How the next generation will surpass Gen Y

The last company I founded, Brazen Careerist, was full of Gen Yers. In fact, for a while, I was the only person in the company older than 25. I spent a lot of time learning to adapt. Fast. And the whole time I thought to myself: I can’t wait until these kids need to adapt to the next generation. I want them to know what it feels like.

At this point, the oldest in Generation Z are just turning 13, and we have enough information about the two demographics to predict what will happen. Aside from my case of schadenfreude, I’m particularly interested in Generation Z because my sons are smack in the middle of it. But also I’m interested because if we understand the impact the next generation will have on the workforce, we’re better able to adapt our own careers for it. So get ready: 

1. In generational conflict Generation Y will hide.
All generations have conflict between each other. But conflict is really bad for Generation Y because they hate conflict. They are the generation that moves home with their parents because they get along so well, and they apologize for quitting because they can’t cope with disappointing their boss. Generation Y is sunny, upbeat, and non-confrontational. Which means that Generation Z, raised by pragmatic, confrontational Gen X parents, will think Gen Y are lame. Weak. Delusional. (Which are the negative traits of kind and non-confrontational.)

2. Gen Z will lead Gen Y almost immediately.
Gen Y hates to stand out. Their idea of leadership is leading from the middle. Or pretending people don’t like leaders. This has not been a problem for them because Gen X doesn’t want to lead. Gen X just want to go home to their kids. So the only people providing top-down leadership at work right now are Baby Boomers who refuse to retire and exist miles and miles from the cutting edge of everything except the new retirement.

So there will be a power vacuum when Gen Z enters the workforce, and they will take it over very quickly. All they’ll need to do is say, “I want to lead.” No one will challenge them. And, conveniently, Strauss and Howe point out that generational tendencies are cyclical, and Generation Z is poised to lead. They grew up in a time of turmoil: economic demise, war, rampant, random shootings. Generation Z will take charge, create stability, keep everything in line.

3. The passion problem will be passe.
Gen Y is immobilized by their need to “do what they love”. Their Boomer parents instilled in them the fairy tale idea that passion should guide what they do. But Baby Boomers have never had this, except when they were unemployed at Woodstock, and their impractical, dreamer career advice has left their kids unable to make decisions. Gen Y has a passion problem. But this will end when Gen Z comes on board.

First of all, Generation Z will be the education generation. They will have been homeschooled at a rate we have never seen before, so they will be great at identifying what they like. Generation Y, on the other hand, was schooled by teachers who told them what to study to ace the test, and parents hired tutors to help, which means Gen Y is particularly good at taking tests and bad at figuring out what they like. Generation Z will fill the gap and simply tell Generation Y what to do.

Generation Z will give meaning to work in a way that Gen Y has talked about but has been incapable of achieving. Work will be about creating a national sense of stability. Work will be about helping families to adjust to the new economic realities. Work will be about helping people build new paths through adulthood that do not focus on the corporation. Gen Z has been priming for this their whole lifes, with their counter-culture, Gen X parents.

4. Gen Z will out-communicate Gen Y.
Right now, Gen Y are the best communicators at work. They are the first generation to be taught social skills at work, and they are genuinely kind and concerned about people. Additionally Gen Y are the first generation who grew up writing for a massive audience, even as kids, and they are the generation with the best writing skills in history.

This will all seem old-fashioned, though, when Gen Z is on the scene. Gen Z communicates largely through video. They use YouTube like it’s Google. For example, when they want to know how to beat a video game, they search online for a video to tell them: no reading.

Teenaged boys are giving video game lectures to thousands of other kids. Teenaged girls are political activists who have their own video platform before they’re thirteen years old. The poise Gen Z has in front of the camera will translate to workplace confidence and charisma. This will be the age of verbal communication rather than written, and Gen Z will shine.

5. Gen Z will force Gen Y to live more in reality.
Gen Y’s obsession with travel is rooted in their acute need to feel special and different and document it in a way their friends approve of. Also, Gen Y has no money, so they are forced to say they value experience above possessions since they can’t afford possessions beyond their de rigeur Apple equipment and marked-down high-end purchases they self-define with.

Jan Chipchase is a great example of the travel-is-everything mentality; he does brag tweets about his job that is nearly 100% travel. Another example: Gen Y brides who forgo the wedding and just splurge on a big trip and a photographer to document the dress in an exotic location. Gen Y lives on Facebook and Instagram, and their reality is whatever is in the photo.

Generation Z is over the photography thing already. Every gadget they have has a camera. Their parents have documented their every move, and they are expecting to have no disposable income, so they won’t’ need to post photos justifying their existeence.

So Gen Z will shine a light on Gen Y and expose a lot that Gen Y hasn’t seen before. But the truth is that every generation keeps the generation before them more honest. In the end, I’m grateful for the Gen Yers who worked with me, and forced me to see myself differently. I am less cynical and more sunny becuase I was surrounded by Gen Yers.

And they will be better, too, once they get over the shock of someone younger than them in the mix.

