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July 19, 2011 / W. Stanton Smith

A different slant on what gen yers don’t know about themselves

My friend Penelope Trunk has done  it again in her post of July 15, 2011 entitled,  ” What Gen Yers Don’t Know About Themselves.”

She has sparked a debate which needs to happen now that gen y is getting into the post-college stage in some considerable numbers. What does gen y bring that is really new to the workplace and how does this square with what many of us who have studied and admired gen y expected to happen?

Here’s my take on selected aspects of Penelope’s 5 things gen y doesn’t know about itself

1. Gen Y mistakes the speed of the Internet for their own speed.

This is a common loss of perspective among humans of any generation. gen y finds itself the beneficiary of technological breakthroughs provided by past generations. As it was raised with these technology tools, gen y would appear to be the first generation in recent history to know more than older adults about something as crucial to living as is technology. But what gen y can’t know yet is how to use the technology in a balanced and effective way. If fact we’re all trying to learn this.

2. Gen Y wants to look like a winner more than they want to be a winner.

I am very pleased that gen y is so team oriented.  This orientation may be what we need to recreate a civil, less partisan, public dialogue that includes a respect for everyone’s views. As with anything taken to an extreme team focus can lead to stagnation, lack of initiative and wheel spinning.

3. Gen Y misunderstands entrepreneurship

Gen Y is the “checklist generation” looking for the right answers and very wary of making mistakes. I am again not surprised because we adults of all generations have created the conditions that have led to this state of affairs. The gen yers weren’t the ones who demanded that trophies be given to everyone just for breathing. It was well intentioned but unrealistic parents and teachers. Whether I like it or not, life is a contact sport and while we can smooth the edges for our children, we can’t take out the hard knocks. I’m optimistic that once gen y gets oriented to  the post-college world that they will have their share of successful entrepreneurs.

4. Gen Y thinks they don’t believe in God.

I find gen y quite open about exploring differing paths of spirituality. This is quite refreshing but I share Penelope’s concern that there is too much pitting my God against your God and that kind of conflict is not constructive at any age.

5. Gen Y mistakes their own practical behavior for revolutionary behavior.

I believe practicality can be quite revolutionary. My reasoning is that so much of the antics in our political and social life seem to be based on ideology, fantasy, and an intolerance of dissenting views. As a consequence a practical, constructive approach to interactions with others would seem quite extraordinary if gen y could help all generations to accept such an approach.

A final thing gen y doesn’t know about itself.

Gen y can play a crucial role in improving the quality of work life if they stick to their beliefs in flexibility, career life fit, inclusiveness. team play and balance in all aspects of life. A gen y once asked me when we were going to learn to treat each other with authentic respect in the workplace. My answer was and is: “Any cycle of non-constructive behavior stops when those who have been mistreated themselves say ‘enough already’ and refuse to continue the offensive behavior. So what gen y doesn’t know about itself yet is that they can make a huge contribution by just being themselves and continue living their positive values.

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