”Meet Generation Y, the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world”
“They keep telling me, “Here is what you get in five years, ten years, twenty years..” But they expect me to come back tomorrow. What do I get tomorrow?”
With that quote Bruce Tulgan starts the first chapter of his book “Not everyone gets a trophy – how to manage Generation Y”, which is supposed to serve as a guide for business managers on how to manage employees from this particular generation.
I happened to stumble upon this book while searching for literature for my master thesis covering online self-promotion and employability. Having read about self-promotion, and having discussed it with a few PR practitioners I noted that the conversation almost every time led to a discussion about “the young” and Generation Y. I realized that this book would probably give me some insight to why Gen Y:ers are seen as the typical self-promoters.
While reading the book there were many “aha’s” and “oh’s” going through my mind, while at the same time I had to stop reading to tell myself, “hey, you are part of this generation too, don’t act so surprised”. The picture that Bruce Tulgan paints is not the prettiest, however he does shed some light on “my generation” as well. Firstly he defines Generation Y as those individuals born between 1978 and 1990, individuals born between 1991 and 2000 he categorizes as Millenials.
People belonging to Generation Y grew up in what he calls The Decade of the Child.Being children to people belonging to Generation X, which he calls the unsupervised generation, Generation Y can be seen as the oversupervised generation. As children, Gen Y:ers were patted on the shoulder by their parents, telling them that they can do anything they want and helping them build up their self-esteem. This is one way to explain why Gen Y:ers are perceived as self-possessed and confident.To quote Bruce Tulgan:
“Gen Y:ers don’t look at a large, established organization and think, I wonder where I’ll fit in your complex picture. Rather they look at an employer and think, I wonder where you will fit in my life story”.
If I think about it, it does sound a bit like me and my friends. We have a picture in our minds of where we want to work and sometimes even a list of attractive employers but seldom do we reflect over how we could contribute to their businesses, it is more a view on how that company fits in, in our future plans and how we want to be perceived by others. In this sense, yes Bruce, we are quite confident about ourselves.
Further Bruce argues in his book that Gen Y:ers often push harder for more significant roles in earlier stages in their careers than other generations and are often in a hurry to take on the next task. I also see this among my group of friends. I have one friend that after her first day on a new job said “I think I would definitely be able to manage that company too”. Okay, I realize that it might seem a bit over the top to say that after your first day, but in a world where unemployment among young people is so high, that confidence might help us stay motivated and believe in ourselves when nobody else does, right?
Bringing out the best of Gen Y
Without being to philosophical, what Bruce Tulgan wishes to say in his book is that Gen Y is often criticized for being the selfish generation, but people tend to forget the great things about this generation.
People from this generation grew up with the Internet and are used to working in changing environments and in a fast pace. Neither are Gen Y:ers reluctant to change, rather they embrace it with open arms. According to Bruce people get it wrong; to manage Gen Y:ers is not to praise them with trophies just for showing up. Gen Y:ers may need help to form bonds with an organization, their roles and the manager, and sometimes they may need “parenting advice”, but there is a fine line, they do not wish to be treated like children.
Further on the book gives concrete advice to business leaders on how to manage Gen Y and Bruce concludes by saying:
“If managed right, this generation will be the most high-performing workforce in history”.
Reading the book and other literature about self-promotion I don’t believe that self-promotion is simply a phenomenon that has become more apparent today because of younger generations. I believe that it is more about technology development and the rise of social media platforms where people are given the space to promote themselves. Isn’t that what social media is about? Bragging? Sticking out? Portraying yourself as unique? It is modestly said technology making humankind more self-obsessed.
Oh well. I’m going to finish off as “the typical Gen Y:er” that I am and go upload a link to this blog post on my LinkedIn, or maybe not. It’s better if you go visit my LinkedIn and endorse my writing skills. Now that would be the pat on the shoulder that I need.
And read the book. It’s great.