Note to Gen Y Workers: Performance on the Job Actually Matters

  • Share
  • Read Later

We’ve all heard about how millennials have been raised by “helicopter parents,” who hover over them and protect them from criticism and disappointment. The result is a “teacup” generation of young people who may appear outwardly perfect, but are easily shattered. For years, they have regularly been given pats on the back, often just for showing up. They made it to the end of the soccer season – fantastic, everyone gets a trophy! They took a test – how amazing! When they finally join the workforce, it’s no wonder members of Gen Y expect a promotion just for being on time to work for six weeks straight.

Sheltered from critique and failure, members of this generation ooze unearned confidence at the office, as many older co-workers and managers attest. The terms “self-involved” and “overly praised” are often used to describe Gen Y.

But their confidence may not be as deeply engrained as it first appears. When asked whether they need to build their strengths or fix their weaknesses in order to succeed professionally, 73% of Gen Y respondents choose to focus on their weaknesses — a much higher proportion than older generations.

However, Gen Y does have many qualities that can be extremely beneficial in the workplace. Millennials are very optimistic, thrive on volunteerism, and work hard when the work is something they believe in, or at least understand.

(MORE: Apocalypse Marketing: Top 10 Products and Services for the End of the World)

So what does this mean for our workforce today, and how should managers handle their millennial employees? First, it’s necessary to understand this generation, especially in the following four ways:

Participation is enough. Eager not to puncture anyone’s self-esteem, parents, teachers and coaches have praised Gen Y children—and handed out trophies, awards, and medals by the truckload—merely for showing up. When this generation joins the workforce, it’s understandable that they continue expecting praise and prizes, and even job offers and promotions, simply for being present. As a matter of fact, 40 percent of Gen Y respondents in one survey said they felt like they should be promoted every two years, regardless of achievements or work habits. What’s even more shocking is that only 9 percent believed they should receive promotions when it was warranted by their performance.

(MORE: Just How Underemployed Is Gen Y?)

Everything is customized. Gen Y was raised on personalization. They played video games with avatars that were created in their likeness. Pandora knows which music they like and serves up more just like it. Their Facebook ads cater to their hobbies and interests. Which book should they read next? Not to worry, Amazon will tell them what they will enjoy. Everything is a reflection of their individuality. As a result they demand, even in the workplace, to be treated uniquely.

Constant, immediate feedback required. Their parents, teachers and peers have given them instantaneous responses. They send a text to a friend and receive a reply 30 seconds later. Post a witty Facebook status and receive 30 likes in under an hour. Take a picture of the meal they’re eating and they expect people to ask for the recipe. They can’t imagine only receiving feedback once a year at their job – instead they need constant check-ins with their supervisor.

Change must be embraced. Nothing in this generation’s life is permanent. The world has been in constant flux. Lives are longer, but marriages are shorter, or perhaps not necessary. The economy swings between bubbles and recessions. Gen Y employees aren’t looking for companies wanting to retain workers for 30 years. Gen Y workers will instead hold at least seven jobs in their lifetime, and 60% of millennial employees in one survey recognized their current positions as mere stepping stones. This group grew up with options, and they expect their careers and work environments to also be filled with choices.

So where to we go from here? Three of these factors can’t be put back in the box. Immediate feedback will always be expected. Customization is here to stay. Permanence is gone. But what we can — and SHOULD — change is the mindset of the generation that says simply showing up is enough to justify rewards, in the form of praise and promotions. Performance does and always will matter.

(MORE: The Kickstarter Economy)

The good news is that the generation’s greatest strengths — optimism, confidence, sensitivity, truly caring about the world and their place in it — can be powerful tools to changing the apathy toward performance. Managers can be a guiding hand in transforming the outlook of young workers. By utilizing personalized leadership development tools available anytime, anywhere, we can push Gen Y team members to enhance their strengths and become top performers. The result will be a sense of fulfillment, not for merely arriving at work, but rather for ideas, results, and performance. There is no question that Gen Y is and will continue transforming the workplace. By capitalizing on the unique contributions and strengths of this generation, we’ll be creating a better workforce as a whole.

Marcus Buckingham is founder of The Marcus Buckingham Company, creator of the StandOutM tool, and the author of seven books, including his latest book StandOut. He is an expert in strengths-based leadership. Jane Buckingham is the founder of Trendera and thetfiles.com and author of the bestselling book series, The Modern Girl’s Guides.

