Generation Y – Friend or Foe?

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Being a business owner these days can be quite daunting. You need to climb out of a recession. You have new competitors both overseas and from internet businesses being started in the garage next door to your house. Technological advances are coming fast and furious in virtually every aspect of your business. On top of it all, you need to adjust from dealing with customers face to face and on the phone, to learning how to “tweet” and interact on Facebook.

Now, the convergence of two wildly different generations in your employees is adding a whole new level of complexity to the mix. Once one generation is surpassed by the next the characteristics and habits within business atmospheres can change for the good, or for the worse. These changes occur when younger employees become future building blocks of the company. America is currently in the midst of a seeing this happen – “Gen X” is slowly handing the reigns of the business world over to “Gen Y”. Is that a good or a bad thing? It could be either depending on how you view it.  Let’s take a look at both sides:

Reasons to love your Gen Y hire:

The need to create their own path

Every generation forms their own reputation and as of now, Generation Y’s reputation is one of independence and a need to find their own way. This mindset brings with it a willingness to take risks, which if handled well can be a great trait to have in an employee. As this generation matures and combines their willingness to try new things with lessons learned by making mistakes, this powerful combination brings with it great opportunity.

High energy

Success in life can be attributed to maintaining a positive attitude and putting forth the correct amount of effort. In order for this to happen a person’s energy needs to be above high, which is a key characteristic that many Gen Y’s bring. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the majority people within this generation are still very young and have lots of energy.

Technologically savvy

Due to this generation’s formative years occurring during the turn of the century, another name for the baby boomers offspring’s are the Millenials.  It shouldn’t be surprising that this age bracket has an outstanding grasp on technology. This generation has probably never used an audio cassette (and maybe not even a CD!), grew up “online”, and has had a cell phone for 5 or 10 years. Adopting new technology is absolutely vital to your business if you want your company to experience future success. Having employees that are well versed in new technologies and used to adopting new technology will be a huge benefit your business.

Reasons to fire your Gen Y hire:

Don’t fear failure

Many Gen Y’ers haven’t been through much economic failure.  Excluding the last few years things were very good for a long time.  The economic realities of working through a recession may be tough to handle. A family tightening their weekly budget because the father or mother had a bad month, or having to move out of a home because they were laid off. These are the types of challenges that lots of Gen Y’ers haven’t been through and how some employees react may be more than a business owner can manage.

Peter Pan Generation

As everyone knows, Peter Pan is that fictional character that never ages past a certain stage – he never grows up. Is this also the perspective of Gen Y? Of course you can never apply a characteristic to a large group of people but many believe that this generation has relied on their parents more so than previous generations which could limit someone’s drive to step out on their own.


Some believe that Gen Y has a stronger feeling of entitlement than previous generations.  While obviously not the case for every Gen Y’er, someone who believes they should get that raise or promotion without putting in the work or making the contribution is going to be a potentially negative force.

Good and Bad News

The good and bad news is that people of all ages are different. No matter what generation your employees are from, if you provide an energetic and positive work environment that gives people the opportunity to be creative, make real contributions and be fulfilled by their work, you’ll not only have a great team but you’ll enjoy having your own business even more!

Photo credit: Mike Kline