Bruce Tulgan’s Myths, part 2

Bruce Tulgan authored one of the standout Gen Y books of 2009, “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy,” and whY genY is reading and posting along. This is part two on the most common myths about Gen Y, according to Tulgan.

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,” #8 to #14:

MYTH #8: They don’t care about climbing the proverbial career ladder.
REALITY: Gen Y’s career paths will be erratic and eclectic, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be progressive and developmental.

I wholeheartedly agree with this. If institutions are less trustworthy, positions are temporal and based mostly on the personal value it provides you, a traditional career path is out. Gen Y has to fight to keep pace with a world that changes rapidly — one static ladder doesn’t work. The challenge is, however, to convince those hiring Gen Y to stop looking for candidates with “ideal” career paths and instead do the hard work of evaluating skills and abilities through in-depth interviews and actually reading resumes.

MYTH 9: Money and traditional benefits don’t matter to them.
REALITY: Yes, but are savvy about comparing between employers.

Also, Gen Y has seen other geneations fight for work-life balance. If you can offer flexiblity, aid for continuing ed, access to leaders in the community, those things are interchangeable for forward-thinking Gen Yers. As long as they can pay their bills and aren’t embarassed when comparing their job with a peer at another company.

MYTH 10: Money is the only thing that matters to them.
REALITY: Tulgan says this contradictory myth is basically false, that Gen Ys who are notorious for “demanding” money is a miscommunication or misinterpretation on both sides, what is really being asked is “What do I need to do to earn more?”

I know that’s not true, but I’ve seen that some Gen Yers do have a skewed mindset that stems from years of being coached, mentored and programmed: “Ask for what you want!” “Know what you’re worth!” “Be confident!” Some Gen Yers have a misperception that they deserve more, earlier than they really do. I’m interested in the other things Tulgan says are vital in a job, which will be discussed in later chapters, I’m guessing.

MYTH 11: They don’t respect their elders.
REALITY: Sure they do. It’s an issue of mutual respect.

Yes. Gen Yers know that “elders” are older and wiser in terms of life, but also realize our seniors have lost value in the workplace because of the immense changes in the past 10 years. Some of the obsolete skills of our elders are replaced by the things we bring to the table, and we want that to be recognized. The years of mindlessly kowtowing to leadership are over — it’s just not relevant. That said, so many young people are thirsting after leaders they can respect, learn from, be involved with and count on. Mindlessly demanding that based on some sort of age gap between two people is silly.  

MYTH 12: They want to learn only form computers
REALITY: Stuff that’s easy to learn from computers, ok. But Gen Y needs the human element and information systems to guid ethem through the tital wave of information.

I can hardly believe this is a myth. If we only wanted to learn from computers, colleges wouldn’t be flooded with GenY, and everyone would be computer vegetables. Through online tutorials, you can learn the tactics but not the application for real business. The internet has reduced the opportunity cost of learning the way the first libraries did — but you never heard that people only wanted to learn from books, did you?

MYTH 13: It’s impossible to turn them into long-term employees.
REALITY: No, but you’ll have to do it one day at a time.

I guess that’s true. Wasn’t it always true? I suppose Gen Y has less patience for bearing out the hard times in pursuit of long-term success, simply due to the pace of work and life and the easy accessibility of new potential jobs – they’re all out there online, and any unhappy office worker likely has hit up many times, fantasizing about something new.

MYTH 14: They will never make good managers because they are so self-focused.
REALITY: Of course they can, they just have to learn the basics and then practice.

Hmm…I’d put the ‘reality’  a little differently. Of course there’s a learning curve for management, but also consider that Gen Y understands Gen Y better than others, and will soon be managing each other in some situations. As workplaces lessen their hierarchies and more to more team-based work models, this can only increase. I’d say Gen Y will make great managers, because though they may be focused on themselves, their managerial skills become part of that whole self-value thing. In fact, I’d bet Gen Y managers are more likely to take a personal stake in coaching and mentorship, because they so value self-esteem, they want to help others build it up.

Tulgan ends chapter one with the thesis of his work: If you want high performance out of this generation, you better committ to high-maintenance management.


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  1. Sparxoo » Debunking Myths About Gen Y - October 20, 2009

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