you generally don’t become your own boss right away. Feeling entitled to this sort of career only leads to disappointment when one finds themselves working for someone else and doing the same mundane tasks on a daily basis. Again, this is not inherently a bad thing, but it is a vastly different way of thinking when compared to forty and fifty year old co-workers.
Anyway, I encourage you to read the article, it has quite a bit of good information and opinions from all age groups and how companies are tackling this generation gap.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
Thuy - Funny, I thought Gen X were the jaded ones ;) But maybe Gen X is jaded w/o the sense of entitlement, and that is the difference? Or maybe it's that Gen Y also has more confidence that life will turn out well for them.
I graduated in '93, as we were coming out of a recession. I got my first real job nearly a year after graduating. And I got it partly because the company had just laid off a whole bunch of middle managers in their 50's... Which made room for us. Really inspires company loyalty. But I stayed with the job for 3 years in order to put meaningful experience on my resume, Why? Because I didn't think any employer would hire me on the basis of my education alone, and I needed professional, job-based experience to make myself marketable. And I knew that someday, I could be the middle manager type who gets laid off to make room for younger, and cheaper, workers.
So maybe Gen Y, because they were raised with a sense of entitlement, and because many of them graduated at a time the Boomers are starting to retire, feel more confident that they will get hired, and thus don't see the need to stay around longer to build their resumes?
(Damn, that was a long sentence....)
Gen-Y, yeah. I'll tell you, the rush to bigger, better, faster for them is going to hurt them in the end. In my experience, you can't really learn or produce anything of value unless you see the whole project cycle. How do they expect to start successful businesses if they're hopping jobs every 12 months?!
Learning how to execute should be the goal of someone right out of school. Details matter and take time to sort out. I find a lot of these folks want to go start/run their own businesses and be involved in planning and strategy. They won't be successful in strategy or running their own businesses until they've learned how to roll up their sleeves and execute from -- soup-to-nuts -- in the real world. School doesn't count. They need to spend the time, pay their dues and LEARN in the real world before conquering it.
Ok, that was a bit of a rant, but it seems like the article is hitting some nerves across the board. (full disclosure: I'm GenX)
I think you guys both hit the nail on the head. Like Thuy said, a lot of those just out of college expect to enter the workforce and make $60k or more in their first job just because. Well what makes them so special?
I know that is a generalization and does not mean all feel this way, but just something I have seen a lot of as well.
And you're right about the bulk of Gen X facing the layoffs and downsizing of six years ago, and I felt it as well. Right out of college when just a year or two earlier people were graduating and having multiple job opportunities to pick from. Whereas when I graduated I found it nearly impossible to even get an interview since everyone was already laid off.
I had to settle for making 25k a year after spending five years in college. That is not what I was promised by my high school counselor! Despite that I have found that hard work will work wonders for advancing your career. I think this stems from management getting fed up with dealing with new hires who come in and demand so much after doing so little, so they reward the hard and committed employees.
I think Gen Y comes to the workplace already jaded. They see Baby Boomers who worked hard and invested their lives with a single company. Then they see how the Baby Boomers are treated after all this: Social Security and Pension Plans failing, right before retirement. They saw Gen X going into the workforce, working hard, and then getting laid off in droves. They have "learned" that if you do not look out for yourself and your own interests, no one will.
As for the entitlement attitude, it drives me nuts. I see Gen Y coming in and working at my company and recall this quote: "Most employers pay only enough to keep an employee; yet most employees will work only enough to keep their jobs."
Perhaps this is a chicken vs. egg syndrome, but I still think one needs to contribute something valuable to a company before being rewarded. I see too much of "I'm special, therefore I deserve to be rewarded." and not enough "I did this and this and this to help our company be successful," in order to be rewarded.
Not surprisingly, the article focused on Boomers and Gen Y... Gen X gets ignored, as usual... I guess it's the price of being a small generation sandwiched between two big ones. [I'm Gen X.. Why do you ask? ;)]
I think it's unfortunate that Gen Y seems to want Bigger! Better! Exciting! challenges all the time. You know, there is value in working a low wage job at McDonald's for a bit, or doing mundane work at your first real job. You may not be learning the latest programming language, but you're learning about people and what it means to have a job, and you can also learn how a company could treat its customers and employees better. I don't know... The article gave me the impression that Gen Y is in too much of rush and isn't taking time to look around at where they are, just looking forward.
That sounds all too common. Even those a bit older and into their 30's generally find themselves hopping from job to job on a frequent basis. Quite a few of my friends change jobs every 12-18 months it seems. Always looking for something bigger and better.
I've changed jobs quite a bit recently, but primarily due to having to relocate when my wife got her job. I personally don't like all of the change and would like to stay put for a while. I guess we'll have to see how that works out though, you never know what will happen.
Almost all of the people we've hired and trained in their early 20's over the last year have already moved on to other jobs. I hope they remembered to roll over their 401ks!