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Agenda: My generation


If you believe the hype, Generation Y are workshy, unmotivated and expect everything to fall into their laps. Or are they independent, creative and simply looking for a little bit more? Either way, there's something about those born post-1980 that has Generation X and the Baby Boomers scratching their heads. Gemma Middleton defends her generation.

I have read a number of articles recently based on ‘Generation Y’ and generally they haven't been all that complimentary.

The Generation Y stereotype seems to be lazy, self-centred, demotivated, lacking ambition, with a lack of respect for others. I think you can see why this is likely to get a negative reaction those born post-1980.

Photo of Gemma Middleton"The fact that the supposed issues that surround my generation are being openly addressed by HR, I believe, is actually a good thing – understanding each other can only improve relations."

The term Generation Y refers to people born in the 1980s and '90s and so broadly groups together around 9.7 million people, which is 15.9% of the total UK population or 19.6% of the UK’s adult population (2007 figures). Is it fair to write off all of them?

We are told there are a number of differences between both Generation X and Y workers, for example, they are said to tend to favour different styles of leadership, feedback and rewards. And it is fair to say that each generation differs from their predecessor, a natural evolution if you will. Future generations see how parents, senior community members, employers etc. live and think “I’m not going to be like that!”

While some descriptions about Generation Y candidates have irritated me, the fact that the supposed issues that surround my generation are being openly addressed by HR, I believe, is actually a good thing – understanding each other can only improve relations.

However, as with many research projects, different surveys have found differing results about what actually motivates Generation Y workers. For example, an article in the Observer this year stated that we care less about salaries but more about flexible working, travel and a better work-life balance. Yet another research piece, conducted for Personnel Today, found that monetary factors, such as salaries, bonuses and annual leave were most important.

With such varying answers, I am maybe seeing why Generation X are having a moan about us – there seems to be a lack of consensus as to what we want.

With regards to my own motivation and approach to work and that of my friends I find that the comments of laziness, self-centredness and lack of drive harsh and, in my opinion, inaccurate for probably about 80% of Generation Y. Obviously, I realise that there are the negative, lazy, uninspired Generation Y individuals – as with all generations – but writing a whole group off is unfair.

Speaking personally, money does have a strong impact on my levels of motivation, especially at this stage in my life when I’m trying to get onto the property ladder and pay student debts etc. However it isn’t just money that motivates me, other factors such as learning and development, enjoyment, praise, team belonging and career progression are also extremely important and I know these values are not just mine but are shared with many Generation Y employees.

I believe that strength comes from working together, all generations, and in order to do this understanding and communication are vital. By investing and supporting two-way conversation the stereotypes can be blown away.

People and relationships are what life is about and, as with most things in life that are worth anything, these need work, effort and constant understanding of what people want – ideally on an individual basis – from all parties. Understanding is key.

Gemma Middleton is a communications specialist at Righttrack Consultancy


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