Although there is no clear-cut date for when Generation Y began, or when it ended (if, in fact, it has already ended, although this is a near-universal opinion), I am personally part of that generation, being born in 1982. However, it wasn’t until recently that I thought of myself in such terms, and then largely because of my comfort-level with media and technology. At a mid-sized Canadian corporation, I was working with a mix of people from both Generation X and Generation Y, with most of management being from the older generation.
Over the three-plus years I was at that corporation, combined with the increase in exposure to various social media platforms, my eyes were opened as to the true difference between the two generations, at least as far as the workplace is concerned.
We aren’t Generation Y. We’re Generation Why.
Growing up in an environment with strong influences of social interactions and mass communications, we’ve learned to question tradition. As the poster to the right shows, it’s not necessarily the best way to do things, even if it has been done that way for as long as memory serves.
What has become prevalent in our generation is that feeling of questioning why things need to be the way they are. Whether we’re discussing politics or looking at how to dress at work, we have a tendency to ask why.
In a recent discussion with another coworker, I raised the question of why a particular piece of documentation was required. I explained that I had no objection to improving quality or ensuring accountability. If, however, the required documentation did not actually accomplish the purpose for which it was deemed necessary, then I felt my time would be better spent debating the merits of the process rather than filling out the requested document. Perhaps this is just me (and some of you who have known me for years might say that I’ve always been this way), but I’ve come to the realization that while I may be more vocal about this than other people, I’m not alone in my opinions.
In any environment, healthy growth occurs when boundaries are pushed, and barriers that are in place are questioned, and removed when deemed irrelevant. A promising business will look to establish barriers that promote quality, process that ensures accountability, and policies that encourage innovation. Such a business will constantly question the status quo, because what may have been useful or necessary last year may no longer apply.
This attitude of questioning is common in Generation Y, which is why I choose to call it Generation WHY.