Don’t pigeon-hole Gen Ys

Want to know how to manage your Gen-Ys? To start with, stop calling them that! MICHAEL PHILLIPS

Michael Phillips

By Michael Phillips

This Gen-Y management issue has really got some legs. From journalists to management consultants and recruitment “specialists”, everyone has an opinion on Gen-Y and how to manage them (without it, I would be without a blog, right?).

But the most recurrent issue tends to be how to deal with these “incessant”, “needy” and “disrespectful” bunch. This is where we are getting it wrong.

First, why would you classify or separate your workforce into “age categories” (Gen-Y, Gen-X, baby boomers, blah, blah). The moment you start differentiating you have already created silos and a “them and us” mentality.

From then on, once these age “silos” are created in the minds of managers and staff, the problems arise. The Gen-Y team get bored and whinge about the oldies just not understanding them, and the older generations complain of a “lack of respect” and wonder where the world is heading.

The last time I checked every generation seems to misunderstand the next and complain about how the new generation doesn’t respect their elders. This will happen with Gen-Z, just as it happened many years ago with Gen-A (which is where I assume all this “Gen” business started).

My grandparents tell me how their children lost respect for them once they hit their 20s, and my parents think the same about us kids. Sorry, this will never change.

At the same time, we always think the generations before us “have no idea” and wouldn’t understand the complications we face in our busy little lives. We do have MTV, Facebook and Paris Hilton after all.

The funny thing is that this is now such a big thing in the work environment. If you have difficulty with a 26 year old staff member, it’s suddenly explained by them being “Gen-Y”, or if you have a problem with your older manager then everyone seems to give an understanding nod as you explain they’re 41 years old and “obviously don’t understand the younger generation”.

So, you want to know how to manage Gen-Y? Well, the simple answer is stop calling them Gen-Y.

Hire, fire and manage your staff based on merit, values and contribution to the business as a whole, not on age. Stay consistent with your requirements, whether they’re 25 or 55, and bring them all together in one harmonious team headed on the same path.

The biggest thing you can do for your culture is to establish some core values (and make them tangible, not “motherhood” statements) and then don’t waver on them. Lead from the front and live these values and the rest will follow.

After all, a fish rots from the head first. For those not up with clichés, this basically means that problems always start from the top. So if you have a problem with your culture, then you need to look at the top of the organisation first and then work your way down.



Michael Phillips is a 30-year old CPA managing a business full of Gen-Ys. He’s the Commercial Manager of Cremorne Group which wholesales and retail mens and womens apparel, including the Tommy Hilfiger, Blazer and Perri Cutten brands. He offers his experience as a pioneering Gen-Y managing Gen-Ys, covering issues such as how to recruit, retain and get the most out of Gen-Y – the notoriously difficult younger generation of employees aged 15 to 30.



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments