Thursday, 18 March 2010

Generation Y needs to take responsibility for our own happiness

We don’t want to put in any extra hours. We moan about how we feel, but we don’t bother doing anything about it.


Over the last week, I’ve been following Steve Earl’s series of blogs on Generation Y PRs with interest. I’m Gen Y myself – according to Earl’s definition, the generation includes anyone born after 1983 – and all the accusations above were made by Gen X bosses about their Gen Y staff.

As far as I can see, the Gen X vs Gen Y problems focus around three things: attitude, motivation and understanding. Some of Gen X think that we have an attitude problem. We’re not dedicated, we don’t have the same work ethic that they do, and we want someone else (our bosses? Our mummies?) to sort our lives out. Fair? I would say absolutely not, but those of us who fall into the Gen Y bracket (or even just the mindset) need to remember that perception is reality. If our Gen X bosses think we’re whining slackers, they’ll treat us as such, and that really isn’t fair.

As for motivation, it’s been said that work/life balance is more important to us than it is to Gen X, but I think that’s misleading. The problem is that in this economy, Gen Y can’t afford houses or pensions anyway, so we’re likely to be working until we’re 80. If we don’t enjoy our jobs as much as we enjoy our free time, what’s the point? We don’t want a work/life balance – we want a LIFE.

This brings me neatly on to the third, and possibly most important point: understanding. Most of Gen Y aren’t lazy. We know we have to work hard if we want a promotion or a pay rise, but the real point is that what we really want is recognition of our abilities, and reward for doing a good job. The promotion and the pay rise are nice, because they show us that we’re valued, but they’re not the be all and end all, and generally we’d rather be happy than be running the company.

Interestingly, Earl admits in his final blog on the subject that his initial thoughts were that Gen Y PRs should “suck it up, snap out of it and get back to the harsh realities of toil”, but that wasn’t his final conclusion. In fact, he recommended that agency bosses need to take responsibility for understanding and motivating their Gen Y staff if they don’t want us to just give up and move on, because the very nature of Gen Y is that we won’t hang around if we’re not fulfilled.

I don’t think that any of us should give up responsibility for our own happiness though. If a whole generation just sits back and waits for their bosses to change, we’re going to be waiting a hell of a long time. It’s up to us to facilitate the understanding of what drives us and what we want out of our careers, and of course we need to show ourselves to be valuable members of staff with a comprehensive understanding of the business and why it works (or doesn’t work). If we commit to helping Gen X see us in a different light, life will be a lot easier for everyone.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think that Gen Y is getting an unfair reputation, or should we just stop whining and start working harder?

Note: This blog first appeared on Steve Earl’s blog as part of Twitter’s Be My Guest month.

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