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Gen Y

Posted on: 09 July '10

I see a lot of discussion on whether Gen Y is an uncontrollable generation. They seem to have fleeting interests, do not settle down in one place, have respect for no one, and even are easy on values.

At the same time, I realize every generation makes these complaints about the next generation, so we need to get to depth.

First, I believe India is a diverse country, with no clear Gen Y or Gen Z, and such generalizations are simplistic. The young adult from the metro is different from the one from a small city, and both are different from the teenager or young adult from a rural background. Sounds easy to accept, yet why do we make such generalizations at work?

Even within cities, attributes differ based on which school you came from, how comfortable you are with the English language (unfortunate, but true!), and how you fared in school. We can also argue that behavioral traits are influenced by not just on economic status of their families but also on values practiced by their parents. All of these are easy to agree with – the difficulty in practice is that they don’t come to us with a label on what their background is, so we have to engage with them and find out.

Prof Vasanthi of IIM Bangalore stated that there are three generations co-existing in the workplace – one whose parents are from rural and agriculture background, one with parents in government jobs, and the third generation from parents in the private sector. This is a better generalization than just calling all of them Gen Y.

My sons belong to this generation, so pardon me for being indulgent. I find this generation is more confident, more risk taking, and yes, a lot more intelligent and more widely read than our generation. Given these traits they are unlikely to be respectful of people whose only value-add is their age. I do find them inspired, and the only message I derive is that we need to know what inspires them. Being irreverent, they are more likely to question our views, and we need to be prepared to answer them. I keep hearing from my sons “you don’t make sense” – while it hurts to hear that, I do feel happy they question before they accept. Often a radically different view is backed up by sound observation and logic I was not capable of at their age. But you have to probe to discover that. As for values, I believe children of this generation are victims more than villains. They are just watching our generation at work, and learning from us. A child who has grown up watching her father jump traffic lights is unlikely to stop at the red light. Parents who bribe will find their children less respectful of the law. Schools that pirate software, or photocopy books will naturally produce students with no respect for IP (intellectual property). Parents who track only results when they engage with their children will one day find them on the wrong side of acceptable ethics.

Finally, the argument against them is their lack of discipline at the workplace, and their lack of respect for authority. Well, they’ll be only as disciplined as their seniors – and they’ll respect us only as much as we are worthy of respect. Even our generation just created a facade of respect, we did not really “respect” people who did not earn it, this generation has merely dropped the facade. The no-nonsense approach and dropping non value-added baggage is definitely one generational difference between them and us. And I hope that is good for our future!

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  • Geetha

    The Times They Are a-Changin’

    Dear Mr. Banerjee,

    Thank you for this very interesting post on Gen Y.

    Yes, India’s diversity can either be a boon or a curse.

    My daughters also belong to Gen Y and I fully agree with your views on this Generation.

    As parents we can only stake out the areas on which there can be no compromise. Value transgressions cannot be accepted and these will come under the ‘no-compromise zone’ but traditional practices keep changing from family to family and from generation to generation. There is no real harm in tweaking them to suit the occasion and the place and the situation too. As a full-time working mother, my practices are different from those of my mother who was a stay-at-home mom. Does that make me less of a mother? I hope not!

    We need to respect Gen Y for what they are. We definitely cannot condemn them for not being what we want them to be. After all, we are not what our forefathers were!

    Like you have so rightly said, we may wear a permanent mask but am sure glad that Gen Y has the guts to drop the facade and that does augur well for the future.

    And from my own personal experience, I can vouch for the fact that reverse mentoring is very effective both at home and at the workplace too. Everyday, there is something or the other that I learn from either my daughters or my young colleagues at work and I am indeed thankful to them for enabling me to keep the old grey matter ticking!

    Thanks and regards,

    Geetha

  • Dear Kalyan,

    An interesting, thought provoking post. Yes, it is nice for Generation Y to be transparent and respect people for what they are, rather than their age or designation.

    At the same time, this generation does need to be a little more patient. It is even possible to learn from that cranky old man, sitting in the third seat from the left hand side of the room – he knows history.

    I have often smirked at history, said it was useless and one must just look at the future. But, I realise, especially after reading Go Kiss the World again, that a sense of history is crucial.

    Unfortunately, sometimes, I find this generation being too impatient. Gosh, now I feel old and grey

  • sasmita

    I really liked your way of thinkin….Wish all parents do the same…coz “Change is the law of Nature”

  • sunil jogdeo

    Nice one. Very factual. Parents are 1st institutions to bring in required qualities in the child, followed by schools. Unfortunate both have failed to be a `role model` for this generation, resulting into many crisis in the life of human. Thank you for brining in greater clarity.