36 comments
LJY2008
LJY2008

I work with a few Gen Ys and the two main things I've noticed are the lack of initiative, they do what they're asked but nothing more. They don't bring a lot of ideas to the table and need constant feedback on their work, which managers don't always have the time to indulge, if they don't get the feedback they generally cease to care about the work and don't make the effort to pursue it themselves. Managers have to keep on them to keep them motivated.


The other, is the desire to move up as quickly as possible without actually having achieved anything in their current job. There is no passion around the work,  just a desire to move up and make more money (but without really doing the hard yards to achieve it).


I actually work with a fellow who openly admits he doesn't want to work hard and wants work/life balance. He has a Masters in accounting but has no desire to work for a large firm (where the big bucks are), because he doesn't want to work that hard. Whilst I praise his honesty, I have to wonder how he thinks he's going to make the money he keeps talking about. He is an industrious fellow (I'll give him that), but he is always just looking for the fastest and easiest way to make money, rather than having any passion or drive to pursue a career in something he likes (and slowly work up the food chain). He keeps being knocked back for the jobs he applies for because he lacks any motivation beyond "I just want to be promoted", which is really just saying "I want more money".


He's 26 and already planning his retirement. His life hasn't even started yet!


I find the youthful exuberance funny and charming, but there are times when I do just have to shake my head and walk away. If only life were that easy! :-)

ChazBartelt
ChazBartelt

As a hospitality management consultant, I work with managers who hire and work with Gen Y employees frequently due to the youth of their applicant base. The Buckinghams have many key points, and I agree with some on them.  My only addition/argument is this key truth: any generation of employee wants to be liked and appreciated.   Yes, Gen Y seems to exhibit more of a desire for this in the workplace.  However, if a manager or a company does not "get it" and realize that truth, they will always struggle with their relations with their workforce, no matter what generation they employ.

twitterhead88
twitterhead88

With all the political correctness and sensitivity we gen. y'ers grew up around, it's now wonder why we fee l we are so special. To all my fellow generation y workers out there, your employer owe's you ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. You go to work, work hard at something you love, and learn to achieve your goals, dreams, and ambitions. Although our generation was "coddled" at a very early age, I know we feel special, but I'm sorry; our generation must learn to grow up and face the challenges of life if we are ever going to get anywhere in life. As a 24 year old seeking a job, I know I come from a spoiled generation, and I do not envy those 60 something year old employers who are looking to hire decent hard working professionals. But they could give us some advice on how we could go about being more independent and self reliant in the workplace. This will be a great CHALLENGE WHICH I HOPE MY GENERATION y'ERS WILL LEARN TO OVERCOME IN THE NEAR FUTURE. If anyone would like to comment on my post, telle me. I would love to hear a response.

Kasbohmc2
Kasbohmc2

As a 24-year old member of Generation Y, I must express how awe-struck I am at how my generation has responded to this article.

As a member of 'Y,' I can easily attest to the near-constant presence of 'helicopter parents,' and the notion of everybody getting a trophy - even for just mere participation!  As a child, my parents never allowed me to wander off on my own.  Furthermore, we all got trophies and medals when I played Little League Baseball (early-mid 1990s) and CYO Basketball (2001-'02).  I'm sure many others from 'Y' can recall similar stories.

Additionally, I can attest to the hyper-sensitivity of 'Y.'  Far too often, members of my generation complain at even the slightest offense.  If a professor is a couple of days late grading an exam, all I hear are expletives about the sh***ness of the 'prof.'  In fact,  delayed feedback on anything - from text messages to job interviews - causes a great deal of anxiety.  Since many in 'Y' have never had to practice delayed gratification since childhood (in the 1990s), it makes sense that many emotionally 'flip out' when told to 'wait' for anything.

As workers, I have witnessed far too many instances of the 'Y' generation not being able to handle constructive criticism.  'Professional etiquette' does not seem to have entered their vocabulary.  More often than not, they will lecture their bosses on why something has to be done their way.  Even more alarming, members of Generation Y DO NOT LISTEN.  I can recall several instances of 'Y' employees being chewed out by management for having to be told something 15 TIMES.  One employer referred to 'Y' as 'bobbleheads wearing ties' or simply, '21st-century deaf-mutes.'

As a side-note, employers have regularly chastised 'Y' for spending time ON THE JOB surfing Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, MySpace, and other social media sites.  When called out, many in 'Y' say that no further assignment had been given to them, so nothing wrong was being done.  That explanation inherently blames the employer, but  'Y' is far too oblivious to notice that mistake.  Complaints of 'it wasn't my fault' are common among 'Y,' as is rarely taking personal responsibility.