Posted in Office politics
149 comments on “How the next generation will surpass Gen Y
  1. strawberry cake says:

    Good for them.

    Also. Nice picture thingy. I liked it.

    Also. Merry christmas

  2. Bill says:

    No, Gen Z consists largely of the offspring of borderline retarded 3rd world migrants living on welfare. Their future can be seen by anyone willing to visit an urban slum. Just imagine American cities minus their few remaining taxpayers and the transfer payments. They won’t even inhabit the same world as Gen Y.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Bill, Just as I was going to delete your comment, I saw that someone responded. So I’m leaving the comment. But I think it’s offensive. And it takes a lot to offend me.

      Penelope

      • redrock says:

        yeah, I agree: this comment is way out of bounds. And it does not contribute to the topic at hand and is absolutely incorrect: the increasing number of scientists and professors from 3rd world countries in all line of intellectual pursuits completely takes out the “retarded” – it is so obviously wrong.

      • Erin S. says:

        The only offensive thing about Bill’s comment was the word “retarded.” The rest seemed correct. We are turning a blind eye to Latin America’s uneducated underclass being pushed on to our border in droves. Why is a fact so offensive? It’s like dumping the cultural equivalent of Maury Pauvich and Jerry Springer guests, and the contents of every trailer park in America on to Mexican soil and then getting mad that people are calling them America’s underclass and saying they don’t contribute. They don’t. Illegal immigrants are a net drain on the tax structure – they send massive foreign remittances, tax the hospitals, tax the public school systems, tax every aspect of the infrasctructure etc. and don’t give enough back from their blue collar jobs to even come close to make up for it. To simply hope and state that the children of these migrants will make the far leap from blue collar parents that place little to no value on education to become doctors and lawyers is naïve. Penelope’s right about a lack of disposable income – the influx of unproductive net leeches coupled with the current set of net leeches we have, in addition to zero-economic-experience-but-yet-somehow-he’s-our-savior-because-he-gives-us-handouts Obama’s job and growth killing tax policies will make us a less prosperous country with growth as slow as that of a European nation (yes, it’s a common refrain, but the point is that it’s true.)

        That aside, I find a lot of Penelope’s comments really interesting, especially the one about Gen Y needing to shoehorn their love of travel in to this narrative that they value experiences more than things in order to hide the fact that they have no money for things. Oh, and I also love the one about needing to photo-document everything too. It’s not only so passé and trashy, but also screams attention needy and vain. These points are both true.

        I think Penelope’s post is far from scientific and not at all binding – she’s underestimating Gen Y’s ability to adapt to Gen X without being usurped by them. Gen Y won’t remain static and is just as technology saavy as Gen X. She also fails to address potential problems with Gen X, like laziness, instability, being the coddled children of 30 something parents who were themselves coddled and think of their children as commodity like extensions of themselves, lack of worldliness and overdependence on things like video games. I don’t see Gen X’s parents as these big “free thinkers,” either – I see most of them as conformist – a free thinker either is or isn’t – you have it or you don’t, independent of generation.

        • Nola says:

          Wow, Erin and Bill, you two are obviously xenophobes. This sort of ignorance is exactly what happens when individuals aren’t well-traveled. There is an understanding that comes from exploring the world and gaining an understanding of other cultures, which is something you have to give Gen Y credit for doing.

          • Erin S. says:

            But how are we ignorant xenophobes, Nola? Aren’t you name calling instead of addressing the content our ideas? Wouldn’t that you seem more ignorant than I? I challenge you to address my ideas. I’ve lived outside the country for three years and will continue being an expatriate throughout my career. I see what’s happening with low-end immigrants. They are a net drain on the United States’ infrastructure. It’s math – they take more from the system than they put in to it, and this could have negative consequences when it comes to the character of Gen X. Why is this so offensive to you? You’re intellectually dishonest – you namecall instead of address the content of one’s ideas.

          • Matt says:

            I’ve traveled alot in this country and I’ve been outside the country to Iraq twice. So I am well aware of these issues being spoken about from not just the traveler perspective but also a perspective of reason and facts. Illegal aliens drain our system/taxpayers and the Gen. Z kids are by far more technological than any generation before them, I’ll give them that, but other than that, there’s not alot more left to say about them that’s good. The Gen. Y kids are very similar to the Gen. Z kids. I’m part of the Gen. X cat’s that roam around everywhere and were all pretty tech savvy too. How many 13 year olds or 19 year olds have been working along time to actually build up heavily on their skills with the tech world as opposed to someone who is 30 or 45? Not much. Fact is, Gen’s Y & Z are the laziest bunch of American’s to ever exist. Previous Gen’s are to blame for this because of bad parenting or lack of parenting and letting the government take over our lives even more. I don’t care if this hurts anyone’s feelings, I’m just going by what I’ve seen in my many years of living so far. I will not lie.

        • Ryan Chatterton says:

          I think the real issue with you and Bill’s statements is that they are purely inflamatory. You’re not providing a solution to the problem you see (which is questionable as you haven’t really supported it with anything but your opinion). All you both are doing is complaining and I think that’s really sad.

