Men are from Mars, Women from Venus, but Gen iY is from Another System

By Dr. Tim Elmore

I had an unforgettable conversation with a friend recently. He employs hundreds of people and just hired some recent college graduates.

He told me he planned to see a therapist, which was a bit surprising since he is a healthy, well-adjusted company president. When asked why, he said he was unable to cope with the number of mothers accompanying their 22-year-old son or daughter on job interviews to negotiate their salary package.

Furthermore, he mentioned that one mother had returned six months after her son was hired to see why he had not received a raise yet. After all, he had shown up to work on time for six months.

Such is the new world we are entering into as executives. There is a new breed of employee walking through our front door. They are different than we are and we have a choice — either get angry or get busy discovering how to turn their potential into performance.

In a three-part series, I share the first two of eight Generation iY (I call them this because of the intense impact iTunes, iPhones, iPods, iMacs and the Internet has had on this group) traits and how to manage them in the workplace.

1. Job hopping in search of the perfect career

This generation wants a job that fits their passions and strengths. They want to explore.

What makes this noble pursuit a bit complex is that by and large, this generation doesn’t want to “pay their dues” working at the bottom of the ladder in an office until they earn a spot that fits them. This explains in part why six out of 10 graduates move home after college. They do not feel the pressure to work just to make money. They are waiting for the right job.

It also helps to explain a most confusing phenomenon to employers: adulthood now begins at 26, not 18. They want to use their twenties to explore not settle.

What can we do? Build an authentic relationship and earn your right to give them counsel. Then, help them simplify their lives and goals.

Help them to be realistic in their expectations. Let me remind you that Generation X struggled with authority. Generation iY struggles with reality. Help them to focus, to discover what their true passions are and weed out some of the search. Offer them some variety while they are working in your organization.

2. Waves of depression coming and going

I am concerned that few people will see this one coming. Growing up, this generation of kids was used to “getting their own way.” They have seldom heard “no” as an answer.

Mom and Dad were intent on building strong self-esteem, so they got rewarded just for participating on a team (like the little league banquets where ninth place ribbons are given out). All of this has served to make them feel like winners regardless of whether they performed well or not.

They have a high expectation of self and the speed of their climb up the corporate ladder. They have experienced little or no failure. They feel everyone is a winner.

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How will this play out on the job? Obviously, their manager may not be as intent on safe guarding their self-esteem. The moment they are reprimanded for a performance issue or low production, it may just cause them to tail spin. As they’re forced to face a setback or unglamorous work, it may be emotionally difficult.

What can we do? I recognize that someday these young people must meet up with reality, and I’m not suggesting we dote on them as we lead them.

We will, however, need to be prepared to play the role of coach, not just a supervisor, to this new generation of workers. Treat them as young leaders you are mentoring. Let them know you believe in them and have their best interests in mind.

Celebrate when they perform well, before launching into the improvements they need to make in their work. Give them short-term commitments, if possible, to put some “wins” under their belts. I believe this generation will respond well to “bad news” when this kind of relationship is established.

To conclude this first part, it is important to know that Generation iY is a “passionate” generation. They are determined to “find their passion” and devote their life to it, or should I say, part of their life.

Reports show they often reveal more than one passion and may experience multiple careers in their adult life to follow them. If they possess five passions, they may pursue five careers.

Employers who provide a multifaceted work environment have the best shot at keeping Generation iY’s focus and allegiance.

Next up tomorrow: traits three, four and five of Generation iY. For more information on leading Generation iY, visit


20 Comments on “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus, but Gen iY is from Another System

  1. I’m skeptical of your friend’s story and wonder how accurate he was being. After all, why wouldn’t he just tell the mother in no uncertain terms the very first time she showed up that the company wasn’t going to discuss the employee’s pay with anyone other than the employee himself? And if she continued showing up, why wouldn’t he tell her that she was actually harming her son’s reputation (or tell the son to put a stop to it)? Either his story is embellished or someone at his company needs to be more assertive. (I’m betting embellished though — I just don’t buy that happening more than once or twice in a company.)

  2. Member of Gen Y here. Graduated from college just over a year ago, moved home and started working a job outside my intended field for no other reason than to earn money and become somewhat self-sufficient. Many of my peers find themselves in similar positions, taking jobs just so they can start paying off student loans. I think if the recession taught recent college grads anything, its that right now the “right job” is going to have to wait. So I can’t disagree more with your argument that Gen Y doesn’t want to “pay its dues”.

  3. “What makes this noble pursuit a bit complex is that by and large, this
    generation doesn’t want to “pay their dues” working at the bottom of
    the ladder in an office until they earn a spot that fits them. This
    explains in part why six out of 10 graduates move home after college.
    They do not feel the pressure to work just to make money. They are
    waiting for the right job.”

