Managers and Gen Y: The mindsets that keep them apart

by Cameron Edmond04 Sep 2013

While both managers and their Gen Y staff aim for workplace success, a breakdown in perceptions of one another prevents them from collaborating effectively.

A study from Gen Y research and consulting firm Millennial Branding and American Express entitled Gen Y Workplace Expectations found that Gen Y workers view their managers as able to offer experience (59%), wisdom (41%) and a willingness to mentor (33%).

However, managers view their Gen Y employees as full of unrealistic expectations (51%) and poor work ethics (47%), who are easily distracted (46%).

Further research by Lightspeed Research – who surveyed 1,000 Gen Y employees and 1,000 managers – revealed further insights regarding the relationship between Gen Y and their managers. Both groups agree that soft skills (61% managers, 65% Gen Y) are the most important asset, while also agreeing on the importance of subject matter expertise when looking towards career advancements.

Clashes begin to surface when examining Gen Y and entrepreneurship. While many managers (58%) are willing to offer Gen Y workers chances to engage in new business opportunities, only 40% of Gen Y are actually interested in doing so. This is compounded by the desire for more feedback and mentors from Gen Y. Fifty-three per cent stated a mentoring relationship would help them to become a more productive worker.

This demonstrates that both sides act in good faith, with managers wishing to give Gen Y the freedom they are believed to want, although in some instances leaving Gen Y uncertain and lost in the process.

“Managers should be setting proper expectations, giving [Gen Y] career support and help them develop the skills they will need today and in the future,” Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, said.

Instead of branching out on their own, Gen Y employees seek freedom in mobility within the organisation. Forty-eight per cent  of Gen Y workers surveyed expressed an interest in moving to other positions within the organisation.

They may also expect advancement faster: 66% of Gen Y workers feel it should take at least four years to become a manager, compared to 75% of managers feeling the same.

Digital autonomy is also important to Gen Y, with 69% believing they should have the rights to their social media profiles, including those they use during work hours. Fifty-four per cent of managers agree.


Do you find Gen Y and upper management clashing in your workplace? How have you resolved these conflicts?



  • by Maree 4/09/2013 3:19:41 PM

    What about the Gen Y Managers that look after Baby Boomer workers? That is a topic worth exploring.

  • by Renee 4/09/2013 4:00:49 PM

    Agree with you Maree- I see Gen X/Y Managers struggling with the management of BB's....this is becoming a pressing issue in business.

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