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It’s My Turn to Whine! A Gen Xer’s Ponderings About Gen Y

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Editor's Note: This post was submitted by a senior credit union marketing executive. The author agreed to have this blog post published here under condition of anonymity.

Google “Gen Y” and you’ll find any number of studies done and articles written about them. Who they are. What they want. Why we need them. They’re described as a pretty creative and intuitive bunch. They want to spend their time in useful and meaningful ways, no matter where they are. For them, the line between work and play is quite grey.

There are also any number of companies ready to woo them. We all know this because we’re trying to woo them to play with our credit unions. As a credit union professional with a big chunk of my marketing budget dedicated to targeting the Gen Y market, I get to talk to and work with lots of Gen Yers. But here’s what I’ve noticed, at least in my market. While I’ve met and worked with the coolest, most self-driven, gonna-go-Mark-Zuckerberg-IPO-far Gen Yers ever, I’ve found that the majority of them are quite the opposite.

This has led me to ponder: Might all the attention we’ve focused on Gen Yers be precisely the cause of the mostly spoiled, self-centered, ungrateful, entitled attitudes I’ve encountered with this segment? Have we created our own Gen Y monsters?

I've seen my share of Gen Yers come out of college expecting to land my type of position, salary and benefits, only to be genuinely disappointed or flat-out pout when you gently have to remind them that they first need to figure out what they want before they can get to where they want to go. Many of them don't have a clue what they want to do with their lives, but what they do know is that they want that laptop, flex time to work at home, four weeks of vacation, fill-in-the-benefit-of-choice, while not really willing or interested in working hard to get ahead. Of course, not all are like that, but I’ve met many who are. Maybe this is something being sold to them in college?

“Might all the attention we’ve focused on Gen Yers be precisely the cause of the mostly spoiled, self-centered, ungrateful, entitled attitudes I’ve encountered with this segment?”

One might say I’m just a crabby Gen Xer who wishes I’d have had the flexibility and tolerance afforded to Gen Yers, but I don’t see it as jealousy at all. Truth be told, I’m as guilty as the next Boomer or Gen X boss for coddling them. I’ve bought into this notion that they’re “different” and “special.” And even still I’ve thought silently that these people would never get away with the attitudes they have in “the real world” outside the nice, warm-fuzzy credit union industry.

But maybe the real world as a whole has changed so much that it’s put aside what higher expectations it had because of all the whining about having to be at work before noon on Monday. Maybe they’ve worn us Boomers and Gen Xers down, and for all intents and purposes, we’ve become more like parents to these people. If we are, we’re doing them no favors. They have to grow up sometime, don’t they?

What would happen if instead of catering to their wants and expectations, we told them that they have to dress according to their position, be at the office ON TIME and do their job just like everyone else? What if we said that loyalty and a willingness to do their best for their company WILL get them ahead? I’m not saying to discourage the creative, free-thinking, entrepreneur spirit Gen Y is known for, but what if it’s time to go retro (or is it “vintage”) rather than stifling our own work ethic to cater so much to this segment. Maybe then they’ll take accountability and ownership of their career paths, and ultimately their lives, rather than expecting all the goodies just for showing up.

Or is this the elephant in the room everyone acknowledges but no one wants to rock the boat about?