Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is Generation Y?

Ipod listening, trendy clothes wearing, iphone using, twittering, facebooking, downloading, text messaging, connected to a local wifi, commenting, researching, sharing, and creating a new blog about their perspective on life. . . and the crazy thing is this is all happening simultaneously as they walk down the street to their Starbucks to get their sugar free vanilla soy latte.

This is obviously an exaggeration, but in all reality the differences between "how" we communicate and socialize has changed more rapidly creating a large divide between the generations. Where emailing and cellular phones were considered a huge progression in communication and socializing, with the drawbacks and strengths being you were always connected or accessible. Gen Y actually takes that one step further and embraces the accessibility publicly through twitter, and facebook, linking with their social and professional networks and always being public with everyone that is interested. Creating a whole new medium for commerce as well as socializing and developing one's values and ideals.

Its confusing to most Gen Y'ers how the simple handshaking, eye contact, and presentation of their outfits can and could matter to their effectiveness in most organizations. They tack on more to their personal styles and opinions - searching for humor, purpose, and belonging to a niche vs following the main stream. They multi task to the point of spreading their focus on so many areas simultaneously that it usually hinders their ability to connect and influence; searching for instant gratification in socializing, and use frequent informal methods of communicating. They lean towards questioning the purpose for tasks to understand the bigger picture and have a need to know "what" they're doing falls in line with their opinions and values. Direction taking is not as necessary or culturally accepted unless they know what it is they're doing and why and that also includes the fact that they are more confident in questioning authority.

Its hard to decipher how to reach, build rapport and ultimately to lead this new generation but to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths will directly aid into creating actionable tactics on leading Gen Y.

I've covered some traits of a stereotypical Gen Y'er and some of the negative points but to further bullet point it from a manager's point of view. . . . :

Unable to function without questioning
Unwilling to bend personal values even in the face of organizational values or changes
Alleviated fear of risk creates unsound judgements and actions

Optimizing for efficiency
Ability to understand the bigger picture
Multi tasker
Alleviated fear of risk creates novel and new ways of thinking and growth
Savvy in social events and bigger picture thinking
Willing to give back to a cause or have a cause & purpose

Please feel free to comment and let me know if there is anything that you think I can add to the list.


  1. To delve in on one aspect. With texting in particular, and the fact that we all have our own personal phone 24x7 now, and more generally speaking the deeper connectedness that facebook and twitter bring gen y, I can't flesh out why gen y is so much more afraid to talk in person. If you call or leave a voicemail for our stereotypical gen y they'll reply by text - if at all. Many, but not all, have developed a culture that is just ever more awkward to talk in person, or in real time over the phone - especially with someone that isn't in their inner circle, like a colleague, boss, or other passerby. Why?

  2. I think that GenY is just less confrontational, they don't want to be bothered and take the easy way out, which is not responding or texting. I know we text more because its cool and quick, but I also think we text more because it makes things easier. You feel less bad about dissapointing someone if its written in text. I think it also links into the genY's sense of entitlement, they can't be bothered with getting back to you or helping you. If someone calls my mom to ask them to cover a shift, she feels a sense of responsibility to the team and to helping that person, a genY person doesn't feel that way. They think they should look out for themself, that they have earned their days off and don't have a responsibility to help the team when they are not scheduled to. I don't know, just some random thoughts.