October 24, 2021

The 5 Fears that Keep Senior Leaders from Enjoying Gen Y

I am convinced that the quality of our living is directly proportional to the quality of our relationships, and it is not uncommon for our relationships to suffer when we are fearful or we feel threated by another person or group of people.

As I am traveling around the country, I am hearing questions and comments from Baby Boomers which are somewhat on the critical side…criticizing Generation Y for their high expectations, for being able to get the job done quickly and then wanting to kick off early or for Generation Y’s casual attitudes about dress and formal communication.

So…as a coach, when I hear a complaint, I am usually looking a lot deeper, because when there is a complaint, it usually stems from a fear or from a value being charged or violated.

As I have been digging deeper, I have found that there are 5 very common fears that are keeping senior leaders from enjoying their Generation Y colleagues, and they are:

1) Fear of technology. As we all know, Generation Y is the most tech savvy generation alive today. They may be trumped by Gen Z (or the next generation.) But, for now, they are certainly dominating the technology know-how arena while many Baby Boomers are still trying to figure out how to send e-mail or a text message. If you are a senior leader, and if you are afraid of technology, then it’s up to you to get trained up. There are scores of courses being offered around the country on every tech skill under the sun, so if this applies to you, get going on your own continuing education.

2) Fear of job loss. As our Gen Y professionals become more knowledgeable and skillful, there will come a time when people who can no longer perform will be asked to retire early. That is just the way the world works, but it is really not an excuse for calling Gen Y names or feeling threatened about their skill set. It’s time to embrace this generation and get in their as senior leaders and share our wisdom with them.

3) Fear of looking dumb. This is a fear that everyone experiences at some point in their lives, yet there is nothing more unnerving to some senior leaders to be “shown up” in front of their peers by someone who is half their age. And guess what…Gen Y is not out there trying to show up their senior leaders. It just happens. If you are a leader, then it’s up to you to admit when you don’t know something and to be excited that you have a Gen Y on your team who can answer that question. Leaders are only as strong as the people they surround themselves with, and I believe it’s time to start surrounding ourselves with both Gen Y and Gen Z young men and women. They are our future, and they know a lot, but you won’t know this if you keep them at bay.

4) Fear of optimism. Yeah…I know this sounds bizarre, but many senior leaders are just downright pessimistic and to hear the optimism of Gen Y just scares them silly. Many remind me of Eyeore from Winnie the Pooh…”It’s a beautiful day, and I’m going to get sunburned!” I know that times are tough, and I know we are heading into a recession, but we need Gen Y’s optimism right now. We need their creativity, networks and bright spots to pull us through these times.

5) Fear of change. Fear of change is something all humans experience, but the older we get, the more we have a tendency to dig our heels in and stay put. This world is changing, and the Millennials are bringing us new ideas, a new world view, a positive view of diversity, innovation and a way forward that just might not look like what it did 20 years ago…and that’s okay! We are here to evolve and grow, and Generation Y is going to take us in that direction. If you are living with a fear of change, I encourage you to reach out and work with a coach on this one issue. It could be the one thing that is stopping you from building a great relationship with the Millennials in your life.

Today, if you are someone who is living with any of these fears, I recommend that you take out a piece of paper and write out your thoughts around these fears and how they may be getting in the way of your relationships with Generation Y. They are our future, and it’s time to start working with them…not resisting their efforts.


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