Understanding & Managing Generation Y: Feature Article; V2 Issue 2

Understanding and Managing Generation Y

Shubham listens to his ipod and leaves messages for his friends in orkut… all this while he is working at home on his office project. Jagjith who says exactly what he feels about making improvements in the workplace also likes to collaborate with his peers online to find solutions to the technical problems in his project.  Raina attends yoga classes in the mornings. After work in the evenings she volunteers for an NGO. During weekends she treks extensively. Meet the Generation Y! Who are they? Let’s find out!

Who is Generation Y and why should you want to manage them?

Generation Y are those born between 1980 and 2000. They are even called the Millennial Generation, the Internet Generation, the Nintendo Generation, the Digital Generation and the Sunshine Generation. They are the children of active, involved parents and the younger siblings of Gen Xers ie., a generation born from the mid1960s to the late 1970s. With penpals across the world, the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital media, they see things as global, connected, and of course open for business 24/7.  And what is important for you is that today they are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. You would be recruiting them from campus. You would be finding replacements for them when they leave your company to join another one. You would be working with them. You need to manage them. And so, you need to know more about them!

Characteristics of Generations Y

Even if you don’t identify them by their age, Generation Y is not very difficult to spot because of the following characteristics which define them:-
1. Confidence: Having been raised by parents believing in the importance of self-esteem, they ooze confidence. Confidence in the way they speak out about issues that bother them, confidence in the way they carry themselves and confidence to tackle any challenge!

2. High expectations from self: They expect to achieve great things and solve problems nobody has solved and do more work, better and faster than anybody else. Sounds familiar?

3. High expectations from others: They also have high expectations from you - their employers and managers. Expectation that you will know their needs, help them succeed and reward them accordingly. They expect you to be honest and direct and fair and highly engaged in every step of their professional development.

4. Optimism: They believe in a bright future which has a special place for them as well. They expect a workplace with all the good things - challenge, collaboration, creativity, fun, and financial rewards. Why do you think they came to work for you?

5. Goal and achievement orientation: They like setting goals, striving for them and achieving them. So don’t be surprised if they arrive first day of work armed with personal goals already defined.

6. Inclusiveness: They are used to being organized in teams and don’t like leaving behind anybody. Workplace diversity is expected by them. They will not hesitate to use their collective power if they feel someone is treated unfairly. 

7. Love for change: Generation Yers don't expect to be doing the same thing tomorrow and day after. Multitasking comes naturally to them. They can juggle between checking e-mail on their Blackberries, talking on cell phones and surfing on the net.

8. Financial smartness: After witnessing the financial insecurity of earlier generations faced by layoffs and the dot-com bust, today's youngest workers are generally quite savvy about money and savings.

9. Need for work life balance: Unlike the earlier generation for whom career tends to come first, generation Yers are more interested in making their jobs accommodate their family and personal lives. They want jobs with flexibility - telecommuting options, part time or long leaves when children or elders need be taken care etc.

10. Sense of civic duty: They believe in doing things for the greater good. They often volunteer for community services. Naturally they expect companies also to contribute to their communities and have environment friendly operations.

11. Total comfort with technology: Having grown up with online social lives, classrooms and entertainment, the virtual world feels to them like a natural extension of their personal experiences. For them, meeting and interacting online is just as comfortable as face-to-face meetings.


By now can you see the behavior patterns among your team members who belong to the generation Y? Now given this unique pattern of behavior would you say the current ways of managing people would work with this generation? Perhaps not!

Managing Generation Y

Here are some of the things which will work with them.

1. As a boss I’ll be pleasant and easy to get along with: The number one rule for managing this highly sociable generation is for you to be sociable with them. Plain business talk with no chitchats will not do.

2. I’ll be your role model:  Having grown up with structure and supervision, with parents who were role models they are looking for role models at work too. This generation is looking for leaders with honesty and integrity. So 'parent' them in ways that will inspire them to utilise their strengths but also manage their weaknesses and set boundaries.