  • Mr. Banerjee,

    Thank You for sharing your valuable experience. For people of any generation, kindly let me share some of my thoughts.

    The best pursue diversity and commonality together and that pursue them positively. As more people become like the best, the many small problems that sum to problems much larger than their parts would reduce. For people to become like the best requires appropriate learning and training. Many people of the world seem to have little or none of it and that to provide it to so many would require some of the best efforts. People might use diversity or commonality for negative and so to help others become like the best has a lot of value.

    A society is positively affected much less by the corners within whether they’re sharp or smooth and a lot more by the span of its usefulness to both internal and external forces that act on it for its betterment. Corners would be rules (including physical like as part of boundaries) made for everyone regarding anything in society. They would also be views or customs of individuals or groups in society regarding anything. Over the generations, the forces might act on the corners to shape or even remove them for better. If the corners aren’t useful in their space and time then they might be negatively affecting the forces in their pursuit of the seemingly infinite opportunities in the seemingly infinite universe like by hindering lanes and gates when more openness and transparency and instrumentation towards better sharing and collaboration and execution platforms would’ve been useful to forces. A society can provide means for the dreams and help reduce gaps between the minds and the mindsets to even let people accomplish what might be considered by the future generations as some of the best achievements by mankind.

    Best Regards,
    Shakti Saran
    http://shaktisaran.tech.officelive.com/Education.aspx

  • Lakshmi Menon Chairmakani

    Dear Kalyan,
    Indeed a very well written post and something which has been going on, on my mind. Well,yes, it makes a lot of sense in what you have written but in my opinion there is one another factor which plays a huge part in shaping up values. I call that factor the family.

    Today, we have money but we dont have time. We compromise time with money and toys for the children. Children need their parents to teach them values, guide them etc but parents more
    often are at office/ home settling their commitments. We are more responsible for teaching them how to respect values. We have often been impatient parents jumping signals, cutting queues, picking up a fight with people, giving bribes to get our jobs done, shouting and yelling at people, in order to allegedly motivate children, we get them seats in coveted schools, colleges, reality shows etc by paying heavy donations, we lie unabashed and we expect them to be truthful. These things are often done under the label of “helping”, “encouraging” and “motivating” our kids.. which more often are 1 or 2. Where are we setting examples? We justify our actions when we do it and so, the children are watching us, they are learning from us.. then why are we baffled? Why do we get angry when children expect us to take them on expensive vacations? Why do get worried when the do not respect and value time and money? Why do we get frustrated when they think it is their right to get everything they want? Why are we puzzled when they are impatient?

    No doubt Gen Y( segregated in whatever way) is far more enterprising, brash, risk taking but there is a down side to it too. Today the world is not what we grew up in, there are more opportunites as well as pitfalls. Children are over exposed in every way. On one hand it is heartening but on the other hand it is frightening. Are we ushering in this Gen Y not knowing that this is our own doing?

  • Geetha

    Dear Mr.Banerjee,

    These lines from your post on ‘Gen Y’ are really thought-provoking:

    “Prof Vasanthi of IIM Bangalore stated that there are three generations co-existing in the workplace – one whose parents are from rural and agriculture background, one with parents in government jobs, and the third generation from parents in the private sector. This is a better generalization than just calling all of them Gen Y.”

    And may I please share here with you a relevant and interesting article on “The important role of parents in children’s education” which was published in the ‘Education Plus’ of The Hindu dated 12th July, 2010? The said column can be viewed here please:
    ———————————–

    http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/edu/2010/07/12/stories/2010071250110600.htm

    I may be repeating myself but I would also like to mention here that I love MindTree’s unique ‘Circle of Life’.

    Thanks and regards,

    Geetha

  • Geetha

    Here’s another interesting article from Business Line dated 12th April, 2010 on Gen Y

    http://www.blonnet.com/manager/2010/04/12/stories/2010041251501000.htm

    Shoulder-to-shoulder – Gen Y & the baby boomers

    Balancing the unique strengths of these two groups is key to optimising organisational effectiveness and productivity..

    Thanks and regards,

    Geetha

  • These could be due to many people being behavior-driven than value-driven and which limits people from becoming like the best.

    Best,
    Shakti Saran
    http://www.slateandchalk.net

  • Regarding Lakshmi Menon Chairmakani reply:

    These could be due to many people being behavior-driven than value-driven and which limits people from becoming like the best.

    Best,
    Shakti Saran
    http://www.slateandchalk.net