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Generation Y

We Can’t All Blame Ourselves: Why Millennials Need To Pull Their Own Weight

I was part of a recent conversation at a book club where we debated whether or not society gives too many “passes” to Millennials (those born between 1982 and 1995). You know, customizing everything for their needs rather than having them work for it “like we had to do” and changing the whole structure of workplaces based on their needs (yes, very “back-in-my-day” type of a conversation, I know)

I was part of a recent conversation at a book club where we debated whether or not society gives too many “passes” to Millennials (those born between 1982 and 1995). You know, customizing everything for their needs rather than having them work for it “like we had to do” and changing the whole structure of workplaces based on their needs (yes, very “back-in-my-day” type of a conversation, I know)

And I feel this way sometimes, even though some would consider me on the cusp of Gen Y and Gen X as I was born in 1979 (although ask any Buzzfeed quiz and I’m clearly Generation X all the way!)

I get it, change is hard. But regardless of change and differences in generation styles, there are areas where you should not give Gen Y the “pass” and areas where it’s still appropriate to expect Millennials to pull their own weight.


It is definitely advantageous to learn from Millennials and those who bring new communication perspectives to the table. However, don’t let Gen Y slide into the habit of sloppy communication techniques or worse yet, no communication at all.

How you can support them: Be clear about communication expectations up front. If your main method of company communication is through email, make sure your future leaders understand they will need to check their inbox multiple times a day. If you do not conduct company business via Facebook (ie: sending your boss a direct message saying you’re out sick that day) put it out there for them right away so they understand how to (and not to) use social media when it comes to job communication.

It’s important to ask Millennials how they prefer to communicate as well. Communication is a two-way street. The expectations you set for them should be reciprocated in what you provide as well.


I often get requests from those starting out (many who are Millennials) to meet for coffee or review work they have produced in hopes of getting some good advice and information to grow on. And while I completely understand the need to grow and learn from others, it should not be expected from Generation Y that those of us in leadership roles should move our schedules around to help out at any given moment.

Maybe that sounds a bit harsh. I don’t mean it to be.

My point is this: Don’t be afraid to say no and likewise, don’t be afraid to ask Millennials what they can bring to the table as well. Networking is also a two-way street (sensing a theme yet?) You can learn and expect certain things from Gen Y during a networking session just as they would of you.

How you can support them: Make the value of your time clear (but nicely). If it’s hard for you to get away from the office, offer to have a quick 15 or 20-minute phone chat instead. Prepare questions that you can ask them in order for both of you to provide value in the conversation.


It’s crucial to provide opportunities for success, but don’t continually hold the door open. Here’s what I mean:

I’ve had many a Millennial approach me with requests to guest blog on my company’s website or to work with me in a freelance capacity. But when I’ve reached back out to give deadlines, parameters and expectations, I’m met with silence on their end. Likewise, I’ve been in situations where Ys have asked for more responsibility but have a hard time completing the current tasks at hand.

There are great ways to develop leaders within your organization, but you also can’t twist their arm if they’re not willing to put in the work. Millennials need to step up their game as well and prove that they can handle more responsibility.

How you can support them: Assess their strengths and weaknesses and develop projects that support the former. Set realistic, obtainable goals for working toward growth and track those during bi-annual or annual work reviews. Let Generation Y know that you are on their team and support professional growth while, at the same time, setting clear expectations.

Millennials bring great assets to the table and challenge us to view the workplace in a new way. Likewise, it is just as important for organizations to hold on to values of ethics and hard work. And as with all of the areas above, communication is key.

Working with the next generation will be a benefit to everyone. Their growth depends on it and your organization’s longevity does, too.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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