Managers and Gen Y: The mindsets that keep them apart

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While both managers and their Gen Y staff aim for workplace success, a breakdown in perceptions of one another prevents them from collaborating effectively.

A study from Gen Y research and consulting firm Millennial Branding and American Express entitled Gen Y Workplace Expectations found that Gen Y workers view their managers as able to offer experience (59%), wisdom (41%) and a willingness to mentor (33%).

However, managers view their Gen Y employees as full of unrealistic expectations (51%) and poor work ethics (47%), who are easily distracted (46%).

Further research by Lightspeed Research – who surveyed 1,000 Gen Y employees and 1,000 managers – revealed further insights regarding the relationship between Gen Y and their managers. Both groups agree that soft skills (61% managers, 65% Gen Y) are the most important asset, while also agreeing on the importance of subject matter expertise when looking towards career advancements.

Clashes begin to surface when examining Gen Y and entrepreneurship. While many managers (58%) are willing to offer Gen Y workers chances to engage in new business opportunities, only 40% of Gen Y are actually interested in doing so. This is compounded by the desire for more feedback and mentors from Gen Y. Fifty-three per cent stated a mentoring relationship would help them to become a more productive worker.

This demonstrates that both sides act in good faith, with managers wishing to give Gen Y the freedom they are believed to want, although in some instances leaving Gen Y uncertain and lost in the process.

“Managers should be setting proper expectations, giving [Gen Y] career support and help them develop the skills they will need today and in the future,” Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, said.

Instead of branching out on their own, Gen Y employees seek freedom in mobility within the organisation. Forty-eight per cent  of Gen Y workers surveyed expressed an interest in moving to other positions within the organisation.

They may also expect advancement faster: 66% of Gen Y workers feel it should take at least four years to become a manager, compared to 75% of managers feeling the same.

Digital autonomy is also important to Gen Y, with 69% believing they should have the rights to their social media profiles, including those they use during work hours. Fifty-four per cent of managers agree.


Do you find Gen Y and upper management clashing in your workplace? How have you resolved these conflicts?


  • Tash on 11/09/2013 8:08:23 a.m.

    Why is it a them and us perception. Gen Y is no different than Gen X was when they entered the workforce. The workforce is so different now and with technology forcing us to adapt quicker it is only expected that we want to advance quickly through our career as well. It seems that a lot of managers don't actually talk to their "Gen Y" workers to find out what that particular employee actually wants to thinks about their career and position in an organisation. It has become such a stereotype of what Gen Y thinks or does that it doesn't matter what the individual person is actually after anymore. Just because I'm classed as "Gen Y" doesn't mean I act or want the same things as a peer who is also a "Gen Y". These conversations and surveying needs to stop and people actually just need to work together and find common ground in their working relationship and goals. It's not hard.

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