EAP Corner

Gen Y – The Millennials -Bridging the Multi-generational Workforce (Part 5)

This is part five in a series of articles regarding the multi-generational workforce. Generational diversity can impact the wide array of strengths we have at our fingertips as we work together. Understanding the values and motivation of the generation allows the use of those strengths to benefit teamwork and the company. Not understanding the other generations can result in a breakdown within the workplace, which ultimately affects the work environment and the bottom line for the company.

The focus today will be on learning more about Generation Y, also called Gen Y or the Millennials. This generation was born between 1980 and 1994, ages 24-38 years (some sources report 1978 -2002). The labels of this generation can give us clues about who Gen Y’s are: millennials, nexters, generation www, the digital generation, generation E, echo boomers and the net generation. Members of this generation label themselves as the nonnuclear family generation, the nothing is- sacred generation, the wannabees, the feel-good generation, cyberkids, the door- die generation and the searching-foran- identity generation. (Tolbize, 2008)

Gen Y’s have been shaped and influenced by growing up with parental excesses, computers and technological advances, which explains their comfort with technology and their attachment to gadgets. Many from this generation grew up as children of divorce and in blended families. They have been more sheltered than any other generation. They kept busy as children and were the first generation of children with schedules. They have never known a world without high-speed video games,speed dial and ATMs. As a result, they multi-task well. They also don’t focus so easily. They have been greatly indulged by fun loving parents, were coddled and consider their parents their heroes. They can be self-absorbed with a strong sense of entitlement.

Millennials believe that because of technology, they can work flexibly from anyplace anytime and they should be evaluated on the end result, not how they got there. Their work ethic does not mandate 10-hour days. They are effective workers but out of the office at 5 PM on the dot. They view work as a “gig” or something that fills the time between weekends. They “Work to Live” and want a balanced life. (Clayton, S., & Vargas, J, 2006)

Gen Y’s are ambitious, not always focused and will look to the work place for direction and for help in achieving their goals. A positive work environment for Gen Y’s would be having their boss and/or managers assist and mentor them in gaining their professional goals, with frequent input and feedback (being impressed with their decisions and letting them know) in their development. They are from the “drop down and click menu” era so giving them goals in steps and actions is helpful. They may be the first generation that accepts older leadership.Relationships with their bosses are important to them, but on their terms. Respect is earned, not demanded. All of this done with a collaborative, positive and friendly environment will enhance the Gen Y’s desires to be in this work environment.

Communication with this generation should be polite, positive and respective. They prefer electronic communication
such as cell phones, email, IM, text. If it is very important, communicate in person. When communicating, use action verbs and language to portray visual images. This generation is not necessarily good at personal communication because of technological ways they were brought up. This generation has been characterized as demanding, the most confident and highly educated generation, and entrepreneurial. They work best with being challenged, with a flexible hierarchical organization, with team work and collaboration and they welcome diversity. They are optimistic, adaptable to change, seek flexibility, are multi-taskers and are fiercely independent. (Tolbize, 2008) They are at ease in teams, are high speed-stimulus junkies,innovative, loyal to peers, sociable, and the most doted upon of any generation at work. They are open to new ideas, optimistic, politically savvy, self-absorbed, want to please, and hope to make life contributions to the world.

With all of this being said, it is clear that the Gen Y’s, as well as the other generations, bring much to the table in what they offer a workplace. There are similarities between the generations and there are differences. It seems apparent that we need to understand the attributes each generation brings to the team. By doing this, we can enter and engage with the style that fits that person, offering more success in reaching the mission of the company. Rules and guidelines will still be upheld, giving all employees information on what is expected of them. But relationship building and accessing the strength of each person can be better accomplished by approaching and understanding each person’s level.

Take some time to evaluate your work environment, your colleagues and/or employees or employers. Recognize their strengths and engage with each person, understanding more about how he/she is best motivated and energized.

Works Cited:

Clayton, S., & Vargas, J. (2006, February 8). Generations at work. Retrieved from Work Life Solutions.

Tolbize, A. (2008). Generational differences in the workplace. Research and Training Center on Community Living, pp4.

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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