Misunderstood Millennials: are Gen Y really that bad?

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“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Socrates, (469–399 B.C.)

Every generation thinks the one that follows it is lazy, disrespectful and rude. So how many of the complaints laid against Gen Y are true?

A recent survey from American Express and Millennial Branding found that 47% of managers think millennials have a poor work ethic, 46% think they’re easily distracted and 51% said Gen Y have unrealistic compensation expectations. A different study from the Conference Board of Canada found the majority of Gen X and Baby Boomers think Gen Y are overconfident in their abilities.

Some of the statistics seem to support the idea that Gen Y are entitled and lazy. The number of people under 23 who wanted to reach management or executive positions reduced from 60% in 1992 to 40% in 2002. Another  study found that 40% of Millennials expected to be promoted every two years regardless of performance and 69% think regular office attendance is unnecessary.

However, they also have the same amount of organization commitment as boomers and Gen Xers, are more likely to work additional hours from home and are more likely to follow instructions than any other generation in the workplace.

Some of the difference can be attributed to age and seniority differences, but Gen Y grew up in a very different world than their seniors in the office. The ubiquitous nature of the internet and social media means Gen Y are much more interested in on-the-spot, instant feedback and recognition, rather than formal reviews.

All three working-age generations – Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y – agree that the youngest ones are more difficult to manage than other generations, according to a Conference Board of of Canada survey.

The conflict between the generations is getting worse, according to the board's analysis. As workplaces moved "away from hierarchical structures", which boomers were comfortable with, towards "a more team-based approach" in workplaces that suits Gen-X and Gen-Y more generational differences were exacerbated.

"No longer are younger workers largely dependent on the older generations for information and knowledge," the board said. "Younger workers can now access information online and many are often the most expert person at a given skill or task."

However, the Conference Board warned against "managing by stereotype."

While Boomers were uncomfortable with the other two generations' reliance on emails to communicate, the study found the perception of younger generations as careless with spelling and grammar wasn't true. While 88% of boomers felt it was important to be careful with grammar and spelling, 83%of Gen-Xers and 85% of Gen-Yers agreed.

Similarly, 87% of Boomers said they were careful with details, as did 81% of Gen-X and 79% of Gen-Y.

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