What Do GenYers Really Want From Work?

9 years ago

Now two years out of college, my 24- year -old son is nowhere near being on a career track. I'm thrilled.

In fact, as best as I can tell only two of his friends seems to be working in traditional jobs. One is in banking and after bonuses are distributed he may opt to leave that industry--before he gets laid off. The other works for a major advertising agency -- in our world that is considered a traditional job.

My definition of a traditional job: benefits and paid vacations.

So far Noah has spent a year in New York working for a media company, upon returning to Minneapolis, he worked several months on a political campaign until his candidate lost the nomination, and is now working for a non-profit as a trail guide where he takes groups on canoe and camping trips.One of the landmarks of the organization is that their mission is to make adventure travel accessible to everyone -regardless of age, background or ability.

On his first trip, one of the participants was a man with cerebral palsy who speaks with a computer. Noah said he had a wicked sense of humor.Although I have been working for more than 30 years, I have never come into contact with a client, co-worker or employee who uses speaks with a computer.

It's not that Noah doesn't think about his career-- he plans to spend lots of time this winter--as he skis the slopes in Colorado -- thinking about his next move. It will either be getting an MBA or law school. As far as work goes during his winter of skiing, he says, "I hope to do some substantive work." That's code for 'if you or dad can throw some freelance work my way, I'm willing to help you out on projects in the afternoons.'

Last summer I did throw some project work Noah's way. I wouldn't call it an overwhelming success.Maybe it's the complications of that mother-son thing, or maybe it's also do to the fact that Noah is GenY and I am baby boom.

What GenYers want from work is a hot topic this week.Blogger G.L. Hoffman has a piece in U.S. News and World Report that offers 10 tips to anyone who find themselves managing twenty-somethings.
A Sampling:

  • Let them use their media. Let them use Facebook, MySpace, and IM at work. From time to time, we have server issues and ask them to restrict their use and we get no complaints.
  • Set up groups and committees and stand back. This is a great way to keep them involved while you learn new ideas.

  • Expect varied, non-chain-of-command type communications. If they need something to do the job better, expect them to search and find it. Or tell you.
  • Everything you learned from Peter Drucker still applies. But—roughly—times 10.

The best part is the conversation in the comment section between some boomer managers and some gen-y employees.Much of the conversation focused on expectations and deliverables. With older managers frustrated at the "arrogance" of the gen yers.

As someone who hit 30 a few months ago, I'd suggest the best way to manage 20 somethings is to treat them as peers. Chances are they have a better level of education, are more motivated to make an impact and have a better ability to learn new things than someone whose been in "the business" for 30 years.

We also can't stand condescending lists that give suggestions on how to manage us. If you need a list from a magazine to understand how to be a manager update your resume. Because those 20 somethings will be your boss before you know what hits you.

Which brought a response from a workplace consultant, J.T. O'Donnell

For managers of 20-somethings, it's become more important than ever to understand the career reality of the newest generation to hit the workplace. While they may be the most educated in terms of the number of them holding diplomas, they've been misguided into thinking that their degree has properly prepared them for the workplace - and we've wrongly assumed it as well. I suggest managers consider treating them more like clients than employees. Get to know where they are coming from and you will find it easier to get what you need from them. You cannot begin to connect with younger workers until you find compassion and understanding for how they've gotten to where they are today.

Evidently, Gawker wasn't so impressed with the list and came up with their own. So far its gotten nearly 13,000 views and 123 comments.

As an actual 20-something, I'm communicating up G.L. Hoffman's chain of command that this list is straight up crapola. You are old and your advice is dorky, Mr. Hoffman! And too long—we 20-somethings have no attention span (or respect for our elders), due to drug use. After the jump, five real tips for managing an office full of 20-somethings, should you ever find yourself in such an unlucky position:

* Food: Can we get some free food up in here?

* Shut Up: Dude, you are old and we already know how to do this stupid job, so please just shut up.

* Don't Sweat It: Don't sweat it, man. We got it all under control. Don't freak out.

* Money: Pay us more, why don't you?

* Work: It totally sucks. Nothing you can do about it. Sorry.

A portion of the comments has to do with phrases managers should avoid when talking to Gen Yers. Here's some suggestions:

Don't say "do me a favor" when you're asking me to do something that's part of my job description. I am not doing you a favor, it's part of my job to do whatever you're asking me to do.

Don't bother attempting small talk before asking me to do something ("Hey...what's up?...Oh yeah?...Listen, I need you to _____."

Other phrases to avoid:
"I'm gonna have to ask you to go ahead and..."
"We need to talk about your TPS reports."

Stop using latin phrases like "prima facie" to communicate with us effectively.

Quit calling from your office next door to say, "Can you come in here? I need to talk to you for a minute." This makes me think that you are going to fire me, when in fact you most often want to show me pictures of your cute niece

Do not use: hon, honey, sweetie, or girlfriend. You are not even 1/28 as cool as my grandma so don't even go there.

Someone tell the old people that email is not a chat program. I don't need dozens of emails in my inbox sayiny just, "Thanks" or "You're welcome."

and I get how hard this is for you baby boomers... but freaking listen to us once in a while. Yeah we might give you a little more attitude than the 30 somethings, but we're the internet generation, we know what's up sometimes, give us a tiny bit of credit. Am I asking way too much here?

Chances are if you are a baby boomer or even a GenXer you may roll your eyes on more than one ocassion while reading this list.

But if you can get over the sarcasm and snarkiness there is a lot of great information here. Underneath the blatant attempts at ultimate coolness, the commenters are sharing real truths about the workplace generation gap.

There was one comment that really struck home that I would like to pass along to anyone who manages or has friends who manage twenty-somethings.

" would you please forward this to my boss!"


Elana writes about business culture at FunnyBusiness

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