    I’m not sure that this is the case.  I (think?) I’m part of Gen iY, and I moved home after college.  Not because I was looking for the right job, but because I couldn’t find any job that could support me and my hefty student loans.  I worked retail and other low-paying jobs AND lived at home — and most people I know are the same.  Given how terrible the economy is, I don’t know many of my peers who moved at home just to sit around for a year or two on their parents’ dime. I was more than willing to work my way up the ladder — I just couldn’t afford to live on my own at those wages…

    1.  Your problem is lack of self-awareness.  Did you think while you were racking up those hefty student loans you would get a top paying job asap.  I bet if you started from the bottom somewhere, worked your way up, and applied your education you would make more.  Hey, that is what this article was saying.  WOW, you read right through it. 

  4. I’ll join the others in taking issue with “paying dues” — in fact, I’d question the efficacy of “dues” altogether.  If the person who’s been in the job for two months is better qualified for the next step up than the one who’s been there ten years, promote the new guy!  Part of Gen Y’s frustration with a lack of progression is that they can see they’re outperforming their peers, and yet seniority rules.

    1. But are they really outperforming their peers, or do they just think they are due to inflated self-esteem and/or lack of self-awareness? Not saying you’re wrong entirely, just that not all of the negatives people discuss about Gen Y are without merit.

    2. I’m not so sure I agree with the frustration, with all due respect. How do you decide if the new person is better qualified in two months….what about consistency of performance before moving on to the next step. 

  5. “This explains in part why six out of 10 graduates move home after college. They do not feel the pressure to work just to make money. They are waiting for the right job.”

    This is certainly not why I moved home after graduating in 2008. I moved home because I hadn’t found any job, let alone the right one. Once I did get a job (a right-for-the-time job), I stayed home saving for the next year+. I completely disagree with saying all gen Yers are moving home because they’re waiting for the right job. Have you seen the employment numbers for recent graduates lately?

  6. Ugh… another article dogging on Gen Y, fantastic.

    As an “older” member of this much maligned generation, I have some thoughts.
    1) The person who behaved poorly in your friend’s story is primarily the mother, likely not a member of Gen Y. True the son didn’t stop her, but that’s far less egregious than her behavior.

    2) I graduated college in 2004. Everyone I knew who moved home did so to work a crap job and pay off their student loans until they could find ANY job in their field… not their dream job, any job. Total costs of attending my state school (including room and board and books) was near $20,000 a year. That’s $80,000 for four years, many of my peers had little/zero parental support and massive debt to manage getting a bachelors degree. Something no other generation has had to deal with. If there is data that backs up that a significant portion of these 22 year olds moving home are doing so to sit back and wait for their dream job, I’d like to see it.

    3) I am a better employee at 28 than I was at 22 despite having had some sort of “real” job since I was 15 (12 if you count babysitting) This is not because of fundamental flaw in 22 year olds… its just how being an employee works, it takes practice and you make dumb mistakes when you are young. I’m sure that Gen Y makes different mistakes than Gen X or Boomers, but I’m equally sure that you all didn’t spring forth fully formed from the head of Minerva.

    My point is, I think its great to offer advice to people newly entering the workforce. But mocking them and viewing them as inferior solely for their youthful inexperience is counter-productive.

  7. IMO as a Gen Y, this is more of a talent acquistion issue than a talent management problem.

    It’s much harder to retrain years of thinking and experience than it is to add additional selection methods to help mitigate risk and a company cultural misfit.

    Also, the parent coming into the office situation I’ve seen 3x in the past 18 months. Two were doing the leg work for open positions and one wanted to come in for the interview (which is the norm in some cultures by the way).  

  8. Probably a key reason for the issue is the huge expectation gap between executives and iYs.
    Executives with vast experience and learned wisdom expect a lot from others (without knowing it)
    while new graduates could make a lot of easy assumptions.

    One solution might be:
    1. absolute Direct Communication, “I expect this and that… can you deliver? etc. ” (job)
    2. we’re in this together, we learn together… (a degree of equality?)

    1. As an executive, I will give you my view on this:   Many (read: not all) of today’s grads undertook majors that had minimal realistic application in the job market.  There are simply too many communication and criminal justice and elementary education majors out there.  Those that had the initiative and smarts to prepare for a specific career – any of the health care professions, various engineering professions,   accountancy, would have no problem starting at a well paying position with plenty of advancement.  Those that became fluent in foreign languages – Chinese, Arabic, etc would have not problem finding a position in international trade.  The difference between the two groups is focus and a willingness to work.  There are too many sociology majors now working in unrelated professions that still would rather play with their iPhones than put in a days work.