          I mean, you really have no control over anything you’re complaining about so why are you so caught up in it? Live your own life.

          • Erin S. says:

            Here’s a solution for you, Ryan Chatterton, let’s take real and effective measures to curb illegal immigration, stop pretending that those who oppose it do so on the basis of race (it’s about economic policy and what’s best for the country, not the amount of melanin in one’s skin – do we have an obligation to take in Nigeria, India, and Russia’s poor as well, or at some point, will we have to think about our self interest?) and start pushing for visas and permanent residencies amongst highly skilled workers like the one’s who drive innovation in Silicon Valley. ( http://cnet.co/TmlTnJ ) Let’s give a green card to an immigrant who graduates with an advanced degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathetmatics. (See link above – Obama wouldn’t pass it because he’s in bed with the advocates of low-end immigration and allowing the higher end immigrants to come in based on *gasp* a certain level of accomplishment would shed light on the low-endedness of the illegals.) Are you telling me the children of such high-end immigrants won’t benefit the overall quality level of Gen X?

            Plus, who made you the “must offer a solution and can’t merely identify the problem” police, anyway? A blog is a place for exploring ideas via honest intellectual discourse. If one wants to offer a solution he can – if not, he isn’t obligated to.

          • Trishna Sharma says:

            Well said, Ryan. One thing I don’t find appealing about most of the comments here is that we are bashing and overgeneralizing a generation when most people posting comments either don’t really know any Gen Y’s and if they do they know 1 or 2.

            If any bashing Gen Ys did know enough of them to generalize them, you wouldn’t think the way you are thinking. You wouldn’t say that they are lazy. In fact, they are doing so much. When they were in school not only did they study to make top grades, volunteer, get involved in sports or band, hold meaningful positions in clubs, hold part time jobs AND they still find time to build relationships with people and have a little “me” time.

            I mean there is so much being said here that is clearly not from people who have any basis from which to say anything in the first place!

        • redrock says:

          Comparison of growth rate (economic) as given at http://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=66
          list Qatar as first with a growth rate of 18%, the US in position 166, right behind Canada (138), Pakistan (142), Austria and Germany at 3.1%, and Norway 165 and France 1.7% on par with the US. The economic growth of many European countries is not behind that of the US. Clearly growth rate is not everything, and rates of underdeveloped countries just catching up is always larger then a large and mature economy such as the US, Japan, or many Western European countries. The argument that ” with growth as slow as that of a European nation (yes, it’s a common refrain, but the point is that it’s true.)” is not born out by the statistics.

          In terms of “human development” as described in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index
          the US ranks fourth right behind Norway, Australia and the Netherlands, followed closely by New Zealand, Canada and Ireland, and nearly the entire European Union. The change in estimates of the Index for the 2011 year from 2010 is positive – no negative trend or dramatic change expected. So, either the number of immigrants from South America has lead to bump the US from places 1-3 I am unable to see any correlation. Especially since Australia, New Zealand and Canada are all traditionally countries with large immigrant populations from different parts of the world.

          Illegal immigration from Mexico is driven by poor economic situation in Mexico, and the practice to hire illegal workers in the US. Without a market for hiring illegal workers the driving force for migration would be weaker, and immigration is already declining due to the constricted labor market in the US.

          Immigration for highly educated foreigners is already greatly facilitated, several pathways to the green card are open to those with a doctorate or employment in a technical area. This is not only to selectively introduce highly educated people into the US population but is driven to a large degree by the lack of a sufficiently large US-born workforce in these disciplines. One might say that US-born students are not intellectually driven to work in these areas – computer science, engineering, physics… However, this is in my opinion an incorrect statement, as much as stating that in general mexican immigrants are not interested in their childrens intellectual development. These generalizations do not fit, and they will not work in promoting better education and the formation of a highly educated and capable work force.

      • Taylor says:

        Hi Penelope and all other people on here. My name is Taylor (obviously) and I’d like to address a few things. I believe that I’m on the youngest side of Gen Y raised by An older Gen X. I’d like to just say that I do generally agree with you that we don’t like conflict but only don’t like it amongst ourselves. We are not divided whatsoever. We can stand up together and get things done against a common purpose. I think we are a hybrid of both Gen X and Gen Z. We are tech savvy, incredibly united while also being individuals (accepting?) , well cultured, kind and caring, VERY educated, and I think we have some incredible leaders. While I will admit the negative aspects of my generation are materialism, selfishness, lack of desire to work and greed; I think this is what will help drive us. I must admit that we don’t have money though. There’s multiple faults for this though including the economic conditions and our lack of desire to work. However it is also important to note how we will SOON have tons of money after the baby boomer release their hoards of it. I think we do have the power to lead. In fact, I’ve seriously joked with my dad about how his Generation (GenX) won’t have political power long like the baby boomers have. I think we will be greater then Generation Z (maybe not by a longshot) and that you aren’t giving us much credit.

