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!