The truth about the Gen Y myth

There’s a truth about the Gen Y mythology which has been staring us all point blank in the face and which I’ve come to realise. Maybe we’ve all known it all along. Maybe we’ve been too caught up in the rhetoric of this up and coming age group that we didn’t let it sit a bit longer. In this day and age of digital and social connectedness we’re all very willing to comment and opine.

It’s bothered me, you see. For everyone saying that Gen Y have no different needs to any other generation, I’ve felt there has been something amiss. I’ve read lots of pieces on the Gen Y myth. I’ve read blogs from Gen Y who think they need to educate everyone else on what their modern lives are like. It’s all been insightful and it’s caused ire and annoyance for many.

We all need regular feedback. We all use digital devices. We’re all accessing the internet. We all want to work for ethical and moral organisations. We all want more responsive performance reviews. We all want flexible working and remote working opportunities. There’s a jazz and it’s playing a tune we all want to groove to.

What’s bothered me for so long I’ve now realised is not that these things are inherent to Gen Y, but that they showed how backward a lot of our working practices are. What’s worse isn’t that Gen Y are coming banging on our doors demanding new and modern ways of working, but that we don’t know how to help the people being left behind.

All those things that apparently we’re all wanting and doing? There’s a lot of people out there not wanting and not doing and very few people are helping them. That’s what the Gen Y problem has been about.

We’re railing against our own outdated working practices, not that Gen Y have the solutions. We’re railing against IT systems that are locked down, not that Gen Y need to access social media at work. We’re railing against pointless bureaucratic processes, policies and procedures, not the alleged free attitudes of Gen Y.

We’re railing against the things we’ve created which once served a purpose and we forgot to question their continued relevance. Gen Y certainly don’t have the solutions to any of these old working practices quire simply because they’re caught up in the same systems.

I’ve just finished writing my plans for OD over the next five years. You know, one of those strategy things. One of the things I’m going to be focused on is improving the digital literacy of everyone who needs it. If we’re expecting our people to be more digitally responsive and able then I have a direct responsibility to support them in doing so. I’m not doing it because Gen Y are demanding it. I’m doing it so that the people I work with have the capacity and capability to use digital tools for themselves, for their learning and for the customers they work with.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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