3. You can work with your friends: Generation Y want to work with people they connect with. They like being friends with their colleagues. Did you know some companies are even interviewing and hiring groups of friends because of this? Review them as a group; they enjoy collaborating and being rewarded for the same.

4. I’ll give you challenges: For a breed looking for challenges and lots of learning opportunities this is a statement they would welcome! Give them problems to solve and obstacles to overcome.

5. Here is what you need to do, I am flexible on how you want to do it: With their varied activities, Generation Y expects work to fit into the rest of their life. They don’t believe in face time. Once they are done with their work they will leave office (wow the focus is on output rather than just input!) In order to get the best out of the busiest generation ever it is essential you don’t bind them to a rigid 9 am to 6 pm schedule. Let them work anytime and anywhere while meeting their goals. Also get creative in providing the work/life balance that they crave by offering perks, such as a month sabbatical after some years of service. This offers them time to volunteer for NGOs or pursue a hobby.

6. I’ll be direct with you: Adapt your communication style for them. Gen Y employees speak a different language. They typically respond to humor, passion and the truth. Don’t beat around the bush with this set.

And here are some of the things that won’t work with them.

1. There is nothing much happening now, so chill: Just say this the day they join and they’ll walk out on you right then. Remember they want to start achieving from day 1. Be ready with a task or responsibility no matter how small that you can give the new joinee almost immediately.

2. You are too young to have ideas: Just because they have not been around a long time does not mean you don’t treat their ideas with respect. Don’t be surprised and overwhelmed with the articulate Generation Y’s forthrightness. Don’t try to discount their ideas for lack of experience (they do think outside the box) or throw a wet blanket on their enthusiasm. While an open door policy works well with them, to ensure your work does not get derailed often, tell them to bring you well researched ideas and specific questions.

3. Finish developing this product in 6 months time: This is as good as saying I want to lose your commitment. Gen Yers thrive on small goals with short deadlines so they can build up ownership of tasks. So you better break that project down into smaller pieces. Give them one new task at a time. And please change the type of projects they do every now and then.

4. I’ll give you feedback once in two years: Oh oh this is a sure way to lose them. Gen Y employees want frequent, direct and specific feedback and encouragement. They want their bosses to talk to them regularly just the way their parents did. Even if this means changing your performance appraisal system it is worth it. They become more confident, productive, and willing to use their creative talents when they see that their work is appreciated and receive feedback on how to achieve more.

5. I’ll reward you with just higher compensation: Compensating Gen Y cannot be solely about money. They are seeking training, new challenges, expansion of their capabilities and as a result, advancement to new, more highly compensated roles.


Pampered? Over indulged? Call the Generation Y what you want but you can’t do without this talented generation who are not only your colleagues but are also increasingly your customers and key influencers. Don’t feel threatened by their technical know how. Learn from them instead. Don’t treat them as your enemies but your allies in getting ahead in this increasingly competitive word. For instance considering that they are a generation comfortable with working remotely, leveraging technology and virtual relationships, Gen Y can help you meet your need for global teamwork and flexible work hours.

Come to think of it, creating a better workplace for the generation Y can mean a better workplace for all generations. The earlier generations had just not demanded and expected it like this recent generation does. And the result can be highly desirable - a set of engaged and motivated employees!


  1. Raines,C, “Managing Millennials”, 2002, http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htm.
  2. “Managing Generation Y as They Change the Workforce”, Business Wire, Jan 8, 2008 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2008_Jan_8/ai_n24224688.
  3. Tulgan ,B,“'tis the Season... to hire Generation Y.”, http://www.jobdig.com/articles/980/'tis_the_Season..._to_hire_Generation_Y._.html.
  4. Sue M.P, “Managing Gen Y effectively: the six keys to lead, and motivate Millennial´s to peak performance”, June 05, 2008, http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/64052.
  5. Armour, S, “Generation Y: They've arrived at work with a new attitude”, USA TODAY http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2005-11-06-gen-y_x.htm.
  6. Malini Goyal and Jacob Cherian , “Is Gen-Y taking over the boardroom?”, 11 Aug, 2006,TNN, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1882803.cms.