        • Shelby says:

          Penelope,
          I have to side with Taylor, you have underestimated us. I’m also a hybrid of both Gen Y and X (in my early 20s). More people are going to college now than ever before. We as young adults have had to work much harder because of this. We have to compete against every other student; getting better grades, volunteering more, and internships just to make it to the next level of education. Now, many fields are requiring higher degrees. I think this is only going to benefit us as we are going to be more educated and well-rounded. I do admit I am a humanitarian at heart but I know that to do that I need an educational foundation. Are we selfish? Sure. Are we materialistic? I know that I am. I think that because we are constantly in competition for jobs, grades, acceptance letters, we are stronger and dilligent. The economy plays a huge role in this. I guess Taylor and I are the in-betweeners, paving the way for GenZ.

      • Pete says:

        Penelopetrunk
        First off I think you are extremly biased to generation z just because your children are in generation z. Gen z will have it much easier than generation y because generation y is going to have to fix all the problems in the world in order for world economy to move forward and for people to keep living the same standard generation x was able to provide i am not arguing with all of your points some are valid. Also generation z was raised by most of the same parents that gen y was raised by therefore same difficulties new learning style. And generation y uses video you said it yourself “teenagers showing little kids how to beat a video game” were beating generation z to the punch. Although i do believe gen z will be better as every generation of humans becomes much better at least 10-15X better than the last.

    • Ryan Chatterton says:

      Bill, how many children are on welfare compared to children not on welfare?

      Public statistics easily discount your entire comment because most children in america ARE NOT children of (how did you put it) “borderline retarded 3rd world migrants living on welfare.” In fact, with all the sub-groupings you’ve included in your statement, you’ve significantly reduced the factual soundness of your argument.

      Just an FYI

    • Jenn says:

      Bill’s comments only help to illustrate how great the Gen Z’ers born from recent immigrants are going to be. In addition to the great points listed by P., they are going to be bilingual, bicultural, and have more compassion and empathy than ole’ Bill there. Many of them are going to be the doctors, scientists and engineers of our future and we need them.

    • Andy F says:

      Bill and Erin, just curious if these words sound familiar to you

      “Give me your tired, your poor,
      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

      BTW, I am flabbergasted that Penelope Trunk wanted to delete Bill’s comment – given the complete lack of boundaries on this blog, how the heck is it so offensive?? Calling immigrants retarded?

      PS – I wanted to respond to Erin’s last comment, but there is no Reply link

    • Bob says:

      Interesting comments, given the USA was founded by the European equivalent of slum inhabitants and Jerry Springer guests.

      In fact, almost every generation of Americans between the 16th century and the early 20th century were, in essence, the equivalent of today’s third world refugees.

    • Matt says:

      Hey Bill, by and large, I agree with your statement, even if it offends others. That’s the beauty of free speech in this nation and if someone is offended, then they can choose to ignore it and move on.

    • tdog says:

      Oh really bill, you try growing up in an America where we were attacked by terrorists, went to war with a country with a dick leader but had nothing to do with attacking America, and in an economy that was great but exercised irresponsible investment practices, gave money to people who couldn’t pay back their mortgages and eventually almost bankrupted the country. If you knew what we went through growing up you wouldn’t say that, we had to lose our innocence and childhoods, maybe you should take a look at what your generation has done and compare it to ours and see how they stack up, I bet you’re just a 40s something racist who thinks the world is just going to fix itself YOU DONT KNOW OUR STRUGGLES

  3. Catherine Schweitzer says:

    Fascinating and troubling all at the same time, as I am one of those traveling Gen Y-ers (currently living in Berlin!).
    I would love to hear where you believe the issues of privacy and propriety will go, as I feel people my age still cling to these ideas of personal privacy and moral propriety (sacred to our baby-boomer parents, perhaps?). If the Gen Z-ers as so comfortable exposing their entire lives on the internet, will ‘sexual scandals’ disappear? What will the Gen Y-er’s reaction be (and the baby boomer’s?). Will magazines like ‘People’ cease to exist, or just change their content?

  4. Catherine says:

    @ Bill,

    You can come up with something more creative.
    Americans are all pretty much descended from immigrants. What makes yours or mine so much better then the current group? Americans are a mixed breed, and it’s that constant influx of people that keeps our blood strong and our wits sharp.
    Are we so far separated from our immigrant roots that we can abuse other’s out of hand?

  5. Catherine says:

    Bill,
    History has taught us many things. Which parts of history?
    That a migrant nation of people, whose only “country” is a debated piece of land, is one of the richest, most influential groups of people today?
    Or that people, forcibly migrated to another country would become some of it’s strongest, most patriotic citizens?
    Or a country, known for being so advanced that it surpassed all others, when faced with a changing world, closed it doors to all outside influence and destroyed it’s own navy. That country placed itself back so many years it took a painful ‘cultural revolution’ to move it forwards.
    What parts of history are you referring to?

  6. tara dillard says:

    My birth year is often moved from baby boom to those behind, by experts de jour. Whatever. I graduated college, 1982, engineering, into the worst economy since the depression, including this one.

