Generation Y in the News

Jun 1, 2007

I am not sure if any of you saw the local newscast about Generation Y last week, but I found it SO interesting! Not only did they discuss some of the trends of the group, but also how Gen Y-ers are changing the way companies approach their employees as they are entering the work force.

Read on to see how a generation of kids who were praised now view life, and what the youngest (currently elementary and middle-school) members of Gen-Y can hopefully avoid, if given encouragement instead of praise.

Generation Y is typically categorized as children born between the late 1970s and the late 1990’s (some say 1978-2000, many say 1979-1999). The oldest members of this group are ready to turn thirty and hopefully are settled into a career and a family. The youngest members of Generation Y are still in elementary school with big dreams and hopeful futures. Those in the middle of this era, kids entering the work force, are creating quite a buzz in the corporate world, and were the focus of this newcast.

Here are the highlights:

  • Kids in Gen Y have a sense of entitlement- they have been conditioned to believe that they should be able to have anything they want, merely because they want it.
  • Gen Y-ers have entered the work force expecting to get something for being employed, rather than viewing it as a responsibility.
  • Corporate executives have revamped their policies and incentives for employees to recognize the need for acknowledgment that kids from Gen Y need and expect.
  • Managers of restaurants and retail sales stores have implemented high praise, high incentive programs to cater to these kids who have grown up receiving praise.
  • Psychologists have noted that Gen Y-ers are the first group of children to live without competition- every member of a sports team gets a trophy for “participating”, there are no longer MVP awards, schools offer showcases rather than contests, etc.

The newscast was focused on the frustration that Corporate America has felt as a result of hiring Gen Y-ers into work teams and businesses. They have been made to shift their expectations of a hard worker who finds value in doing a job successfully to, in extreme cases, rewarding those who show up to work.

This was so interesting to me, as it spoke concretely about the effects and potential risks of praising children. My previous article on Praise vs. Encouragement explained how to know the difference between the two, examples of each and why encouragement is more helpful and effective for self-esteem, internal motivation and creativity.

I do not believe offering programs to keep employees happy and satisfied in their jobs is wrong. I also do not think every Gen Y-er feels the same way about a sense of entitlement and a lack of personal responsibility. Further, I know there are many people in their twenties who have worked hard and committed to being successful through many difficulties and struggles, regardless of what others may have said to encourage or discourage them.

Considering I myself fall into this category, I believe I can speak for my generation and understand the inherent beliefs of our culture. We, as the older members Generation Y, have been told we are awesome, we are smart, we are pretty, we are talented, we have the world at our feet… and we believe that to be true. The problem lies in the lack of personal obligation to make those dreams realities. We tend to think that things will work out, and we can make it because we deserve to. That, however, is not always the way things end up.

Now, where do we go from here, equipped with this knowledge of a unique era? The younger members of Generation Y still have years before they will be looking into colleges and careers. They can still be re-programmed! 🙂

Regardless of the messages they receive at school and extra-curricular activities, you can give them a wonderful gift at home – encouragement. Focus on their accomplishments, their sense of pride, their attempts AND failures, rather than their level of achievement in activities. Each task is a learning process about the world and their understanding of it. Do not lead them to believe they are the best, fastest, smartest, greatest, because they are probably not. They may be, however, a child who never gives up, always helps a friend, shares with his siblings, shows compassion to animals, etc.

When you begin to focus on encouragement, your child learns to accept and love himself for who he is. It also allows you to enjoy the child that is unique and individual that you have been put in charge of, regardless of how he measures up to others and the world. Encouragement will change the way your child thinks and feels about himself and others- for the better.

Examples and more details about Praise vs. Encouragement

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