Generation Y and the Reinvention of Work

I came across another article about Generation Y at entrepreneur.com which takes a more positive view of this generation. It looks at several myths about Generation Y. The argument is, much as the one I made in my previous post, that young people are adapting to changing social contexts: “What we discovered is that some of the ‘negative’ behaviors these young employees exhibit are actually intuitive responses to a changing economy. And if employers want to keep up, they better change, too.”

It’s not that younger people are more “lazy” or “narcissistic” or don’t possess qualities such as loyalty. These qualities simply manifest themselves in different ways in different generations, different cultures, even different individuals. As Bruce Tulgan says, “They’re very loyal. It’s just not the kind of blind loyalty you get to a kingdom — blind loyalty to the hierarchy.” Perhaps we could learn from Non-Violent Communication which suggests that we separate our observations from our interpretations. Rather than making blanket statements such as “you’re not loyal,” we criticise specific observations, such as “you quit your job three times in the last three months.” Of course, this is harder to do when we’re dealing with a generalised group like a generation, but we can still separate some of our specific observations about members of that generation, from our interpretations of that behaviour. If we do this, misunderstanding is less likely, and constructive dialogue is more likely to happen.

At the end of the article is a quote from Neil Howe: “And before these managers and employers start gloating about how much these kids are going to have to change, I think these employers should start asking the question: How much are we going to have to change?” This is exactly it. Younger people are questioning long-held assumptions about work. We are asking: is this work meaningful? What do I get out of it? What does society get out of it? Why does it matter? These are extremely valid questions to ask. These questions will rejuvinate work. Work needs to change, and it seems, my generation may be most equipped to change it.

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~ by dewiniaeth on June 24, 2007.

5 Responses to “Generation Y and the Reinvention of Work”

  1. I employee a group of 80 gen y and I am also I gen Y kid. I have learned to work in middle to get through to them.

  2. Roger Dennis emailed me with this comment:

    interesting to me that the young people who question the curriculum in traditional schools are asking the same questions; you could just substitute ‘curriculum’ for ‘work’

    i am working in nyc with icope. http://www.icope.org i’ll be at aero conference. hope to cross your path.

  3. I’m interested in what you have to say about re-defining work. I’m a couple of generations ahead of you, and started out on the traditional career path–and quit three major “jobs” in academia over a period of several years before coming to the understanding, finally, that this was not what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I knew from age 12 that I was meant to be a writer, but chose ignore this instinctive wisdom in order to follow the conventional path of career, marriage, family, and so on. I don’t look back with regret on the many years I spent in academia: they brought me a great many rewards. On the other hand, I do respect those who are able to listen to that creative inner voice and follow its injunctions. Perhaps this new generation has been encouraged, along the education path, to trust their creativity? Perhaps also the old imperatives are no longer so compelling: the coyness about sex, for example, and the fear of pregnancy–once powerful motivating factors for early marriage–are no longer so prevalent as they once were. Most of the young people I know are in no hurry to get married, when they can establish perfectly satisfying relationships without. Certainly, a fascinating topic. I’ll be interested in watching for more. Cheers, PaL

  4. Oh, they said the same thing about Generation X when we were your age. Don’t take it to heart.

  5. Hi!,

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