I continue to be intrigued by the exasperated opinions of baby boomers about their Gen Y employees. This is an emotionally charged situation. It consistently conjures up eye rolling and comments that begin with “When I was their age, I never would have…”
I recently came across a book called “Generations, Inc.,” by Larry and Meagan Johnson, a father-daughter team. They effectively describe that you have employees who are brilliant but headstrong, well-intentioned but wary. The essence of this column is drawn from some points they make in their book about the signposts that have impacted Generation Y.
With this as a backdrop, let’s take a look at a list illustrating how baby boomers raised this generation. If you’re a parent, you will be able to relate to some of the items on the list below. If you’re not a parent, perhaps you’re an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a teacher, a coach, or simply an observer of others.
Before we delve into the list, I’d like to equip you with a few things to keep in mind:
- We are talking about a 70-million strong generation.
- The things on this list are not wrong; they are not judgments. These are observations of realities.
- You may read through this list and think that some of these are ridiculous.
- This list is not all-inclusive and is intended to simply provide a representative view.
- This parental leadership style is Gen Y’s paradigm for what leadership feels like.
Baby boomer parents:
- Created beautiful nurseries and playrooms….and later, creative adolescent and teen rooms.
- Equipped their homes with state-of-the art safety features to protect their children.
- Committed themselves to being great parents raising great children.
- Became stay-at-home dads, soccer moms and helicopter parents.
- Arranged play dates with friends.
- Planned over-the-top birthday parties, including the end-of-party treat bags.
- Enrolled the kids in music lessons, recreational activities and sports teams.
- Managed the master schedule on the whiteboard in the kitchen.
- Told their kids when to be ready and had all of their stuff organized for them.
- Drove them to and from practices and performances.
- Attended their events.
- Cheered and clapped for them.
- Helped their kids with homework.
- Paid for their clothes, cell phones, cars, car insurance and gas.
- Gave them spending money for trips, movies, shopping and video games.
- Took vacations where their kids wanted to go.
- Involved them in decisions about paint and carpet colors, houses and cars.
- Protected them from consequences
- at school.
- Gave them money so they wouldn’t have to work, allowing them to fully engage in sports and other extra-curricular activities.
- Got involved in their college admissions, even filling out applications.
- Called hiring managers to find out why their kid didn’t get the job.
- Called managers to complain about a poor performance review.
- What would you add? ____________
What is the good news in all of this?
This is a generation of people who are solidly grounded, have strong parental support, are educated and have a strong sense of who they are and what they can contribute. Many of our Gen Ys come from a high-performance background, driven by highly involved, highly supportive parent leaders.
What is the challenge that managers are grappling with?
- Members of Generation Y often expect their managers to have a strong interest in them as people.
- They expect to be applauded and praised when they perform well.
- They expect to be gently corrected and guided, just as they were by their parents.
- They expect clear direction in terms of what is expected of them, just as they had growing up.
- They want structure.
Where they come from is a reality, one they did not ask for. When you welcome them into your organization, the first step in order to maximize their contribution and to enhance your success in retaining them is to begin by meeting them where they are.
Can you do this?
Aleta Norris is a co-founding partner of Impact Consulting Group, LLC and Living As A Leader™, a leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. You may send Aleta your ‘Leading Generation Y’ question to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit www.livingasaleader.com.