9.16.2006

X or Y

Allow me some gross over-generalizations and look past my
upper-middle-class suburban bias for a second. I'm on the younger end
of "Generation X," a group that came of age in the greed and cynicism
of the 80's. We were latch-key kids who learned how to think and live
independently, to figure out our own way to Point B from Point A. We
thrive when we have an assignment and resources, and little else in
the way of supervision and constraints. We've not totally sold out on
the idea of changing the world, but our idealism is tempered with an
understanding of reality.

The past few years have seen the entrance into the workplace of
"Generation Y," a group that was coddled by parents who rejected the
greed and cynicism of the 80's. These cats are much more into doing
good, they run circles around us Gen X'ers in technology, and are
perfect for the new work world's emphasis on teamwork. But they are
less experienced when it comes to problem-solving, preferring instead
to know exactly what they need to do rather than given a vague problem
with an unknown path to the soution. This is also fed by another
somewhat negative characteristic, that of requiring constant
evaluation and feedback and affirmation.

So which would you rather be, X or Y? And which would you rather
hire? The latter is no hypothetical question for today's employers,
as described in a recent Business Week article about the best places
to launch a career. Dealing with Gen Y (or Millennials, or Echo
Boomers, or whatever you want to call them) is fundamentally different
than dealing with Gen X. And as boomers are living and working
longer, they're still in the mix in the workplace too. At least three
distinct generations, each with vastly different notions of what makes
a good workplace and what makes a good job, co-existing in one firm,
in one department, on one team. Employers, managers, and recruiters:
good luck.

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