Article: Debunking the myths: Gen Y isn’t just a teenage syndrome

Employee Engagement

Debunking the myths: Gen Y isn’t just a teenage syndrome

It is imperative to debunk myths surrounding Gen Y and understand and appreciate the strengths and limitations of this generation
Debunking the myths: Gen Y isn’t just a teenage syndrome

Gen Y expect companies to encourage their personal goals and achievements, rather than restricting to mere transactional level or contractual obligations


Gen Y is here to stay and it will insist on creating a space for them on their terms in days to come


The enigma of Generation Y (Gen Y) has been more intriguing than fascinating for the corporate world; intriguing because of the many myths that surround this concept and a clutter of data which is influenced from the perspective of a world that the Indian ecosystem finds difficult to relate to. Gen Y in Indian context is a generation which has reaped the benefits of Post Liberalization (1994) era, a generation that has known abundance and not scarcity.

More than often we shrug the concept of Gen Y as a misplaced norm or just a passing fad, comparing this to “Teenage Phenomenon” which we believe is a turbulent phase in an individual’s life which will hastily pass away.  But the reality is far from this. Gen Y is here to stay and will insist on creating space for them on their terms in days to come. It is imperative to understand and appreciate the strengths and limitations of this generation as the probability of change in their behavior is low; this behavior is hardcoded and has progressed into a mindset.

The first step in understanding Gen Y is debunking some myths surrounding them. Some being:

Gen Y attention spans are short  

Gen Y pays attention to an activity or subject only as long as their interest is maintained, which often gives the impression that they have short attention span. This myth is further strengthened as they are vocal about their opinions and reactions and often don't hesitate in displaying the same, resulting in an opinion that they are easily defocused and have short attention span.

Gen Y doesn’t have depth; limited knowledge

Gen Y walks in with easy accessibility to more information than any of the previous generations, which drives their inherent philosophy that they use their brains as a ‘processor’ and not as a ‘storage memory’. In short, they keep a tab on all information at primary levels and believe if details (secondary & tertiary levels) are required, they can always search & access it. Since more than often their discussions are at the surface levels, the myth that they have limited knowledge has taken prominence. 

Gen Y is self-indulgent and doesn’t want to connect with older generations  

Gen Y is looking to make meaningful connections with elders whom they can genuinely trust, look up to and respect, both at personal & professional levels. The challenge is they don't believe in just continuing a relationship for the sake of societal or organizations’ hierarchy norms.  

Gen Y is indifferent about the future

Instead of seeing the future as a linear set of decisions & moves that need to be carefully planned, Gen Y sees the future as a vague, exciting, uncertain and constantly changing adventure that one must prepare for. They believe that each day is a new learning and every new learning helps them to evolve. It is with these new visions they are ready to explore their future. Considering this, they often don't worry or muse too much over the future and wait to explore it as and when it comes. 

Gen Y looks at relationships with a short-term perspective only  

Gen Y employees want to have a long-term relationship with a company; but not at the cost of sacrificing their beliefs and personal goals. They want companies to encourage their personal goals and achievements, rather than restricting to mere transactional level or contractual obligations. Alignment & encouragement of their personal dreams often leads to a long-term relationship with the organizations. 

Gen Y is self-absorbed

Although Gen Y are ‘cool-obsessed’ and brand conscious, but they are not egocentric. They have a strong sense of civic duty, environmental awareness and community mindedness. For Gen Y, it is cool to care about their surroundings and make a difference, for them money is only a means to an end and not an end by itself.

Gen Y does not believe in hard work

An overwhelming majority of Gen Y are willing to work hard as they aspire for big things. However, their priority order is different from older generations. They believe that life is short and they have to explore every adventure in this short time. They often place relationships with friends and family above work, which often creates this myth that they are not hardworking. 

Gen Y is pampered & spoilt  

Gen Y is open to having parents help them financially and facilitate in making big decisions. This situation is further complicated with Gen X/parents playing the role of "helicopter" parents by hovering around them and showering them with all possible resources.  All this has resulted in new economic baselines for Gen Y vis-a-vis past generations and thereby creating this myth that they are pampered and spoilt. 

Gen Y can live & prosper without constant praise   

Gen Y, without a doubt, has grown up in a culture of praise, where just about every effort, no matter how small, is rewarded by parents & well-wishers. This situation gets further complex with the advent of social media tools like Facebook which promotes only positive appreciation (Like Button) for any and every update. All this has resulted in a circumstance where in “Constant & real-time praise” is a lifeline and base necessity; both at personal and professional level.

Gen Y doesn’t have work ethics & ethos  

Work ethics & ethos for Gen Y does not mean slogging for hours at work. Their priorities are different and often go beyond the traditional 9 to 6 career plans. They have watched with horror as their parents worked punishing hours in their scramble for money and status. Gen Y not only cares about salaries, but also about flexible working hours, time to travel and a better work-life balance, which often results in the notion that they don't have work ethos. 

Gen Y is not comfortable with delayed gratification   

Gen Y wants instant and real time feedback. They want to be appreciated on the spot for their achievements; this magnification has risen from their experiences of ‘helicopter parents’.  Gen Y doesn’t like to wait for year-end appraisals to either get a feedback or gratify them. 

Gen Y prefers bosses who are weak so that they can dominate them 

On contrary, Gen Y looks seeks strong bosses. Strong bosses to them mean the ones who have subject knowledge and ones who can guide them. Gen Y is not comfortable with the idea of respecting their superiors simply because of their position, or roles but would rather respect them for what they bring to the table as a friend, philosopher and guide. Gen Y respects authority for their qualities of leadership, mentoring or guidance that they provide and not for just their position. 

Gen Y prefers only digital conversations     

Even though connecting online is the most preferred mode of communication for Gen Y, because of the fact that they grew up in a digital age, still at the same time Gen Y is equally, if not more, comfortable in catching up with their near & dear ones in person and engage in face to face conversations. 

Gen Y believes careers are the purpose of their lives    

More than often Gen Y come from backgrounds which are economically stable, thereby starting their careers at ‘Esteem’ level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, rather than ‘Physiological or Safety’ levels as the past generations have done. This economic freedom has resulted in exploring various hobbies or interest which influences their purpose of live. More than often careers become means to an end (hobby/interest) and not an end in itself. 

Gen Y will hold back their thoughts and not share in public   

Gen Y has been encouraged throughout their childhood to share their thoughts & feelings in an open fashion. Social media has only strengthened this belief over a period of time and Gen Y believes that sharing their thoughts in public is a reflection of them being transparent in their lives. Internet as an extension of their personality and lives. Gen Y believes internet is a great source of reliable information. Gen Y often shares their views candidly over the internet which in turns also makes them rely on it to seek opinions.

Gen Y prefers to learn and work as ‘lone wolves’

Gen Y has great comfort to work in groups and often prefers to work and learn in the same. Gen Y is comfortable to learn in a peer sharing environment without any hesitation of fear of failing among their peers.  

Gen Y believes in linear careers     

Gen Y believes in ‘Portable careers’ and not liner careers i.e. Gen Y is completely comfortable to let go off their previous experience in a particular domain and experiment the  complexity of a new one without any hesitation, as they strongly believe in embarking on new adventures. Demystifying myths about Gen Y facilitates our understanding that this is not just a teenage syndrome which is temporary in nature. We at India Inc. and especially HR have to make organizations ready to understand and accept these new expectations from Gen Y so as to ensure smooth functioning and greater synergy between various stakeholders for a future ready India Inc.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations

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