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Gen Y Wants it All! Will They Get It?

Born 1980 to 1994, they’ve been called “pampered,” “nurtured” and even “spoiled.”   Raised with astounding conveniences and immediate electronic feedback, they’ve been simultaneously disheartened by negative impacts to trust coming right into their living rooms in an age of overextending media and never-ending awareness of world tragedy, terrorism and economic disaster.  Coddled by parents wanting their kids to have everything they didn’t have, they sometimes set their work thresholds low.  As a proud parent to a couple of these high functioning “millennials,” I understand their perspective and see an opportunity to mentor.


As a Baby Boomer, I firmly understand that my generation hasn’t exactly “gotten it right,” and while I’m proud of personal accomplishments and the accomplishments of my generation on the whole, I certainly recognize the opportunity for improvement.  To improve from one generation to the next is the very definition of progress.  It is not only the right but also the responsibility of each generation to improve upon the previous generation.  So, who are we to tell Gen Y they are wrong?


Should the entire generation stand united with determination to work less and tolerate less stress, maybe change can be effected.  I can already tell you, however, that several young members of this group are stepping up impressively.  In my generation, if you don’t work relentlessly, someone else will step up and steal the opportunity.  It’s simple competition and free enterprise.  In my generation, I don’t know how to serve my family, serve my community and serve my sense of pride and accomplishment without hard work and high stress tolerance.   These are essential survival and self-esteem skills I deem critical.   Wellness experts argue we need lower stress tolerance.  A hopeless workaholic myself, I believe the answer lies in balance.  Often multi-tasking, Gen Y's tasks are not always work related.


Regularly invited to speak to CEO’s, HR/OD professionals, corporate teams and media reporters on this topic, I guarantee this is an issue of popular concern.  As always, we must remember that each generation is comprised of individuals, individuals who are exceptions to the baseline rule of any generation.   Nonetheless, we must measure each generation by the median characteristics.


I think back to a sitcom which quoted “We were so busy giving our kids what we didn’t have, we forgot to give them what we did have.”  Determined to do things differently than our parents, we Boomers applied different concepts to parenting.  Is Gen Y reversing the process?  We are now pummeled with media discussing the low tolerance, impatience and neglectful parenting skills of Gen Y as they begin to raise kids.  We hear stories of child abuse.  Programs like “The Baby Borrowers” mock this generation’s ability to parent, albeit these couples are very young.  Has my generation created monsters?


I think not.  I believe we simply need to step up and transfer knowledge without crushing their idealism and determination to lead a healthier, more well-balanced life.  We simply need to mentor this generation and help them learn lessons, if at all possible, without forcing them to attend the same “school of hard knocks” we did. Yes… I know “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  (Quite frankly, I’m a testament to that old adage.)  However, if they can learn a few things more quickly than we did through our patience and mentoring, hopefully this new generation can keep the progress rolling forward.  Once we transfer the knowledge, I’m quite certain they’ll still run into a whole new set of challenges, but it just might be the “college of hard knocks” with advanced learning to benefit us all.  

Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, August 16, 2008