October 19, 2021

Profile of Gen Y job by Tamara J. Erickson

I want to continue the blog entry started by Scott on the Profile of Gen Y job article by Tamara J. Erickson.

What we are seeing is that Gen Y has a different definition of “work ethic”.  Baby Boomers seem to define work ethic as giving 60-70 hours per week, rushing from here to there in order to have the world see how much they are doing.  I am a Baby Boomer, and I know this mentality (I live this mentality).

Gen Y, however, is different (remember…they have different world views from any previous generation).  They not only have the knowledge and the tech skills to get the job done more efficiently and effectively, they have the network to pull off a task in a matter of 30 minutes as opposed to two hours by a solo worker working as a “lone ranger”.

I have had people ask me if Baby Boomers are upset with Gen Y’s view of work, because they also really crave less work hours and  more free time.  There might be something to this notion, but let me just put this into perspective on how I see the different generations and how they view work:

1) Traditionalists:  Traditionalists were affected by the Great Depression.  Work meant work…you worked to earn a living, save and invest.  If you left a job, there was a stigma attached to it (Oh…Henry must have been fired).  They were highly respectful of authority, and created a hierarchical structure to the leadership in organizations (so…everyone worked hard to climb to the top).

2) Baby Boomers:  Baby Boomers fall in that category of working 60 hours a week at a corporate job so that they can “keep up with the Joneses”.  To change jobs is a waste of time, and in order to do a great job, it means that you must hold a LOT of meetings and work week-ends if necessary.  Boomers love Mondays…because it means they get the chance to get back in there and work, work, work really hard (and many ended up being affected by the downsizing of corporate America in exchange for that hard work).

3) Generation X:  Gen X grew up being fiercely independent.  As latch-key kids, they began to depend on themselves and their friends for support, and many began dabbling with tech start ups during the Dot Com boom.  The Dot Com bust happened, and many went back into full time work, yet they had a few new demands, including flex hours, telecommuting and being able to move to different divisions in the company and spend time with their friends. Gen X really worked in order “to live”, and they don’t like close supervision.  So, meetings which made no sense and managers telling them how to work and what to do were met with quite a bit of resistance.

4) Then came Gen Y.  Okay…think about this…Gen Y has watched all of the above.  They watched their grandparents (traditionalists) in coat and tie, watched their Baby Boomer parents work 60 hours a week just to get laid off or fired and watched their older siblings (Gen X) start to ask for things like flex hours and movement.  So…this is an evolution of generations and how they view work.   Gen Y’s mantra is “Live First, Work Second”,  and they know how to use technology, online social networking, and the massive amounts of knowledge they have to multi-task and do it well!  They see work as something they do between the times they live or see their friends or do something fun.   So, they are changing the way we work and live…living first, working second…isn’t this what we all want?

I want to close by saying that I really believe that Gen Y is going to change the way we all work, and again…I think this is an evolutionary process in our world.  Sure…there will always be Generation Y adults who work hard, but they are putting their foot down and saying “We want to live in a different way!”.  If we can get the job done (and done well without the quality of the end product or service suffering), then why not do it in half the time?  What’s the purpose in the 60 hour work week?  If you enjoy working 60 hours…great!  I congratulate you.  However, be very careful about speaking about Gen Y as if they don’t have a strong work ethic.  They just have a much different way of moving about work, and their priorities are  in a bit of a different order right now, and this is all subject to change..

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