There are no generational workplace differences. Quite simply, they are a myth. Yes, there are now four different generations working in the same place. However, all four generations still want the same things – respect, trustworthy leadership, stability, feedback, loyalty. See Jennifer J. Deal’s work at the Center for Creative Leadership.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the question is, what can Generation Y teach us all – Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials, about the workplace. After all, the Gen Y’ers are starting to rise up the ranks of the corporate ladder. Or in some cases, are already sitting on top of it (aka Mr. Zuckerberg).
7 Things Generation Y Can Teach Us about the Workplace
- Ask Curious Questions – Generation Y is also known as “Generation Why” for a reason. They tend not to accept things as they are unless they understand the back story. In other words, the “why”. If we all asked more “why” questions, we could work to eliminate the ineffective/arcane/stupid processes, procedures, and practices that handcuff our abilities.
- Entrepreneurial Thinking – Generation Y wants to move fast and break things. They learn by trying, tinkering, and toiling. A company’s slow pace and bureaucratic overhead are the ball and chain of disenfranchisement. What would happen if we sped up decision making? Might a calculated risk pay off?
- Workplace Flexibility – It’s pointless to leave Generation Y trapped in the confines of their four-walled cubicle. They will find a way to bust out – one way or another. As we all try to do more with less, “work hours” are extending beyond 9-5. We can all embrace workplace flexibility. Who cares wherever or whenever work gets done, as long as it is on time and accurate? Who really cares if you are sitting in your PJs when you are responding to email? Do you really need to be in the office to do that? Of course not, and it shouldn’t matter to you if your coworkers do either.
- Unified Communications – Generation Y communicates through social media, text messaging, instant messaging, and to a lesser extent, email. Give your people the tools to be successful. Internal social media sites, instant messaging, and presence notifications (on the phone, busy, away from the desk), benefit everyone in the organization through quicker decision making and shared knowledge transfer.
- Feedback for Growth – One of the knocks of Generation Y is that they require constant feedback. So? Don’t you want to know how you’re doing? Or is sitting in the dark, stuck in the poop, like a mushroom, really a good way to grow? Feedback should be more than an annual occasion.
- Respect for Everyone – Generation Y grew up in a multicultural society. If they didn’t have it in their hometown, they saw it when they got to college. They accept people for who they are. They judge others on their merits, not preconceived notions or stereotypes. Can’t we all just get along?
- Expectations of Greatness – Above all, Generation Y wants to be inspired. They want to find meaning in their work. They want to do good. They want to understand a larger connection with the world. They expect greatness. If we all expect greatness in ourselves, our coworkers, and our company, we will find that meaning, the connectedness, and the good that we do.
Better than Average Guy
Author, Speaker, Consultant