    In my profession, design & construction contracting. Yes, I own my own business. I know what I see.

    Native born gen y working with immigrant labor. Another 10 years those gen y will be working for the legal children of current immigrants.

    Gives me hope for USA.

    Integrity & hard work are their own language.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara Dillard

  7. Catherine says:

    It’s cool, I just imaged people going, “who is this crazy person, having a one sided argument.” It offended me so much, I couldn’t leave it alone either! Fight the Gen Y conflict allergy!

  8. Francesca says:

    Penelope,

    I find this post so interesting – especially from the perspective of education. A teacher of mine once said that the problem with education is that you have 50 year olds making rules that are carried out by 30 year olds for the benefit of 15 year olds. I think the way you think about it for the workplace is probably more accurate in school Gen X to Gen Y for Gen Z.

    It is a real problem until we start to admit that the students have as much to teach us as we do them.

    Thanks, as always, for making me think of something in a way I hadn’t before.

    Francesca

  9. Jean Gogolin says:

    “Baby Boomers who refuse to retire”??? How about who can’t even think about retirement and may never be able to?

  10. François Bogacz says:

    I know this is a blog, Penelope, which means that you are only expressing an opinion but I have a very blunt question for you: can you please tell me what kind of scientific evidence you have supporting all the (not very nice) attributes that you list about Gen Y, explicitly suggesting that it’s not their age which is in question in their behavior but truly their “generation”? I personally think that we should be more careful and nuanced when painting the portrait of such a complex thing as a “generation”. My 2 cents…

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Francois, click the links. That’s why it’s a blog. Because all the research I’m basing my conclusions on is right there for you to read. That’s something you can’t get in print, right? So maybe you should direct your comments like this one to your favorite print outlets instead of blogs.

      Penelope

      • Xavier Arcell says:

        You’ve painted a pretty unkind picture of my generation, Penelope. You also seem very biased and somewhat hateful towards us. I don’t know why, but it seems pretty unfair that you would overgeneralize about us on such and extraordinary level. Have you forgotten about the individual? A whole GENERATION is far from a hive mind or a single entity. I am far from non-confrontational when it comes to people like you. I take what I want and don’t let anything stand in my way of getting it. Especially not such a judgy person such as yourself who seems to wish us so badly. What have we done to you for you to speak of and think so harshly of us as a whole? I’m 19, and will have two Bachelor’s degrees in Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and Nutritional Science respectively within a year’s time. I am perfectly poised to be an Officer in the United States Coast Guard and make a career out of it. I will be able to retire much earlier than most if I choose to do so with a hefty amount of money to boot. I will be making more than the average American and probably more than you at the age of 20, and I very well might be already. I run a small to moderate sized business that makes enough profit for me to already have a brand new Chevrolet Volt half paid off and to be paying my own cell phone bill, insurance, and so on, as well as half of my single mother’s bills with some money to spare to do what I want. And yes, I DO live separately from her, as if that even matters at the young, young age of 19, but it apparently does to you. I was raised in a lower middle class family by a single mother and have already almost transcended the middle class. You really should not overgeneralize so much. But anyways, I’m concerned about why you feel so strongly about my generation. Do tell.

        • Xavier Arcell says:

          an extraordinary level*

        • Shirley says:

          She hates generation Y because they are born of the baby boomers, whom she hates with a passion, and gen. Z is born of the horrible gen. X. So, it’s just about generations. Personally, I hate Gen. X with a passion.

      • Bob Snijders says:

        I agree with François Bogacz, dispite the research that has been done, no one can predict what will happen. You can guess or calculate all the known factors, but fact is they can’t calculate stuff like ‘future’ as a variable therefore the research is already less valid. Also, Francois wasn’t rude in his question… what was the use of making clear he’s from the paper generation, in the way you did.. If you write fortune-coockie stories, don’t cry about opinions and questions. Not everyone is a GEN-Y blogger like you. To state the problem, people should be more tolerant towards another. This goes for youngster towards retired people but also the other way around, not to start about tolerating other religions (like “god bless america”, no he doesn’t, he doesn’t choose a country). Don’t state opinions with bad intentions (and if you say you didn’t, look at the title of this article) and leave the generations to develop and help them when it’s for a use, not 10/15 years before they even become professionals.

  11. Rebecca@MidcenturyModernRemodel says:

    I am one of those lost generations. All the scales say Baby Boomer. I think I am not them until you bring up the leader take charge thing. I am ACUTELY aware the the generations behind me seem to lack those go getter leaders who get things done. I know there are some out there but not as many as I was used to earlier in my career. I WELCOME Gen Z. I think it is my son’s generation. I’ll try to hold down the fort until they get here.

  12. Drew Tewell says:

    Penelope, thank you for another very informative and well written post. Our son, Hudson, is turning three next year. Is he considered to be part of Gen Z?

  13. Jana Miller says:

    My 19 year old son that is majoring in Speech Communication. After taking a class at community college, he realized that public speaking is very easy for him even though his is more of an introvert. I’m guessing that you would see that as a strong move for him.

  14. Pablo says:

    Penelope,
    yet again an insightful, balanced perspective on a possible/likely outcome/future. Comparitive hind-sight is a wonderful thing.
    I’m disappointed to think that you would delete an opposing(?) comment though. Your (trusting) followers come from a broad range of backgrounds & perspectives, and to censor a reaction to your interpretation limits the opportunity for rounded/animated discussion on the future. Please remember not to underestimate any your followers.
    You ahould

  15. Pablo says:

    Penelope,
    yet again an insightful, balanced perspective on a possible/likely outcome/future. Comparitive hind-sight is a wonderful thing.
    I’m disappointed to think that you would delete an opposing(?) comment though. Your (trusting) followers come from a broad range of backgrounds & perspectives, and to censor a reaction to your interpretation limits the opportunity for rounded/animated discussion on the future. Please remember not to underestimate/discredit ‘any’ of your followers.
    We ‘all’ have something to contribute to the awesome space that you open up for discussion/sharing/insight, & as u can see from Catherines response to Bill, open exchange/learning is more powerful than censorship’/ignoring’.
    That’s the space you create, everytime ‘we’ read your blogs & the comments that accompany.
    Thank you.
    (Please so no to ‘censorship’. You, your reach & your impact are more powerful than that!)

  16. Pablo says:

    Furthermore, Francois, none of the Gen Y attributes that Penelope listed are ‘not very nice’… Perhaps that’s your ‘interpretation’… akin to an ‘opinion’ I guess… based on the ‘comparisions’… I very much doubt any Gen Yer would deny any of those attributes… they pride themselves on them… but there’s no denying ‘sequential generational impact’ on our past or our future… no harm in proposing a possible future based on patterns from the past… don’t forget the incremental impact of technology on each ‘generation’… & after all, we have just reached the end… of the ‘alphabet labelling system for generations’.
    What do ‘you’ think generation A1 (?) will look like?

    • François Bogacz says:

      Reply to Pablo: we see the world as we are and all of our contributions above prove it (including mine, I don’t deny it). The little difference is that I am careful about my own lenses and I need to research on the topics that I want to talk about before expressing an opinion. The studies done on Gen Y do not confirm most of the nice/not very nice (up to you) traits listed by all contributors here. There is actually a fierce debate about Gen Y dominant personality traits – using the exact same studies, psychologists come to different conclusions. Clichés are sweet pills for our brain and moving away from them is hard.

      • Ryan Chatterton says:

        Very insightful reply François. It is truly difficult to remove our own biases from the things we talk about. However, there is value in taking a stand on one side of something that may or may not have a right answer. People tend to gravitate away from fence-sitters and Penelope is definitely not a fence-sitter based on what I’ve read. I’m sure that’s at least part of the reason this blog is so popular.

        More to your actual point, though, I do agree that these biases and stereotypes can be dangerous, but I wonder if they are also necessary for us to understand the world around us in a way that is manageable.

    • Leslie says:

      It seems that there are sampling errors with these generalizations about all the different generations strengths and weaknesses. For example, when the baby boomers were in their 20s they liked to travel too. (However, I admit it is easier to plan trips with the internet which the young baby boomers did not have.) Could it be that age plays a larger part in this than the actual generation one is born into?

  17. Ruby says:

    Experience of an Aspie wife:

    http://aspergerwife.webs.com/

  18. Paul says:

    After so much time without leaders, the first leaders are not going to be good leaders. They may be effective, but they are going to be high-handed, abrasive, overcompetitive, and punishing, and it’s going to take a toll on society. Maybe more so if they succeed than if they fail.

  19. Jen says:

    oh no … Gen X wants to lead, but we can’t because of the vast # of people older than us still working. You can’t rule out what will happen when those people finally do retire, Gen Y doesn’t want to rule (ie, your lead from the middle comment), and Gen Z aren’t old enough.

    • Michael says:

      Jen, that’s bullshit. Leaders lead. They don’t complain about all the other people ahead of them.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      The reason I don’t think Gen X wants to lead is that the price you have to pay for leadership today is giving up your life. Baby boomers have no problem doing this — they gave up their life for work the whole time they were raising kids. Gen Y has no problem doing this because most of them don’t have kids yet. So Gen X stands out in the workplace as the only generation putting their homelife before their worklife, which makes leadership positions look really unappealing.

      Penelope

      • Shirley says:

        You’re wrong, Penelope, about having to give up your life to be a leader. There have always been leaders, and they often had lives, aka, offspring, plus relatives they kept in touch with. Your hate for baby boomers is only topped by my hate for your shitty generation.

  20. W. Stanton Smith says:

    Penelope, As always you are thought provoking and right on the mark. Gen z or Re-gen as I like to call them will likely be about re-evaluating, re-thinking and re-generating what they will be inheriting. However, there also may be another “re” in store for us and that may be represented in the words “resentment of” or resenting the position they perceive that they’ve been put in.

