Understanding Generation Y Work Styles

You may like wearing flip flops to work, but your parents would likely gawk at the idea. Maybe you crave a job where you can work from home, but try telling that to your grandparents. Career priorities and communication styles have changed with generations, which can lead to an unproductive and misunderstood work environment.

News flash: more than 60% of employers say there’s tension between employees from different generations. By knowing how Generation Y (about 70 million of us born roughly between 1980 – 1992) is perceived, we can make an effort to reinforce or change how our  generation, and ultimately our brand, is viewed.

We crave a healthy work/home balance.

If the idea of working weekends and holidays seems out of the question, you’re not alone. Gen-Y lists a work/home balance as a top priority, which is a different viewpoint than earlier generations who may have accepted that weekend work came with the job.

Lesson: Put in extra time when it’s needed, but be sure to make the most of work hours by finishing projects on time and in top quality.

We want feedback.

Our generation is used to being told how we’re doing, whether it was from parents, teachers or coaches. This has carried over to the workplace, and we crave feedback and recognition from our employers.

Lesson: You don’t want to bug your employer, but asking for a set time each month to discuss how you’re doing isn’t out of the question.

We believe in ourselves.

Gen-Y has been on the go since childhood, participating in sports, recitals and countless other after-school activities. We’ve had outlets to share our opinions and ideas, and because of this, we’ve gained self-confidence. Gen-Y questions authority and favors independent thinking, which is a good thing. Just make sure you’re expressing your opinions with respect and an open mind.

Lesson: Seek out companies and work projects where you can express your creativity.

We are comfortable with technology.

Though most of us can remember life without the Internet, it’s a fuzzy memory. We’ve been emailing, instant messaging, and using social media for so long it’s hard to imagine a time we didn’t have these tools.

Lesson: Volunteer to help someone at work whose not as familiar with technology. Show them the ropes, and they’ll probably return the favor.

We want to make a difference with our work.

According to this New York Times article, Gen-Y is more interested in making a difference than a dollar. We want our work to provide a way to give back.

Lesson: Whether or not you feel your current job is making an impact on society, it’s important to approach each task given as a way to learn new skills.

It may be obvious to those who have chosen a masters in social work how they are making an impact, but what about the business professionals? It’s important to approach each task given as a way to learn new skills so your making a difference in your skill set and ability to impact society regardless of the job.

Every member of Gen-Y doesn’t fall into each of these generalizations, and we can’t group a segment of the population into categories and expect it to be true of each person. However, just by knowing what traits are characteristic of our generation helps us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses and use them to our advantage.


Amanda is an account executive at MarketWave, a marketing and public relations agency in Addison, TX, where she works on everything from media relations to writing and editing client materials. Prior to MarketWave, Amanda worked as a publications intern atSouthwest Airlines before hired on with the company and working full-time at the airline for two years. Amanda gained experience writing for Southwest Airlines’ inflight magazine, Spirit, while working on her master’s degree in journalism from the University of North TexasMayborn School of Journalism. She’ll graduate in August 2011 with a degree focused on strategic communication and a minor in marketing. Amanda is a member of the Society of Professional Journalistsand is passionate about traveling, writing and nonprofit organizations. Connect with her on Twitter (@amgleason) and LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. The Millennial Generation: Do You Fit The Mold?
  2. Finding Work Is Just a Matter of Work
  3. Turning Setbacks into Comebacks

3 Responses to “Understanding Generation Y Work Styles”

  1. avatar M.M.G. says:

    I’m on the cusp of Gen X and Gen Y. I often hear disparraging remarks of the Millenial generation which leads me to think negatively about myself. This article helped me to see the positives we have to offer and make me feel less isolated.

  2. That’s great! I definitely think we can use the characteristics of our generation to our advantage rather than against us.

    Thanks for your comment!


  3. avatar Marilee says:

    You made some great points. It’s great to see specific examples showing how we can use our strengths as a generation to move us forward, rather than confirming negative biases. Thanks for the article!

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