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Handling the expectations of the Y Generation

Charlotte Gentry, EVCOM chair and CEO of Pure Events, worries that the Digital Age is skewing the expectations of the younger workforce.


cgI warn you in advance that this column may be viewed controversially, but it is a topic that I think a lot of people leading teams are struggling with: the attitudes of those known as the ‘Y Generation’ and those in their 40s, like me, are poles apart.  

I have walked a long and arduous career path, rife with challenges and learnings, enabling me to be in a position of thought-leadership and relative authority.

However, some of my colleagues, who are at the start of their careers, seem to want everything right now and don’t seem to understand that a career is a journey. You simply can’t jump from having no or limited experience to earning a salary the equal of someone who has been in the sector for longer.  

Even more challenging still, when trying to explain this, the explanation seems to fall on deaf ears, revealing a level of incomprehension.  

How do we therefore marry both attitudes? I believe I am not alone in my frustrations in this area and have had many conversations with others in similar positions to me who seem to have the same challenges. What tools do people like me need to equip ourselves with to be able to manage younger people at the start of their careers and navigate their way through this process?

We now live in a society where all information is instant, and we can view other people’s lives openly through social media. It is important to recognise, however, that social media channels are more about ‘bragging rights’ rather than a true reflection of other people’s lives. Therefore, a note to all those who are born in the 1990s: just because your best friend is showing you pictures of the best parts of his or her job or life in general, it doesn’t mean that this is really what their life looks like. 

What are the other determining factors that have made our attitudes to life so different, and is it the same in each generation? Is this gap so different from the one that our parents experienced? We have lived through one of the greatest technology advances in history alongside the easy availability of information and I suspect this has something to do with this big shift.

I try to be as open-minded as I can, as someone in a position of authority who owns their own agency, and I guess that my advice to anyone managing a team and being faced with the same challenges, is to set clear guidelines around code of conduct as well as expectations that the leadership team have,  on performance, career progression within the team and general behaviour.  It is also important to have a skill set matrix where members of the team can clearly see what skills they need to achieve in order to travel up the career ladder.  This at least then enables people to assess where they sit in terms of their experience and skill set.