Monday, July 30, 2007

Those dang kids

This looked interesting:
Gen Y in the workplace: braless, belly rings, looking for fun and to make
an impact


Managers tell stories of summer associates who come to meetings with
midriffs exposed, baring a belly ring; of interns who walk through the halls engaged with iPods; of new hires who explain they need Fridays off because their boyfriends get Fridays off and they have a share in a beach house. Then there is the tale of the summer hire who sent a text message to a senior partner asking “Are bras required as part of the dress code?”
Ah yes, the clash of generations, and there are more of them in the workplace than every before. As this New York Times article When Whippersnappers and Geezers Collide points out “his is the first time in history that four generations — those who lived through World War II, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y — are together in the workplace.”

It’s a culture clash all right, the expectations of the elderly are often fiercely add odds with the expectations of the younger: the Gen Y-types “… have an attitude toward work that looks like laziness and looks like impatience,” … “but they don’t understand that’s how it looks.”

Surveys over the last few years have found that this group is looking for work that includes a “flexible work schedule” (92 percent, according to a Harris Interactive poll), “requires creativity” (96 percent) and “allows me to have an impact on the world” (97 percent). And when the polling firm Roper Starch Worldwide did a survey comparing workplace attitudes among generations, 90 percent of Gen Yers said they wanted co-workers “who make work fun.” No other generation polled put that requirement in their top five.
I remember the good old days when it was us Gen-X-ers in the hot seat. We were "lazy", "slackers", too "self absorbed" ad nauseum. I did some secretarial work in an office filled with Boomers at my university back in the late 1980s, and I'm sure that there were a number of them that saw me showing up to work in all-black (and during the "winter" in SoCal adding on that leather jacket) questioned my supervisor's choice to hire me. I did what I was asked of me, was pleasant when anyone dared to speak to me, and overall it ended up being a good experience. I once asked my supervisor why she hired me, and she said that I was as competent as any of the other students she considered, but more importantly to her I was sufficiently different to add variety to the place.

But I digress. The perception of one's own generation as innately superior has always struck me as funny. The cohort that made up the Boomers was a mixed bag - collectively they did a lot of really cool things, but also made their share of mistakes. I'd say the same for my own generation, and see Gen-Y doing likewise. As a middle-aged working stiff and family man, I can't say that I always understand this younger cohort that is coming into adulthood, but I do enjoy learning from them; I'd wager that what appears to be laziness from the vantage point of my generation (or that of the Boomers) is viewed as perfectly productive to this younger cohort. I also see no need to try to fit them into some geezer-imposed mode, as I have just enough memory of how much I resented such impositions a couple decades ago. I suspect this new generation will do fine with whatever life is about to throw at them.

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