Bruce Tulgan’s Myths Part #1

Bruce Tulgan authored one of the standout Gen Y books of 2009, “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy,” and I’ve been dying to read and evaluate it. While there are a number of Millienial or Gen Y books on the market, many focus on youth marketing or issues Gen Y has and how they need to change. Tulgan instead tells the workplace how to adapt to Gen Y, not the other way around.

So I figured I’d do a few posts on the book as I read, hitting the high points of his work for my readers and reacting as part of his key demographic.


Chapter 1: Meet Generation Y

Tulgan introduces 14 myths that other writers and experts have written about or that have perpetuated themselves through HR and executive management circles.


Myths and Tulgan’s “Realities,” #1 to #7:


MYTH #1: Gen Yers are disloyal and unwilling to make real commitments to their employers.
REALITY: Tulgan hits on one of his first key messages of the book, that Gen Y sees work as a free market system, and are only loyal to a transactional or “just-in-time” extent.

I see it as playing into distrust of institutions. Our elders worked for years and some have little to show for it, in terms of the devastation of retirement accounts and useless stock options received.

MYTH 2: They won’t do the grunt work.
REALITY: Gen Y will, but not if they don’t get credit for it.

In an increasingly transparent society, why wouldn’t we expect to be able to demonstrate and be recognized for our work? It’s a data-driven society, and we’re highly goal-oriented and know how to deomonstrate and measure our worth – why wouldn’t you respond to that? Accountable employees are good employees.

MYTH 3: They don’t know very much and have short attention spans.
REALITY: Tulgan says Gen Y may not walk in with as much information expected at a certain level of education in the past, but have more information at their fingertips than ever before.

It seems that Gen Y is being lambasted for not having the same kind of memorized, rote, “throw-up” knowledge as in years past, which stands to reason. We weren’t taught to memorize times tables and learned spelling by the “sound it out” method, not pages of spelling bee words. With so much information available on the internet and right in front of us, it’s a waste of time to try and memorize something it takes two seconds to look up.

I think of my best friend, a new pharmacist. She got a Black Berry during pharmacy school and has a program to look up any chemical formulas, potential side effects or what drugs could interact with the prescription. No running for a giant tome.
It’s just a matter of differening priorities based on new environments. It’s not time or cost efficient to memorize every fact under the sun. The best thing Gen Y can do is to learn to apply context and breadth of knowledge to problem solving. While some fields, like accounting, still may operate on more of a traditional model, many fields change rapidly and make those old expectations obsolete.

MYTH 4: They want the top job day one.
REALITY: Tulgan says Gen Y wants to hit the ground running on day one and want to make an impact.

This is something I’ve heard a lot, and I think it’s ridiculous. We’re a pragmatic generation, and don’t expect things to revolve around us (unless of course we’re talking about the worst of the self-centered “all about me Gen Ys – in which case, I wouldn’t hire them either). What we do want is to be shown how to do what we do well and get positive feedback when we accomplish that. It’s “making an impact” in a small way. If you can show us how the more tactical or rote tasks really assist the team in their long-term goals and show the slightest gratitude, we’ll understand what we’re doing is an important part of the big picture. That’s enough impact for us – at least until we’ve truly mastered a skill set, then yes, we want to progress.

MYTH 5: They need work to be fun.
REALITY: It’s not fun, it’s engagement that’s desired, says Tulgan. “They want to learn, to be challenged, and to understand the relationship between their work and the overall mission of the organization,” and work with good people.

Hit nail on the head here, Bruce.

MYTH 6: They want to be left alone.
REALITY: Not close to true. Gen Y wants to know management, get guidance, solve problems.

Again, pretty close. I think some Gen Yers want a little more confidence from their bosses in that we want to be able to take a first shot at doing something before being told “exactly” how. We understand that we don’t learn unless we actually do it ourselves, not robotically imitate the past. Call it our independent streak or thinking we can do it better, but it shows initiative to learn through trial by fire.

MYTH 7: They want their managers to do their work for them.
REALITY: Want managers to teach how to do work well, fast.

Yes. We grew up in an immediate society, and speed is essential, but it counts for nothing unless it’s done to your satisfaction. If managers can’t explain how to do those two things, they probably aren’t great managers and don’t demonstrate an understanding of the big picture. You won’t get our respect for that.

Myths 8 through 14 upcoming soon…

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One response to “Bruce Tulgan’s Myths Part #1”

  1. Katy says :

    Thank you for this. Whenever people start to talk about Gen Y it comes with an annoyance that leaves me feeling defensive. I’m glad people out there see the true value in Gen Y and don’t think different = bad.

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