    Further I’ve conducted some research that asked of Gen Z the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “I will do as well as, if not better than, my parents financially.”
    ■67 percent agreed, 23 percent disagreed &10 percent choseg don’t know/need more information.
    ■Worth noting is that Asians (87 percent), Blacks (75 percent) and Latinos (86 percent) far surpassed the optimism of their white counterparts (54 percent) The population’s current majority group appears least positive about its future.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the comment, Stan. Also, I wanted to let everyone know that Stan has a book out on the topic of generational divides (or bridges – depending on your perspective!) Here’s the link:

      http://www.wstantonsmith.com/about.php

      Penelope

      • W. Stanton Smith says:

        Penelope, As you know I started out as a skeptic on the topic of generational differences with opinions similar to those expressed by some who’ve replied to your post. My strongly held views at that time were based on how I wished the world to be; I had no facts just feelings. I had done no real thinking on the matter but I was all too glad to offer my views unencumbered by facts. The irony of it all is that as a Human Resources principal I was asked by my CEO to take a look at this topic to see if there was anything to it. I realized that original research was required if I was to present balanced conclusions. And that is what we did. Over nearly a decade we researched the topic and found that there was much of real business impact that we didn’t know about the generations x,y and z. We made changes in light of the research which gave us competitive advantage in real dollars and cents terms.

        I detail much of this in my book, Decoding Generational Differences: Changing your mindset…Without losing your mind available at http://www.wstantonsmith.com and Amazon.
        I suggest to those who doubt the validity of this topic and/or the intellectual foundation of the inquiry to really educate themselves with an open mind. Consider the words of the famous economist John Maynard Keynes who when he was severely criticized for changing a long held public policy view said,” When the facts change, I change my opinions what do you do, Sir?

  21. Joselle says:

    I love your generation posts. You are so right about gen y being nonconfrontational. I just went to school with those sweetums. In terms of birth year, I could be an old gen y or a young gen x but after hanging out with all the emphatically positive y’ers, I knew I was firmly a cranky xer. Generation traits: way more fun and true than astrology!

  22. Sarah M says:

    I just found your blog and I’ve been reading a lot of archives. I find the passion problem *so* telling of my generation. It’s a constant topic even among my small group of friends and it was very interesting to read all of these things in such a small blast like a blog post. I suppose it’s ironic, then, that I shared this on facebook.
    Sarah M

    • Nola says:

      Sarah, I’m also a Gen Y, and have had tons of conversations with my sister (who is younger than me) about how we differ from our parents and even Gen X. It’s staggering to see how we have viewed the world with rose-colored glasses for so long. But that glass is shattering.

      PT, thanks for pointing out this “not so blind” spot about our generation. I feel that the older I get, the more I realize we are a pretty tame (and entitled) generation. But, I do want to add that there are a lot of folks in Gen Y who are being transformed by the recession. Gen Y was able to become so non-confrontational because the times were good and we could coast. For many in Gen Y, this is the first recession we can actually remember, and I think it’s making us a lot more hungry, pragmatic, persistent, and even confrontational in order to get the lives we once thought would be handed to us. I venture to say that because of this, your opinion of Gen Y will change in five years.

  23. Laura says:

    This helps me understand how to be a better parent in raising Gen Z. I am pretty excited about their future. If you study history you do see cycles, and I am heartened to think that our kids will be effective leaders in helping us get out of this mess.

  24. Rebecca says:

    Penelope, you couldn’t be more on the mark. The hip startup where I work (we’ve talked about it) is a perfect case study for this post. It’s a Gen Y paradise where everyone is exceedingly nice, confrontation doesn’t exist, and no one leads. Interestingly, one medium that is fast taking off is video – everything important gets communicated through video. People also live in chat and skip email wherever possible. There’s definitely a shift going on, and now you’ve defined it for me – thanks!

  25. HoneyBrown1976 says:

    As a Gen. Xer, I want you to know that we are ready to rule; however, we are still trying to begin the cleanup from the Baby Boomers who insist on dirtying whatever they touch. Also, I have both a Gen. Y son (a lot of us have Gen. Y children) and a Gen Z son. Life should be interesting.

  26. Charlotte says:

    I’m 26, but never fit in with my peers and most of these apply to me–does that make me a secret Gen Z’er? I’ll admit I’m very word-based, though…

  27. Ryan Chatterton says:

    At first I fundamentally disagreed with your premise. I thought, “This lady is over-gernalizing and not telling the whole story. Besides, generational definitions are a crock…”

    Then, as I read on it hit me. I found myself staring back from the page in mute stupefaction. “Umm, this is me and I see this happening.” There’s a lot of truth to what you say, though I do disagree with you about why Gen Yers are obsessed with travel (and meaning in work, etc.)

    As a person who always enjoyed the thought of travel, imagining what it would be like to live the life of people like Tim Ferris and Chris Guillebeau, I also recognize the desire for what it is (at least for me). I don’t believe Gen Y does the things we do (especially travel) because we “need to feel special or different and document it in a way [our] friends approve of.” The real reason has more to do with an urge to experience true freedom. The fear of disapproval by others may be something that holds us back from that urge, but it isn’t the reason we do what we do.

