The “20-something” sitting next to me on a flight several months ago boldly proclaimed that he was in the perfect generation – Generation Y – to soar to the top of his Fortune-500 company. He went on to say that with the Generation Y work philosophy of “work to live” so prevalent across his cohorts, that “somebody’s got to be the CEO of GM!” With that said, he seemed to marinate in his self-assurance of his upcoming corporate ascension. I simply proposed that perhaps there were enough others sharing his view that he could encounter some unexpected competition. He appeared unmoved.
Is there indeed this counter movement of sorts going on here? Yesterday after having addressed the Alamance Chamber of Commerce on leadership implications within our multigenerational workforce, more evidence came in to support our need to avoid stereotyping. There were sufficient Generation Ys in the audience who spoke afterwards of their ambitions. However, they also shared their concern regarding having to job hop most of their adult life, given the forecast suggests they’ll experience some 20 careers during their adult years. And here I was thinking this was something they looked forward to and enjoyed. I stand corrected.
Then there was the aging Baby Boomer who voiced his opinion to me that “while the entitled Y employees show great interest in promotions, they also seem intent on working from home and maintaining hours that are not in alignment with their lofty career goals.” He then added, “Being technologically savvy does not make them suddenly understand the intricacies of business or the subtleties of what works in our industry.” Without using the words “they want more for less,” that was essentially his message.
Admittedly in preparing for this Chamber talk, I found the literature offering conflicting information. For example, one article would tout the similarities between, say, Generation X (born after 1960) and Y (born around 1980), while another article devoted itself to their stark differences. Then another article would glorify the most recent crop of workforce inhabitants, while the very next article would slam them.
Perhaps like anything else, we should go back to focusing on individual differences rather than all the hype regarding our generational differences and stereotypes. With this in mind, we may become a bit more pointed as we conduct job interviews with our future candidates – regardless of generation.