Generation Y have been caricatured by employers as being:

  • Pampered
  • Lacking motivation
  • Poor with criticism
  • Even worse with authority
  • Schooled and brought up in an environment in which it is ‘OK’ to fail

In the coming years, the last of Generation Y will be entering the workplace. As a result, a significant proportion of the workforce will be made up of ineffectual, mollycoddled, under achieving slackers that are likely to turn tail and start texting their therapist at the first sign of adversity, right?

Well, no. And if this is the view that you hold then it’s high time you reconsider your position. In fact, if you’re over 45 years old and hold this view, then you’re probably in need of a mirror as well. Because if there’s anything wrong with Generation Y, chances are it’s partly your fault.

You see, for years, Generation Y have been the recipients of a great deal of criticism regarding our work ethic, our moral conduct, our various tastes in music, our fashion – this list could go on indefinitely. And yet, who was it that inculcated these tastes of ours? We didn’t pamper ourselves as children, did we? We didn’t fail to instil our own moral values. The awful clothes that we wear, the terrible music – did we market these things to ourselves, did we cater for our own hideous tastes in just about everything?

No! Of course we didn’t. We are the result of our upbringing. The social, cultural, intellectual and political environment in which we were raised was defined by our superiors (apart from a social media culture that we created ourselves, without training, that is now being championed by our elders as part of the new glittering future). The fact that the older generations could turn out a younger generation that they perceive to be so rubbish, and then have the guile to say so openly as if they were not in some way complicit, seems so narrow minded as to be almost insulting.

The problem is that now employers are making a whole new bunch of errors with ‘Gen Y’, errors that threaten to further undermine any shot we ever had at being personally and professionally well adjusted.

A lot has been written about motivating Generation Y. Though the tone of some of these diatribes can be corrosive, focussing on personal shortcomings rather than any resolute solutions:

Give them teams.
In fact, they can’t work without them….

Give them lots of small deadlines.
They can’t get anything done without them…

Flatter them.
They think very highly of themselves…

Teach them how to write.
Their writing – especially professional writing – is atrocious…”

For a prime example of the calibre of some of these self proclaimed – and one assumes, self educated – motivators, watch this video:

For the record, my favourite part of this is:

“I’ve done a pretty scientific survey right now, and somewhere between 70 and 80 per cent of Gen Y have absolutely no motivation, no killer instinct, they’re all on some kind of anti depressant drug and they cry in their coffee all day and they don’t want to win… Generation Y, 70 or 80 per cent of you, have the loser gene.”

He’s right, you know: that does sound ‘pretty scientific’, especially the part about ‘the loser gene’. Unfortunately, brow beating people isn’t an effective form of motivation. If it was, some of our work would be a lot simpler: we’d just lock our participants in a room with this guy on a cinema screen screaming at them for a few days without sleep or solids.

The trouble is that employers can moan all they want, but if Generation Y are as awful and as useless as some to seem to think, they’re just going to have find new ways to engage with them. Daniel Pink wrote an article for The Telegraph in which he alights upon this point and shows that for all of their perceived flaws, the workplace needs to cater to Generation Y’s needs. We are, after all, the future. Perhaps, the older generations’ inability to cope with this influx of young individuals whose professional hard wiring differs massively to their own demonstrates an incapacity to cope with change on their part. Perhaps, rather than gleefully reeling off the professional shortcomings of ‘young people these days’, aka…

  • the people that will have to deal with the inestimable debt that you have burdened all future generations with
  • that are presently labouring under the recession that prior generation’s (let’s face it) greed and short sightedness has caused

… employers should be pragmatic. A common complaint levelled at Generation Y is that they’re ‘quitters’. And quit is exactly what you’re youngest and brightest will do if you don’t challenge and value them as you should.