The Problem With Gen Y

They clearly march to the beat of a different drummer.

July 30, 2010
James Collins
James Collins is Credit Union Magazine's humor columnist. This article is a tongue-in-cheek look at generational differences in the workplace.

What’s the biggest work force issue today?

The inevitable response from folks over 40: “Those @#%^ gen Yers!” (That’s just before asking one of them for help with the latest software upgrade.)

While technologically savvy, the stereotypical gen Y employee is emotionally devoid to the point of being a turnip in jeans. They are emotionally needy, consistently moody, and much to the chagrin of those who brought these little gemstones into the world, utterly dependent on their parents.

So where do these gen Yers go wrong? Well, they:

•  Feel entitled. Gen Yers have a misguided notion that, just because they think they have better technical skills than the boomers they work for, they might be on equal or even superior footing. They don’t understand it’s not how much you know or how well you work—or even how well you motivate people—but rather how long you’ve been in your job that counts.

•  Are technologically searching. Not satisfied with the status quo, gen Y folk constantly look for new and more interesting ways to communicate, which all seemingly end in “ing” (blogging, tweeting, complaining). When they want a place to post their thoughts, why can’t they be satisfied with the company cork board like the rest of us?

•  Just aren’t that into work. Gen Yers recognize a unique work/life balance…namely less of the first and more of the second. We all know that spending 60 hours at work and checking in on weekends so often that your three-year-old princess soon regards the pizza-delivery guy as “daddy” is the way it should be!

•  Chat up the boss. They don’t understand that an “open-door policy” is just that—a “policy” with as much relevance to real life as Regulation D. Being both misguided and naïve, they have the audacity to come by and talk about issues, problems, and concerns. Hint: This is why the door closes.

•  Are fashion-tolerant. In their twisted view of the world, what they wear shouldn’t matter, no matter how many piercings and tattoos they have. Again, they believe their contribution to an organization is more than “skin deep.”

•  Disrespect time. Trying to get a gen Yer to a meeting on time is an exercise in futility. After all, aren’t all the baby boomers always prompt? Of course, what can you expect from someone who doesn’t even own a watch?

•  Need a “team” to accomplish anything. As their older co-workers know, evidence has shown (at least in every Rambo movie) that the lone individual, acting within the confines of his or her own experience, always makes the best decisions.

•  Are naturally skeptical. If I truly wanted continual skepticism, I’d ask for my wife’s opinion. Trust us old folks. We’ve looked at everything, completely. You gen Yers just need to settle down, be quiet, and quit thinking! For example, look at the real-estate mar…well…never mind.

And finally, the biggest issue is that gen Yers:

•  Believe they can do anything.What is this? Sesame Street? Sure, it’s good to be confident, but can they fly? I mean, without mood-enhancing pharmaceuticals or plane tickets? Gen Yers need good, stable limits—the same kind you place on yourself.

In case you think I may offend gen Yers with this column, remember: They’re too busy watching MTV, tweeting, blogging, and texting (all at the same time).

JAMES COLLINS is chief financial officer at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash. Contact him at 360-943-0740 or at