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Generation Y in the Workplace: Would You Call Your Child's Boss?

Posted by Annita Wozniak

Parents, have you heard anything like this lately?

  • A co-worker tells his boss that the young man sitting out in the lobby waiting for an interview has brought his mother along and wants her to go on the tour of the facility.
  • Someone is fired because after two years, her work product still has too many errors. Six months prior in a performance review (where the two managers spelled out very clearly that accuracy and attention to detail needed to dramatically improve), she seemed unfazed, unconcerned and proved to be unable to train herself to double check her work before she passed it to the next party.
  • A neighbor calls to say she is worried about her son who works part-time and then spends the rest of his time playing video games and going to the gym. When chided by dad to turn off the game station and pitch in with laundry and dishes, the son gently reassures his father that he probably wouldn’t have time for that as he knows he will soon be hired at a place where management will treat him with respect and pay him what he is worth.

The new hire at your brother’s office is always late. Even though there is a big project due mid-day, the new guy leaves to work out over his lunch hour and then looks surprised when HR requested that future forward he is to shower and change out of his work out gear before returning to his desk.

Does this seem hard to believe?

Generation Y children are born between 1978 and 1990. Prepare yourself for these and more incredulous moments if you are hiring a Generation Y worker. And brace yourself if you are a parent shouldering the blame for creating this generation of why-should-I-work-hard-for-you workers.

You may be asking yourself, “Since when has putting child-rearing as a top priority been a bad thing” (Since Generation X grew up, I guess.)

And it isn’t just the endless activities, the effort to build confidence, or the willingness to adapt to umpteen scheduled activities that has caused the uproar. It’s all of that plus the intelligence and worldliness of Generation Y’s experience with global technology and the constant need for communication that has taught them to focus largely on short-term rewards and to look out for themselves above all others. After all, isn’t “short-term” exactly how we treat the environment, the market, the entertainment that we consume on a daily basis

Bruce Tulgan, author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy believes globalization and technology has shaped Gen Y’ers into young adults who seek to maximize tangible benefits and their connections to people in power. After all, most of them are working in unstable institutions with uncertain futures. Knowing that industry is ever-changing and aware that today’s cutting edge is likely tomorrow’s old Facebook look, Gen Yers question authority, command an ever-present access to accurate research via technology and have mastered the short-term goal of focusing their brilliant ideas and earning their trophies.

In Tulgan’s words, “Generation Y is like Generation X on-fast-forward-with-self-esteem-on-steroids….[their parents] have guided, directed, supported, coached, and protected…and structured. “Not surprisingly, most Gen Y employees report that they love their parents, trust them, and will continue to seek advice from them even from the workplace cubicle via the ever present cell phone. (And they have been known to bring their parents in to work or have them call you to clarify your needs, without any of that debilitating embarrassment factor!) Yes, bosses report more and more that mom and dad are calling to inform employers of the gifts of Susie Q and sometimes chide them for expecting too many hours at the workplace.

According to experts, the best place for a Gen Y worker is at a company that can offer a flexible reward system that includes monetary incentives, time off, varying start times, and has a supervisory staff willing to teach the basic skills of good manners, critical thinking, and what the consequences are for one’s actions.

(Sigh. I thought that was what I have been doing Or haven’t I)


About Annita Wozniak

Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at

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