Here’s Hoping Gen Y Has a Better Year Ahead

Back when I was growing up, the term “Generation Gap” was used quite liberally to describe how kids thought radically different from their parents. The gap was more like a chasm because we were coming out of the maelstrom of cultural change that typified the 1960s. One of the catchphrases of that era among the then-coming-of-age Baby Boom generation was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

Fast forward to 2012. The boomers are starting to fade into retirement. Most of those who are still in the workforce are – or have been – in leadership positions, and, in many cases, experiencing another generation gap. That gap manifests itself with the presence of Generation Y, those born in the early 1980s to the mid-2000s, who are gradually filling up payrolls and showing different ways of getting the work done.

For example, Generation Y is more comfortable with technology because they grew up with it and used it frequently in college to get their work done. (I would have welcomed word-processing software when I had to produce a 10-page paper.) They’ve been the pioneers with social media and helped us realize how critical a tool it can be, from keeping up with friends to managing your job search.

But judging from the Gen Yers I work with and meet, they’re as hungry as those of my generation were at that age, they’re eager to make a difference, and they look to us for guidance and the wisdom of our age and experience. At the same time, they’ve taken their lumps during the Great Recession, suffering layoffs and enduring the angst of being new college graduates with no jobs awaiting them.

I’m hoping 2012 will be different for them.

There are positive signs, especially a declining unemployment rate and slightly higher hopes among employers that they will add to their payrolls. According to a recent blog post, 2012 will be a critical year for this age group in which its influence will be felt in the workplace.

I hope so, and not just because I have a daughter who will be graduating from college this year.

Still, there’s plenty Gen Y and the boomers (as well as the in-between Generation X) can learn from each other in the workplace, and I hope the boomers who are leaders realize how critical it is to “pay it forward” and embrace the role of mentoring their Gen Y colleagues. At the same time, Gen Y has a lot of knowledge it can share with the boomers to help move the business forward as the economy strives to make progress.

It’s that sense of teamwork that can bring us together rather than pull us apart.

Is there a generation gap in your workplace? Or does everyone work well together? Share your experiences with us below.

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