Generation Y

What makes Generation Y managers different? Everyone’s personal values and attitudes are shaped by their family, community and significant events...

What makes Generation Y managers different?

Everyone’s personal values and attitudes are shaped by their family, community and significant events (wars, violence, technology, politics, finance etc.) in their world as they are growing up. The academic world has created a model to review, compare and contrast people born within certain time frames and has developed the “Generation Theory” which links world events with changes in the attitudes and values of the general public.

Baby boomers (1946-1964)Generation X (1965-1980)Generation Y (1980-2000)
Work ethicDrivenBalancedDetermined
They work to:Increase their self-worthFund their lifestyleHelp change the world
View of authorityLove or hateUnimpressedPolite
Respect:Is given automatically to those with titles, authority or  experienceIs not automatically given to authority figuresMust be earned by all levels of society
Leadership by:ConsensusCompetencePulling together
Don’t like:DiscriminationCliché / hypeSelf-importance
ValuesFairness Team orientation Hard work Personal growthSelf-reliance Informality Pragmatism Global thinkingCivic duty Confidence Honesty & integrity Diversity
MotivatorsTell them they are “valuable” Put them “in charge”  Personal closeness to the bossGadgets Tell them “do it your way” Tell them “what is in it for you” Positive feedbackSmall rewards given frequently Working with creative people Tell them “we need your help to move the company forward”

Generation Y have grown up in a time of affluence and rapid social change. They are the first generation whose parents planned to have them (contraception, maternity leave etc.), who wanted to be “friends” with them (sharing music, activities, decision making etc.) and allowed them to have the longest teenage to adult phase ever. Generation Y saw their parents work long hours to earn money, to buy things they didn’t need, to impress people they didn’t like and have come to realise that free time is more valuable than money.

And now Generation Y are entering the upper levels of management in our organisations.

What are the challenges for the older generations?

  • Gen Y are far less formal and more social than older generations, especially at work. This shift from business to social relationships in the work place can challenge older colleagues’ need for professional distance.
  • Age, title, position and experience do not command the automatic respect of Gen Y. Respect can only be earned from them. 
  • Hierarchical management is a thing of the past. Gen Y demand that decisions are transparent, aims / targets / purpose are clearly defined and that they should be involved in the business – life on a “hamster wheel” is unacceptable.
  • Loyalty to an employer is fading. A long career in the same company is not an attractive life model for them.


  • Explain clearly how what they do fits into the big picture. They want to make an impact – NOW!
  • Give them more than one task at a time. The modern world of social media and technology means that they are great multi-taskers.
  • Give them the flexibility to find their own work / life balance.
  • Make sure they have a mentor / supervisor who helps them to create and work within a structured environment. 
  • Mentors can also help Gen Y managers to understand other people’s perspectives and deal with difficult people. This can be especially important if there is a conflict with older members of Generation X who see Gen Y as “soft”, weak and over-protected.
  • Continually develop and challenge your Gen Y managers. If you don’t (or can’t), they will quickly move to an organisation that will.

But having said all that, like every generation, they still need:

  • appreciation/recognition for what they do.
  • to be informed of important issues.
  • to take part in the development of the organisation.
  • to work within the network.
  • Feedback.

Further reading

Not everyone gets a trophy: How to manage generation Y - Bruce Tulgan, 2009

Generations at work: Managing the clash of veterans, boomers, Xers and Nexters in your workplace - Zemke, Raines, Filipczak, 2000

Sheila Purdy
"I love to watch people blossom into their best selves and become role-model leaders." Expertise Background Personal Born in the...


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