The Generation Gap Myth

Over the weekend, I was thinking about the supposed differences between Generation Y and other generations.  There is so much talk about how Gen Y is more independent and has greater personal demands.  I haven’t always believed the labels that have put on generations (aside from the Greatest Generation), but the Gen Y debate is something that continues to draw plenty of attention.

There was a recent post on Forbes.com that said “Gen Y Really is Different.” As I read it, one thing struck me: Generation Y isn’t that much different than my generation. We share many of the same ideas, want many of the same things.  There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t want to have the freedom to work on my own.

I grew up in the 1980’s; it was the “me” decade.  Gordon Gecko said, “Greed… is good.” We dreamed of being successful, making money and living by our own rules. Our parents didn’t put boundaries on us.  Is that really a change from what Gen Y wants now?

To me, the whole Gen Y label is bunk. Who wouldn’t want to run their own business, work from a coffee shop, and be able to have the freedom to be what they want? I’d love to have that now and maybe I still will.

When I started out in television, I was given this advice: By the time you are at one spot for six months, start looking for your next job.  It wasn’t because we would be fired, it was to get experience.  It was about me, not we. I seem to think this is something Gen Y gets criticized for a ton: Thinking about themselves and not the company.

I do want to clarify something. I’m not using this post to say you shouldn’t care about where you work.  I’m a big teamwork person and I think most of you who read my blog are the same way.  The issue, to me, is the generational labels placed upon all of us.

I know Gen Y has embraced the title and that’s good.  All I’m saying here is that Gen Y and Gen X aren’t that much different. And I think my fellow Gen Xers would tend to agree.

Let me know your feelings in the comments below.

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About JasMollica

"It's never too late to have a life and it's never too late to change one." That's something I tell students, friends, and family all the time. After living and working in New York City, I took my own advice in 2004, switched my career from the television/radio industry and got into public relations. Now, I spend my days as a PR/social media marketing consultant and get inspired daily. It's been a good ride, so far. But the car has plenty of gas left. I hope you'll join along in this guy's journey!

Posted on December 15, 2010, in Hot Topic, Personal Branding and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Every generation faces the same stereotypes. http://bit.ly/eAds6R And each generation seems to feel like they’re the first to face them…

  2. I think there is a lot of “over generalization” that goes on about generational labels in the workplace. I think Gen Y workers have been thrust into a very different workplace than many of us who came before. The rapid infusion of technology that makes information exchange faster, more accessible, and easier has always (I think) been a part of the Gen Y world. I think there is a big difference (at least for me personally) between me and many Gen Y’ers in the sense that I had to learn to do a lot of things “the manual way” (for instance, making a table of information on an electric typewriter involved math, prediction, pateince, and – often times – DO OVERS). I hate to sound cliche about it but that kind of stuff did “build character”!

    I also sense a very different (not bad, different) approach to organizational loyalty. I still remember (vaguely) gold watches, fierce organizational loyalty and, having been a child of a career military guy, going where the job entailed and not being a rebel.

    I do sense in some GenY’ers a bit of impatience with learning about the subtle aspects of organizations, respecting institutional knowledge, and being willing to “pay dues”. Some of that works well for them, but other times they end up missing out on progress because they don’t let things shake out enough.

    Having said ALL of that, taking the labels away I think the most important qualities in the workplace have absolutely nothing to do with age: good communication skills, the desire to be part of a team and do your share of work, the intellect to understand the details of the business you have chosen, and a healthy dose of common sense.

    I have shared this with you before (heck, you sort of initiated the idea) but here is a bit about my personal experience with Gen Y: http://waytenmom.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html

    • Thanks for your comments Paula. All of these are good points. I agree with the paying dues part. However, I know I wanted to do it all before I had the experience. Life ends up humbling you to a point, though.
      We all learn to slow down and smell the proverbial roses, eventually.

  3. That’s an awfully good question. I think the differences between Generation X and Y have shrunk because technology and more afforded opportunities has closed the gap.

    Look at American Idol. America’s Got Talent. So You Think You Can Dance. XFactor. What did we have in the 80s? Star Search.

    I think technology has leveled the playing field all across the board. Baby Boomers haven’t faded into old man history; they’re just getting warmed up. They wanted to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony with a coke and smile, and they still do today.

    You might even argue that Generation Y is kind of quiet. Facebook is full of middle-aged business owners, not just college kids anymore.

    One thing technology’s done that I don’t quite like because it levels everyone is respect for authority is very quickly going out the window.

    People are on a first named basis even professionally. I suppose that’s good for business, but it seems to be getting people in trouble with the courts, the police, etc.
    It would never fly in the military.

    Just look at politics. People definitely have lost respect for their leaders the world over whether or not they deserve that respect.

    So while we’ve got more transparency these days, have we really gotten any more respect? The line is very thin.

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