There is a cultural skirmish taking place between Generation Y and the Baby Boomers. Boomers say Gen Yers are a bunch of lazy, self-entitled brats. Gen Yers say that Boomers… well it’s funny really, Gen Yers don’t really seem to give a shit about the Boomers and are content simply to disappear onto the interwebs when the issue arises.
Either way, there’s a clash of culture and values and one of the places it seems to escalate to actual conflict most often is in the work world.
Managing Gen Yers has proven to be something of a challenge for Baby Boomers and the topic often pops up on forums like Brazen Careerist or Punk Rock HR (sorry, couldn’t find the post I wanted for this link, but trust, me, it comes up in the comments all the time) or in books such as Bruce Tulgan’s Not Everyone Gets a Trophy.
Here’s a promo for a show on PBS that deals with the topic and nicely illustrates some of the complaints that the two groups have about each other.
Ultimately, the Boomers’ position seems to come down to their perception of Gen Y as, well, like I said above, lazy and self-entitled kids with no work ethic who show no gratitude or loyalty to their employer and spend all day engaging in social networking rather than doing their jobs.
These impressions are absurd (if not offensive) for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they’re hopelessly historically blind – weren’t the Baby Boomers the ones who said “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” and called themselves the “Me Generation”? And AS IF nobody ever slacked off at work before Facebook.
But history has another parallel that makes this generation gap far more interesting than a matter of one generation having trouble identifying with “the kids these days”, and I’m just going to come out and say it – Gen Y is fomenting the Marxist revolution.
Think about it this way – Camus sums up the gap between the bourgeois and the proletariat (as perceived by Marxism) as that between one group that uses their influence to maintain a status quo in which they retain the privileged position as owners of the means of production and another that resists said status quo, not because they hope to usurp the privileged position but because they want to return to a state where day-to-day life involves something more fulfilling than turning pieces of yourself into commodities for exchange.
Like the Marxist proletariat, Gen Y expects more from their jobs than a paycheque. They want a degree of fulfillment and all the things they do that annoy Boomers at work – bouncing between jobs to avoid getting bored, having high expectations when it comes to the type of work they’ll be doing, and just tuning out when their expectations aren’t met – are, for better or for worse, strategies for achieving that fulfillment.
Sure, Gen Ys don’t have it all together yet – crying because your boss asks you to do something tedious is silly and short-sighted – but I like to think that if this trend of demanding more from your career continues, we may be witnessing the revolution that Marx was talking about, except without all the messy violence.
Also, I’m not sure what Marx would have thought about iPhones. But whatever. Either way, it’s a bit of a revolution and it will be interesting to see if it catches on or simply falls flat when Generation Z – whatever that is – hits the workforce.