Finally, I have been shocked to read that many in my generation are chastising the writers of this article.  They say that the Baby Boomers (born from 1946-1960) were the original 'irresponsible generation,' and therefore have no right to criticize Generation Y for similar behaviors. 

Unfortunately, those in 'Y' who echo that sentiment are dead wrong.  It's those 'boomers' who are now OUR employers, managers, and interviewers.  They are the Gatekeepers to the Professional World.  While they may have once been 'young and dumb,' they have grown up, and are watching us - seeing if we can weather the challenges ahead. 

That ability to weather starts with US growing up, and behaving like mature adults in the workplace.  Not everything that occurs in the professional setting will be 'politically correct' or sensitive or nice-nice or worthy of a pat on the back.  We will get chewed out, and be forced to examine our errors.  This article does an excellent job of highlighting those errors.  It's time for the weaker-spined individuals in our generation to buck it up, and suck it up. 

It's time to prove our worth.

rfgdg
rfgdg

"As a matter of fact, 40 percent of Gen Y respondents in one survey said they felt like they should be promoted every two years, regardless of achievements or work habits. What’s even more shocking is that only 9 percent believed they should receive promotions when it was warranted by their performance."

This part is hilarious...

q: do you think you should get a raise regardless of your performance.?

a:.....uhhhh....I like money....

rfgdg
rfgdg

I'm an entitled millenial, was class prez and state champ in hs, finished a masters in 4 years, and constantly measure performance so stop being all f'd up saying retarded things like a poofer. 

lantrim
lantrim

Communication is key, whether communicating to Millennials, Gen X, or Baby Boomers. Everyone appreciates  authentic and honest communication. Explain the company culture, your expectations; ask them about their expectations and create an open and on-going dialogue. Millennials and all the generations  in your workforce will appreciate that. Loraine Antrim http://twitter.com/#!/lorainea...

americanjello
americanjello

Replace "Generation Y" with 'black people' 'old people' 'women' 'foreigners' 'Indians' 'Hispanics' 'Muslims' or any other minority group and then tell me this terrible article isn't offensive.

You also forgot the part about where baby boomers ran up the median price on homes while incomes stayed stagnant. Thanks, old people, for making it as difficult as possible for our generation to realize The American Dream.

Stephen Owens
Stephen Owens

I agree with the title...that's about it. 

As I see it, the main problem is that Gen Y typically agrees that performance matters...as in, what you're doing now (not what you've done for the last 30 yrs). Growing up in a world of instant feedback, they figure if they work harder than someone else and then someone else gets recognized/promoted, they'll go somewhere where results matter more than tenure.

I think it's all a matter of perspective when determining what "performance" really is.

JustinC789
JustinC789

"Participation is enough." Who do you think is handing us those trophies? In order to have a "teacup" generation, it has to be raised by the parents who are the one's doing the coddling to protect our delicate self-esteem. How is it Gen Y's fault that parents choose to raise their children that way? 

 

~ ReturnFinder ~
~ ReturnFinder ~

how old are these Buckingham's?  these self-proclaimed stereotypers fishing for genY 'likes' .. surely they don't have a real job...

~ ReturnFinder ~
~ ReturnFinder ~

how old are these Buckingham's?  these self-proclaimed stereotypers fishing for genY 'likes' .. surely they don't have a real job...

loriedarlin
loriedarlin

I see no generational lines in terms of laziness. To the author, I'm sorry you have to work with someone that expects handouts. I do to - but the three coworkers that come to mind range in age between 34-62. I am now a supervisor and younger than all of them because I work hundreds of extra hours per year, don't call in for mental health days, and am productive while I am here.

I also see people my age who are lazy. And I see people who are older who are not lazy. Let's not make generalizations on race, ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, or age, and just realize that this is a personality defect that spans all of those categories. Laziness has always existed, and always will.

www.MoneyNing.com
www.MoneyNing.com

I have to chime in with everyone else. I feel this article is laced with blatant biased. I It seems nothing more than an article to rouse some feathers and not really stating facts. I am reading generalizations and not much more of anything else. Very disappointed in this article.

GenYAssemble
GenYAssemble

Entitled is believing you earned a defined benefits pension program you only paid a tiny fraction of the real cost. Entitled is polluting the environment, wrecking havoc on the financial market and then whining about young people. 

