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Kudos to Mark Harbeke, the manager of content development at the Winning Workplaces site, for poking a few holes in all the consultant-fueled stereotypes around managing Generation Y. In his column, he chastises Fortune (ok, yes, a BW competitor) for what he describes as painting his generation as a needy, entitled group of iPod-toting texters interested in little more than being heaped with praise. While as a writer, I personally liked Fortune’s species-oriented take on managing the Millenial generation, I agree that this massive group of kids is suffering from being painted with too broad a brush.
Granted, it’s important for businesses to make sure they don’t try and treat 20-somethings exactly like 40-somethings. They’re inevitably more technology oriented (the CEO of defense contractor Raytheon calls them “the thumb generation”), and they do communicate differently (one PR woman I spoke with told me her daughter tried to quit her job via email). Many of them do look for more of a corporate conscience than their elders did in the companies who hire them. And yes, the differences will inevitably lead to conflicts in the workplace.
But most of the Generation Y folks I meet (I’m part of the tiny stuck-in-the-middle group of Xers) are industrious, extraordinarily hard-working, and not exactly hanging around waiting for a bunch of praise. I’ve never seen a “helicopter parent,” as their too-involved parents have been labeled, hovering around. There’s even a couple of interns out of the 18 or so we have at BW this summer who—shocker!—don’t own an iPod. (And no, they don’t hail from Mars.)
We’ve discussed here on multiple occasions how to tackle the story of the growing generational shift in the workplace as the huge Millenial population moves in. Some question if this shift is really all that different from when we Xers moved in, with our supposedly lazy, aimless approach to our careers and our lives. Others note that while the Millenials may change the workplace, it’s more likely that the workplace, with all its pressures and politics, is going to change them. What do you think?
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