      1. Been There, you hit the nail on the head.  Gone are the days when corporations would employ new grads into “management trainee” programs, to be trained for entry positions within those corporations.  College is an investment. Like any investment, serious consideration needs to be given to the return (i.e., gainful employment) from the degree received.

  9. I must give it to you. The article was entertaining. I am part of Gen iY as you call it, and the only thing I can merely relate to is “Generation iY struggles with reality. Help them to focus, to discover what their true passions are and weed out some of the search. Offer them some variety while they are working in your organization.” I think it is true that we like and could/would do many different things at once. Which I think can be a great attitude to have for work, as it translates into flexibility for both employee and company. I never felt I could jump ahead of the queue and “not pay my dues”, I’m in fact still paying them and absolutely agree with the others who said that the only reason why they moved back home after college, is out of necessity and not because they were waiting for the “right job to come along”. Finally, I’ve never heard such a story of a mother going to her son’s employer to discuss wages etc. I would seriously be embarrassed if that had been my case. I can you have a high self-esteem when your mother takes you to work and negotiates your wages? Get a grip!  

  10. Hire Gen Y and give them what they are missing to succeed in your business! Share why you do what you do, relate to them like you would to a seasoned, professional and they will learn what they need to do and when. Communicate lots and often – if they have talent, they will reward you with the results you want! 

  11. I am the mother of a 24 year old who went to grad school straight from college because there were no jobs. She gor her masters in May, is over $100,000 in debt and working at a bar because she has been unable to find a job and has to have something to put towards this debt. This article is BS in my opinion!! I love the 20 something’s. Their passion is refreshing as I have not seen this is in any generation since mine. (I am 61.) Wanting to explore means to me they are more creative and out of the box thinkers. I feel they will offe more than many previous generations have!!!

  12. After reading the posts from the Gen Y’ers, I think they have proven the authors premise.
    When giving advice to students, who are about to graduate, I tell them they will need to start in an “entry level” position, not the glamorous one they think they are going to school for. They look at me stunned as if they don’t believe me or have never thought of it before.
    If you doubt me, think about it. A hospital does not hire a person straight out of pre-med. No, they have to go on the Medical School where they get hands on training and mentoring. Then, they go to residence where they have exhaustive hands on. Only then are they ready to be independently hired.
    Another example, a fresh programmer out of school would never be put in charge of designing a guidance system or power grid control software or (name your own critical system). Instead, they would be put as a junior member of a team. One where they could be mentored and taught as they gain experience.
    This is nothing against Gen Y, all generations have the same potential. The point I hope to make is you need to develop experience and this can only come with time. Reading books and being eager or highly assertive cannot speed that up.

  13. The insertion of false, rightwing talking points ruined this article.  College grads are NOT moving back in with Mom and Dad because they don’t want to “work for just a paycheck”.  I don’t have the time or inclination to debunk all this point by point, but would like to point out that the article could only be more blatantly ageist had the author closed with “Get off my lawn!”

  14. Just curious as to the degrees received by those commentators who indicated they are recent grads, especially Mj, whose daughter went straight to grad school from undergraduate.  The days where you could get a liberal arts degree and just walk right out into the workforce are behind us, at least in this economy.  Unless you have a targeted degree and/or relevant experience you are at a serious disadvantage in this “new normal” of an economy.

  15. to PDX Girl.
    I’m a Gen Xer. I graduated college in 1996. It took me 6 years to complete my college education (state college as well) because I refused to take out loans and be in debt, right after school. My parents didn’t expect me to go to college and had no money saved for my education. My only option was to pay for school on my own. Sometimes, I could only afford to take 9 hours a semester but I powered through each semester and knocked it out. I moved out when I was 20 and although I didn’t have the experience of living on campus or being in a sorrority, I had my own place off campus that I could afford, paid my own bills, never borrowed from my parents or took out any student loans. While working in a factory of a high-tech company (36 hours a week was considered “full time”—I worked three 12hour days and went to schol on the other days along with completing internships). I created relationships with my management team and they admired my work ethic. When I graduated from college, they asked me to apply for entry level positions on their team, once I had my degree. I did as they recommended. I have had a job since then and have a 16 year career in the industry.
    I now manage of team of Gen Y’ers and have read lots of books to try and understand their feelings of entitlement. It frustrates me that many of them don’t believe in “paying their dues” and all want to be vice presidents now!

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who want it all now and don’t want to put forth much effort (“they put more value on leisure than their careers) but I am seeking to understand them so that I can better motivate them. I don’t think anyone is mocking Gen Y. Much of what is written is fact and what my experience has been since getting into management and working with this group of individuals.

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