X, Y, and Z

http://img.timeinc.net/time/magazine/archive/covers/1997/1101970609_400.jpgA friend of mine (and fellow Gen X'er) posted on her Facebook page a hilarious video about Gen Y in the workplace.  The satire exaggerates Y's need for constant affirmation, extra vacation, and a start time no earlier than 10:30am for comedic effect.  But is there a grain (or boulder) of truth to the stereotype?

I'll pass on making sweeping generalizations or on commenting on the Gen Y'ers I work with.  But I will note some fundamental differences between these two waves of people, which hold meaningful implications for the choices I make as a parent.  (Gross oversimplications to follow for dramatic effect.)

Gen X'ers as a bloc were influenced by the first big wave of divorces and working moms, forging a need for independence and self-reliance.  Far from being the "slacker generation" once predicted of it,  Gen X has excelled in entrepreneurship and self-initiation.

http://cdn.hoboken411.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/hoboken-generation-y.jpgGen Y's as a bloc were raised by boomer parents who were afforded the luxury of resources and time to devote to their children.  Self-esteem was paramount, and was interpreted as requiring constant praise, hyper-vigilance, and the ever-popular "everyone gets a trophy."  Gen Y's in the workplace may therefore react negatively to situations in which their work isn't praise, their every whim isn't satisfied, and their every every good deed not rewarded. 

On the other hand, Gen Y is a more pluralistic and therefore more accepting group.  And, combined with their digital nativity, they are more connected and more socially fluid, and thus fantastically equipped for a technology-driven world which rewards these traits.

So what will Gen Z be like?  As the generation still being born, there's still time to forge its identity.  And current parents of small children are doing the forging.  What will we forge?

For starters, I hope we fall somewhere between being absent (and thus forcing self-reliance at an early age) and being a helicopter (and thus stunting any growth in self-reliance).  I also hope we value self-esteem but don't confuse it with self-aggrandizement.  Finally, I hope we foster both a respect for the past and for one's elders (both of which you can learn a lot from), as well as an openness to future possibilities and to one's ability to make them possible. 

As for my kids' kids?  I'll likely be in some retirement community, ranting about them in my blog. 

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