Self-absorb is writing articles about how your generation is better than the younger generation.  You better be scared. Gen Y will leapfrog you whiny bastards.

addysonv
addysonv

This article is downright insulting. Last time I checked, most people--Gen X and Gen Y-- who don't care about their job performance are the ones without a job. In today's economy, companies don't have the luxury of retaining such organizational bloat.

Funny enough, in my workplace, all the under-performers tend to be bitter, disillusioned Gen Xers desperately clinging to status quo. It's the millennials who are putting in the sweat equity, delivering projects and getting results. We tend to adapt faster, work smarter, and collaborate and communicate more efficiently. The energy we bring to our jobs are what make us unique. We work hard, we play hard.

Note to Gen X: You may think we're clueless, entitled little brats, but our demands of a better work-life balance is finally making the family-friendly workplace a reality. If you were smart, you'd cheer us on. Because you want it, too.

Danique Williams
Danique Williams

This article is laced with discrimination. To say that the piece is ignorant and blatantly displaying ageism, is putting it mildly. It disturbs me that Time magazine would allow such a poorly researched piece to be posted. This article is riddled with assumptions and stereotypes and the most unsavory thing about it is that there are people who think like this. My wish for individuals in the working environment and the world by extension is for people to have a proper estimate of themselves and to stop exhalting themselves by putting others down, we all have a part to play; to develop some confidence based on their own work and strengths; to stop negating the work of others young, old, male, female by stereotyping them. A good starting point is to view people 'uniquely' and on their own merit as individuals. To the Buckinghams you may need to revisit your strengths based approach in light of your biases and insecurities.

Ruth Raynor
Ruth Raynor

I'm a millenial (born 1989) and I'm sick to death of articles telling everyone that we are the most confident, cocksure, entitled generation. It simply isn't true. Most of the people I meet from my generation have very poor self esteem and work very hard to try and prove themselves. If you complement their work, they come back with "oh, but I could have done better" or "no, I don't like this bit". Perhaps this is because I am studying in the creative sector, but I have friends who study and work in completely different fields who act very similarly.

We have been exposed to high standards from an early age, with the media on all sides bombarding us with idealised images, more than any other generation. We are expected to look the best, get into the best universities (because EVERYONE KNOWS exams are so much easier nowadays!), keep the economy going with rampant consumerism, and prop up the failing social systems that our grandparents are benefiting from. We see a constant stream of people doing better than us, whether it's the multimillionaire pop star a year older than us, or the entrepreneur who made thousands out of his highschool bedroom. Most Gen Yers I know are worried that they are nowhere near good enough.And why is expecting feedback considered a bad thing? It's better to get some timely and honest feedback than to have to deal with a passive-aggressive boss who knows you're screwing up but doesn't want to say anything for whatever reason.

Alex Shepard
Alex Shepard

Many of the comments you make about what GenYers actually are great upgrades to the workplace.  Instant feedback so you don't keep going in the wrong direction and wasting the company money? Good thing.  Customized job responsibilities that allow for more effective distribution of labor? Effecient.  Young, talented, albeit inexperienced, workers who join your company to build their resume but produce great work for a fraction the cost of experienced workers? Great ROI. 

So some GenYers have a bad attitude.  I would love to see how older generations responded to the same questions.  "40 percent of Gen Y respondents in one survey said they felt like they should be promoted every two years, regardless of achievements or work habits. What’s even more shocking is that only 9 percent believed they should receive promotions when it was warranted by their performance."  I agree that promotions should be based on results rather than tenure or seniority.  You know who doesn't necessarily? Larger corporations, universities, or unions; i.e. companies with large populations of older workers.  I'm lucky enough to work at a start up where my hard work and passion have been recognized and i've been rewarded accordingly.  I have friends who work at larger companies who have been up for promotions but passed over because, as one manager told my friend when she wanted feedback, "it was the other person's turn."  

sf59junkie
sf59junkie

This thinly supported article does less in offering substantial evidence for its assertions and more to aggravate readers by pandering to stereotypical descriptions of youthful qualities. I'd like to see a more scientific approach to comparing Baby Boomers, Gen-X, and Gen-Y at the same phase of their development and maturity. Quoting some unnamed "survey" does not convince me that Gen-Y is inherently different from other generations when they were in their 20's.

Jessica Lohner
Jessica Lohner

Geez, Time. A while back you published an article about why companies shouldn't hire a 23-year-old social media manager, and now here you are bashing that entire generation?

