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Understanding your Gen Y workers

3 min read


In their new book, “Y in the Workplace: Managing the ‘Me First’ Generation,” by Nicole Lipkin and April Perrymore explore the psychological influences that shape Gen Y’s attitude and approach toward work, and give companies insight and advice on how to coach, manage and retain Gen Y workers. Lipkin and Perrymore recently spoke with SmartBrief’s Akoto Ofori-Atta about the character of Generation Y, and what employers can do to harness their potential.

What characteristics of Gen Y do employers of other generations find most problematic?
PERRYMORE: Our research revealed that the biggest complaint was a false sense of entitlement. Generation Y has an immediate need for getting rewards, praise, and promotion not based on tenure, but based on performance.

What are the psychological causes for this difference in attitude toward work?

LIPKIN: This generation was raised by Baby Boomers, who were influenced by the hippie movement of the 70s, which resulted in a revolt against traditional parenting practices. Boomers taught their children to do the exact opposite of what their parents taught them: Question authority, speak up, and to be a part of major decisions. Those are not necessarily bad things, but the disservice is that parents didn’t help build accountability and responsibility.

In addition, there was a huge focus on self-esteem in the education system when millennials were growing up. Awards were not merit-based and students received accolades simply for showing up to school. So now, they enter the workforce, and they want to be rewarded for just showing up and doing their work.

PERRYMORE: Parents of Gen Y are friends with their children, so they really focused on defending them instead of punishing them and enforcing consequences, which is contributing to the millennials’ difficulty with coping.

What positive qualities do they bring to the workforce?

LIPKIN: Something that I adore about this generation is that they are incredibly socially and globally conscious. This generation won’t work for organizations that don’t support their values — environmentally, socially and globally. They’re forcing organizations to become more globally aware and the impact has been noticeable.

What are the best tactics companies can employ to manage this generation properly?

LIPKIN: A specific tactic for organizations is to provide incremental responsibility as a reward as opposed to incremental promotion. That way, Gen Y employees feel like there efforts are being recognized and not ignored. In addition, allowing them to work in other departments for a certain percentage of their time will keep them from getting bored, which also happens very often.

PERRYMORE: Finally, managers need to be patient and consistent and want to learn about this generation. This generation is as large as the Boomers, so ignoring the needs and characteristics of Gen Y will be perilous for organizations, as millennials will one day run the workforce.

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