Why is Generation Y so Different?

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There’s a saying that goes like this: “You Raised Them, Now Manage Them” and a book by that title written by Nadira A. Hira.Its aptly named. If we want to understand the newest generation of workers in the workplace, we only need to look at what has happened to parenting and parenting styles.

How many Baby Boomers and yes, maybe even some of you older Gen Xer’s, grew up in a world where your worth was measured by the grades you got in school and by whether or not you were in the “in crowd”.It was hard to ever be “good enough”.

So, many of us, when we had our own kids, decided that what they really needed was to feel good about themselves and to be confident that they could take on the world and be anything they wanted to be.This was a laudable idea but it seemed to take on a life of its own. Self-esteem became the big buzz word. Everything anyone did for our children was with their fragile self-esteem in mind.Soccer teams for tots emphasized the specialness of every child.Everyone got a trophy at the end of the year, not just those who showed athletic promise.Children were taught that they should love themselves and that by doing so, they would learn to love others.

The backlash hit when many of these children translated the emphasis on self-esteem into a tendency to put themselves first even as they got older and entered the workforce. Although their strength may be their confidence and their ability to assert themselves, their weakness is sometimes overconfidence and a tendency to step on toes. In addition they want what they want and they want it now. Their values clash with the values of the older generation. This is not to say that all Gen Y’ers hold the same values just as all Baby Boomers don’t hold the same values.But it does highlight the differences in our upbringing and may help in our understanding of those differences when they cause conflict in the workplace.

When conflict occurs, a mediator can be the catalyst for helping the parties gain understanding and to learn to respect each others differences and make use of our differing strengths.It might not seem to make sense at first.Why would a Baby Boomer supervisor enter into mediation with his Gen Y subordinate?What is there to negotiate?

The answer is plenty. I have mediated lots of cases between supervisors and subordinates.The employee has incentive to understand what he or she needs to do and say to keep their job or to stop the constant oversight, also known as micro-management. The supervisor or employer, usually doesn’t want to start down a road of discipline.They simply want the employee to understand what their expectations are and to follow them.

By using a third party mediator, both sides can learn to understand and respect the needs of the other.Some times this is called a facilitated discussion to alleviate the expectation that the process will involve some sort of compromise. If you know someone who is not seeing eye to eye with their co-worker, boss or subordinate, tell them to try mediation.

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