For the record, I am a 22-year-old social media manager. It must be shocking that someone from the millenial generation can handle such responsibility! It also must be shocking that I graduated from college debt-free, am financially independent from my parents (and still maintain a great relationship with them), and had a job waiting for me at graduation. Most of my friends did too. Thanks for generalizing about a generation that you apparently know nothing about.

Oh, and since I have a journalism degree from one of the top journalism schools in the entire United States, how about I offer some advice? When you write stories about a generation that you are clearly not a part of, why don't you actually interview members of that generation? That is balanced, unbiased journalism, if I'm not mistaken.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and live my life now--because believe it or not, I CAN take care of myself and my responsibilities without my hand being held.

ahsoka
ahsoka

This is horrible and offensive to millions of hard working Gen Y'ers. Every generation has its challenges. It was harder for us to get into good colleges than the Xers. Harder for us to get jobs. Harder for us to get promoted in a climate where our superiors are clinging to their jobs. I'm so sick of these articles about how lazy and entitled Gen Yers are. Reverse ageism!

Valerie
Valerie

Note to baby boomers:  Shut up and go watch your Woodstock documentary while you finish sucking social security dry.  You are easily the most self-important, self-loving, self-serving generation of Americans ever, despite the fact that your generation is largely responsible for the economic mess and endless wars that have made the American dream less achievable for your children no matter how hard they work.   

SSmith2461
SSmith2461

Sorry your vision is so skewed of this Generation. Everyone is raised differently, and its YOUR generation that raised "them" to be like this. So whose fault is it? This article is completely wrong about midwestern kids, who are raised with hard work ethic. DO some research, there are actually a lot of GREAT things about this generation, and they are our future (I'm gen X by the way) 

Nick B
Nick B

They could just call it like it is and say they feel entitled. If they didn't grow up feeling entitled from the latest toy as a little kid to the latest iGadget as they got older they wouldn't be expecting and feeling entitled to get promoted for showing up for work.

Albert Dunning
Albert Dunning

Not knowing for sure if the authors have managed gen-Y-ers

themselves, this article READS as though not; from my own experiences with such,

I suggest that they might in practice thereof perhaps find them surprisingly

adaptive - and predictably put off by generalized assumptions regarding their

habits and upbringing.

 

Stating repeatedly that “they” (read:  ALL) are accustomed to getting “trophies” for

merely “showing up” seems to belie an ignorance of the fact that a great many

of these newly minted participants in the workforce are often perfectly

adaptable to the expectations of the modern workplace.  Managers, cynically assuming that weaknesses

of this type are universal, will underestimate millennials, quite likely to

their cost.

nicole1121
nicole1121

@Kasbohmc2 Quit commenting on here and get back to work.

leishayoung
leishayoung

Performance is results, plain and simple. You won't get promoted for any other reason. There are so many skills that are necesasry to achieve rseults and they must be learned over time and with maturity; some people never develop these skills and go through life blaming other people for their failures. Failure begins and ends with the individual.

You want to get promoted? Build strong/collaborative working relationships and achieve the best results you can. No results? No promotion...end of story.

leishayoung
leishayoung

It isn't, but it's up to you if you want to change. Nobody can do it for you. Good luck!

leishayoung
leishayoung

You do realise that you have just completely proved the point the article is trying to make right?

sixtymile
sixtymile

Me too. This reads like yet another round of "the end of the world as we know it" -- the same BS that I remember from the previous "masters of the universe". I enjoy my work which requires me to keep up with today's Gen-whatevers. And BTW, companies need to perform for their employees just as much.

Paul Hanson
Paul Hanson

Ditto. Most Y'ers don't mind getting their hands dirty if it pays off in the end, and that's not impossible. All that we want is a motive to work with decent pay-off. If we can find that, everything else comes naturally.

We've grown into a world where personal fiscal responsibility means everything. We can't depend on SS or all those other nets our previous generations have/had the luxury of using. If we want to enjoy our twilight years or life in general, we have to actually WORK for it.

americanjello
americanjello

Came to post this but you beat me to it. Thanks.

truenorthfree2
truenorthfree2

Actually the ones that really sucked on the social security where the parents and grandparents of the boomers.

They paid nothing into  the system and got out years of payments at everyones cost. Somethings will never change unless there is a case made for all to take out less including those coming into the work force.

thetailor
thetailor

This is an incredible response.