Gen Y: Generation of Entitlement?

I regularly research different topics surrounding Gen Y. Being in HR definitely sparked this interest because this is the generation that will be dominating our workforce in a few short years. To be ahead of the talent acquisition game and to be effective in restructuring leadership efforts to impact this generation, I’ve been taking time to read the many insights about characteristics that make up this generation. Of course, there are always conflicting thoughts about which ones are good or bad but one statement truly stuck out to me: Gen Y comes off as “entitled” in the workplace.

Not to make an overall sweeping statement of this group, but generally speaking, this statement came off both true and false to me. Can Gen Yers come off as entitled in the workplace? Sometimes. Are they completely at fault for having that mentality? Not entirely. With that said, it may be time to refocus the expectations of Gen Y while simultaneously giving awareness to “outsiders” as to why this may occur.

Gen Y grew up in a time where recognition was given out frequently and sometimes without merit. They were given a gold star or a high five for showing up or just for simply participating. They were given the belief that they could be anything they wanted to when they grew up. Technology had made life easier and things occurred a lot quicker because of it. These simple things have shaped individuals of this generation while growing up, and eventually leaked into the workplace. So when Gen Y workers complain that they aren’t moving up fast enough or that their boss blocks them from opportunity, does that mean they’re entitled? Not quite. Some may be misguided due to the things they were exposed to while growing up.

Falling into the Gen Y category myself, I learned the hard way. I eventually figured out that although recognition is motivating and that I truly do believe I can be whatever I want to, there were a few steps that I forgot about in between. “Showing up” to your job is one thing but showing up AND making an impact is another. I used to believe that just because I did a job function satisfactorily for a year, it would be enough to be promoted. I soon learned that I was wrong. Any average person could go to work day in and day out and get their job done. But a person worthy of moving up had to go beyond that.

Satisfactory work shouldn’t have been an accomplishment for me. I should have continued to find ways to excel at work and let my superiors know. I shouldn’t have thought I deserved a promotion just because I had a year under my belt. I should have done my current job well and then I should have taken on stretch projects to show that I could handle my job and also handle the additional tasks for the job I was aiming for. Did this mean I would be putting in extra hours and I wouldn’t reap the benefits instantly? Definitely. But why would an employer invest in me if I don’t show them I’m worth investing in? More importantly, why would they invest in anyone who isn’t invested in the work that they do?

The belief that you could be anything you wanted when you grew up isn’t far out of reach for those who work hard. Unfortunately, some give up early in the process because of the amount of dedication it takes to get there. You can’t wake up one morning and think that this will fall in your lap. And luck has absolutely nothing to do with it. To get where you want to be is comprised of long days of work/study, persistence, research, and the ability to keep pushing through pitfalls and rejection. The sooner that this is realized, the sooner people can start working on it. Additionally, maybe this realization would help people reduce the anger they feel when they don’t achieve their dreams right away.

The greatest thing I learned in my years as a Gen Y worker is patience. I grew up in a time where instant gratification trumped everything. I used to abandon things that didn’t seem to work out quickly enough. Now that I have learned the art of patience, I see that the fruits of my labor actually turn out better than I would have initially thought. I often wonder what would have happened if I gave other things time back when my need for immediate results blinded me from the big picture. Would I have been further along in business? Would I have accomplished more? I’m not sure but I’m glad that I figured it out early enough to change my approach and make a difference.

I don’t believe that all of Gen Y is entitled in the workplace. I think that sometimes we’re a little ill-advised. This could have happened because we were told that we were bound for greatness but never were told the amount of work it would require nor where to start. The greatest thing I was given was a few mentors along the way that showed me the reality of the world of work. I hope more people take time to guide Gen Yers as they make their way into the workplace.

Disclaimer: This post was not intended to generalize any group of people.

Photo Source

Advertisements

The Importance of Hiring Employees That Ask “Why?”

It seems to me that too many companies are reluctant to hire candidates that have a strong sense of curiosity, especially in terms of why company policies and procedures are the way they are. The reason why companies choose to pass on these candidates is because they feel that they will be too hard to manage. Additionally, most people are defensive when it comes to change. However, sometimes this change is necessary.

In the past, employees only got information from education and what their employers taught them. They rarely questioned if there was a better way because they didn’t have access to information to make them wonder. But now, things are different. Candidates in this job market have the advantage of technology at their fingertips. They can research information on subjects, explore different ways to do things, and network with people around the globe to get different perspectives. With this knowledge, people tend to start questioning an employer’s current practices and offer suggestions for better ways to handle business.

I believe that this is the age of “why” and some people have dubbed the new Gen Y as Gen “why” because of this. The issue is that many employers seem to shy away from this rather than welcome it. They may fear that the worker that asks “why” will cause issue in the workplace and cause chaos because they will influence other workers to start question “the way things are.” Although that is a valid concern, I think that more employers need to embrace that and find a way to channel it in way that can benefit the company.

To gain a competitive advantage, you need to be one step ahead of your competitors. You need to know how the market is shifting, what the consumers are demanding, and how to create a product or service that can be addicting to the public. How can a company be one step ahead and look forward to new opportunities if their whole workforce dutifully follows all policies, procedures, and practices that they were taught? To move ahead you need to have the people that challenge what is. You need to encourage innovation, allow employees to express their ideas and suggestions, and find a way to control the idea enough to make it work for your industry.

Too much regulated structure in education and the workplace will kill creativity, and ultimately your competitive edge. Do not deny the person that questions things. These will potentially be the people that find a way to have three steps ahead of the competition rather than one. Be open to it, encourage it, and listen to those who have the courage to speak up. I often wonder how many companies have kicked themselves for denying a candidate or employee that seemed to go against the grain, only to have that person go on and create their own empire. I think of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that got denied jobs and went on to outshine the companies that turned them away.

Companies need to stop telling people that things can’t be done because they’ve never been done before. Stop closing your minds to new ideas. Why not be the company that wows the world once they show them what is possible? Why not go down in history as the company that took that chance? Why?

Find the candidate or employee that asks you why- they will be the one that changes the business world.

Here are some other articles you can read on the subject. Enjoy:

http://www.inc.com/harvey-mackay/the-power-of-why.html

http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/18393/power-of-asking-%27why%27-how-it-makes-employees-think-grow

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/03/change_your_employees_minds_ch.html