Gen Y Is More Capable Than You Think

14 Jan

Lately I have been bombarded with articles about Gen Y. As someone who sits right smack dab in the middle of this age cohort (1985 represent!), I can’t help but be interested in the overgeneralized assumptions that are made about my fellow 20somethings.

The first issue of the week came from an article published by Forbes entitled  “The Future of Work? Top 10 Employers of Gen Y Workers.” As a gainfully employed Gen Yer, this piece piqued my interest. Turns out, it also piqued my bullshit detector, because that’s exactly what this study is: poorly researched, grossly overgeneralized bullshit.

Analyzing Facebook profiles should not be considered a scientific or appropriate way to collect data. There is no way to ensure that any of the data listed on the site is accurate, and people write (and post) pretty much whatever the hell they want. Doesn’t exactly scream of an impeccable data set.

I find it hard to believe that a legitimate publication like Forbes would promote this article sans critique, leaving the reader to believe that they actually believe this stuff is real science.

But it doesn’t end there. Yesterday I saw the same article cited on The Grindstone under the heading “8 Ways To Use New Gen Y Research To Connect With Millennial Employees.” To The Grindstone’s credit, they didn’t promote this article as gospel like Forbes, but I do take issue with their further promotion of this junk science piece.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to respond:

As a fellow 26-year-old Gen Yer, I hate reading articles about how lazy, entitled and bratty 20somethings are. But to look at the data from the Forbes study and jump to the conclusion that we are an entrepreneurial bunch is more than a little premature.

Yes, “owner” came in as the 5th most popular job title, but it only represented 1.2% of the whole group (with the highest percentage a meager 2.9%). That doesn’t scream entrepreneurial to me. Also, Facebook does not require validation of the employment listed in your profile (with the exception of joining a company’s network with a valid email address…which I’m pretty sure doesn’t apply to that 2.9% working at Olive Garden or Red Lobster). I could list myself as the “owner” of “Totally Fake Cool Company” and Facebook would be none the wiser.

I think that this Forbes article is extremely weak. If people are going to make real generalizations about Gen Y, they should use more legitimate sources, like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or tax return data.

No one has since commented, so I am neither vilified or vindicated. Guess I will have to let this issue go for now….

But wait!  There’s more!

Flipping through the Winter 2011 issues of PRSA’s The Strategist, I saw this sentence in an article entitled “Is the Gen Y gap just a misunderstanding?”:

Today, some organizations are creating programs to help Millennials learn how to behave and succeed in the workplace.

I’m sorry….behave? BEHAVE? Really?! Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy! Organizations assume we can’t hack it in the “real world,” so they put some type of life skills/how to play nice with others/office etiquette class together, and voila – perfect angel employees.

By implementing these programs during the on-boarding process, you are denying Gen Yers the opportunity to figure it out for themselves. We may have been raised with great expectations, but we’re not stupid.  Give us a chance! It takes a little while to assimilate into an organization’s culture, but it’s been like that since the beginning of time. Boomers, Slacker Xs, they all did it.  So why do managers assume Ys can’t?

I agree there are some kinks in the Gen Y attitude, but that’s no reason to underestimate us. We may just surprise you.


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