In Defense Of Gen Y In The Workplace

Generation Y gets a lot of heat from prior generations with regard to how we work. The word “entitlement” often gets used. As does, overconfident, uncommitted, and a plethora of other negatives. To our credit, we’re seen as technologically-savvy, team-oriented, and dynamic. Sometimes, however, it feels like Gen Y often gets the short end of the stick with regard to our workplace attitudes and performance.

It seems to me that life after college has been different from Generation Y in a way that it hasn’t been been for other generational cohorts, at least for some time. I am one of those people who is very critical of my generation’s attitudes, particularly in the United States. Given that I am foreign, I sometimes feel a little disparity between how the generation is described here and what I observe in other countries. Nonetheless, viewing the world through the lens of multiple cultural perspectives does not alienate me from identifying with Gen Y. And I think people are not always fair in how they view us.

The following are a list of my defenses of my generation, Gen Y.

  • Gen Y were conditioned to be high performers from childhood. We were conditioned to get good grades, be well-rounded, and have high expectations for ourselves. So you can imagine our surprise when because we want to exceed, we’re called, “entitled.” Granted, hard work does’t entitle one to success but, from our perspective, we’ve been putting in hours since our childhood. We don’t think we should be middle-managers in two years but given the nature of our up-bringing and how quickly we learn, we do want more responsibility in a shorter amount of time because that’s what we’ve been trained to want.
  • A lot of people forget that a lot of Generation Y graduated into a not-so-hot economy. We’re a little pissed off about that because we are inheriting the damage caused by prior generations. We don’t think we should get our dream jobs as we walk across the stage but it would be nice if we didn’t feel like even merely obtaining a job that matches our education endeavors wasn’t like pulling teeth. Given inflation and prices over time, we’ve had to settle for simply what we could get in a lot of ways that our parents didn’t have to.
  • While we’re on the subject of our parents, a lot of Gen Y observed their parents work, work, and work. Perhaps in a way that wasn’t always healthy and from our observation, we have come to the conclusion that all work and no play, does in fact make Jack a dull boy. (And Jill too.) So we do think that there is a way to be a productive member of society and still have a healthy, happy, life. Why is that considered a bad thing, again?
  • Regarding our uncommitted attitudes to organizations. Well, I think that’s another thing we learned from our not-so-hot economy and a prior generation who, after being loyal to an organization for years, were simply laid off and dropped like a bad habit. Times have changed and we wised up and realized that a lot of corporations simply do what is best for the corporation. So we decided that we would do what is best for ourselves too. And sometimes that means jumping ship when we find a better opportunity. If lay-offs and pay-cuts aren’t personal, well neither is our lack of commitment.

I know it may seem like I’m ripping apart “Corporate America” (and part of me is), because I honestly think Generation Y is a very frustrated generation that was not necessarily dealt the best of cards. My individual view is that no one “deserves” anything until they get it, but that’s mostly the result of being the product of two parents who worked hard from poverty to earn everything they have. It’s a different mentality from a generation that was told and trained that all they had to do was work hard and get the education and put in the hours, and that opportunity would come. The opportunities didn’t come for a lot of people.

My advice to Generation Y, while I defend some of our work mentality, would be to borrow some aspects from The Great Depression Generation – learn to save, expect nothing from anyone, and get back to basics with starting from the bottom in order to achieve your career goals. It’s tough to break outside of how we’e been trained, but we don’t want to make our parents mistakes either. If we want to become the great generation that we were primed to be, ironically, we’re going to have to overcome the mentality we were brought up in. Hopefully we will, and along the way, leave our own future graduates in a much better position than the ones we find ourselves in.


Kovie Biakolo

Kovie Biakolo is a Drake University Marketing Graduate. Originally thinking she was headed to law school in Chicago or a year in Spain, Kovie found herself in the Windy City in digital writing and marketing for over a year. Currently, Kovie is in graduate school for Multicultural and Organizational Communication and started a blog, Life At Twenty Something to write about the good, the bad and the ugly of the twenty something life.

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