    Personally, I’ve reached a point that I’ve stopped telling many of my friends and family about my work (other than my job) because it can be very debilitating to not have that approval, as stupid as that may sound. So yes, the desire for approval is there, but I think you’ve got the reason mixed up with the fear.

    This may not be the way it is for other Gen Yers, but that’s how it works out in my head. Thanks for the post.

    • Ebriel says:

      Interesting comment, Ryan. I’ve met a bunch of Gen X/Y travel bloggers and location independent types, and have lived that life for a while. There’s an illusory sort of freedom about it, but so often one is tied to a computer. The internet provides a sameness and security blanket for many of us, we’re less free than we feel.

      A year or 2 ago I realized I was ready to stop and settle down, but my partner wasn’t, and my career hadn’t gotten to that point where I could support both of us, after so many years bouncing from country to country – so I’m working on getting experiences here and strategizing for when we settle down…into his country. For a while.

      As for the travel-as-legitimizing thing? Totally disagree. You’ll see more thrift-store shoppers in hipster-infested Brooklyn than in Bangkok.

      • Ryan Chatterton says:

        Ha ha ha. You’re so right with that one.

        It seems like the idea of settling down is still uncomfortable for you though noting your use of “for a while.” Do you think you’ll have any regrets? Are you Gen X or Gen Y, Ebriel?

        What you’ve said reminds me of the book “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In it, he talks about how traveling is “a fool’s paradise.” He says we do it to get away from our sad selves, but when we show up in a new town: guess who’s still there?

        I think i’ve made it a point to not fall in love with traveling as many of my peers have done, but the longing is still definitely there.

        • Ebriel says:

          I’m at the arse end of Gen X, but live and think more like Gen Y. Appreciate your perspective. I met my better half in Asia 9 years ago, and for many years our dream was to split our lives between two countries: one in Asia and one in the West (Europe or USA). I find the healthiest and most well-balanced people who do that have a strong home base/family/career in one place, and spend several months/year in the other. We haven’t managed to do that yet. I hope we do. A former mentor of mine started haranguing me about my lack of commitment to a single place several years ago, because it means I’ve not developed a steady audience for my work in any one place.

          I think part of the problem is that, after living in a dozen cities in a bunch of countries, the Internet has become my hometown. That sounds kind of pathetic, but feels true.

          My guy’s from the UK, and his mom’s in her 80s, so that’s a big incentive for us. It probably wouldn’t be much longer than the 3 years I’d need to get a British passport, because the weather there will make me want to jump off a cliff.

        • Ebriel says:

          (d’oh, double reply-bad form).

          Your quote is apt for many lost travelers I’ve met, but has never held true for me, and for most long-term expats I’ve met. I’ve always wanted to explore the world and never wanted to be limited to one country as a home (my kvetching is the downside to that). The lifestyle and opportunities I’ve had are far better than anything possible had we stayed at home, etc. For example teaching art easily pays double what it would in the US though my living costs are much lower, and I don’t have a teaching cert, just a BFA painting degree and experience. Jobs are more plentiful. The opportunities for leadership and interesting projects are much greater. However there’s a point when it’s time to scale things up, and the experiences in foreign countries (what is ‘foreign’ anyway?) require further education/work for a while in a 1st world country.

  28. Glen Mallaby says:

    So Gen Z will teach Gen Y how to work and that they are not beautiful and unique little snowflakes…. Fantastic I can’t wait.

  29. TD says:

    All those points hit home for me. Gen Z is likely to find the Gen Y lazy sometimes for waiting for instructions instead of just learning to do tasks themselves. It hurts to admit this actually.

    I loved your point about video communication. I know 2 and 3 year olds who have been on skype and other videos since they were born! They will never know what a huge step Apple’s facetime and Skype was for us. They are all so comfortable being themselves in front of a video camera! But I am also encouraged by the trend of video communication. I find its easier to convey certain ideas and emotions in video instead of plain words.

    All this talk about the many potential talents of Gen Z is making me wonder where their weaknesses will be. Will they be conservative about risk because they were raised during economic turmoil? Will they have trouble following corporate workplace rules since they were raised without strict school rules? Will workplace rules have the same value in 20 years? Where and how will they network if they aren’t going to college? Most people I know met their spouses at school or work. Where will the Gen Z find dates before they join work? Via Youtube? May be there will be dating sites for teenagers soon.

  30. gordana dragicevic says:

    Gen Z will be the generation who will have to clean up the mess their parents, grandparents, and gen Y put them in.
    Every generation needs to do that in a way, but this time the mess is huge and global. The climate change is already showing its ugly face, and peak oil will come close behind. Economies will need to re-localise, and much communication and human interaction will, again, become personal. So it’s good they are prepared to lead, and it’s great they’ll be good at showing people what to do and communicating in person, not just virtually. I’m not worried gen Z will have problems following the corporate rules either, because the rules themselves will need to be different and new if they are to deliver in the changing world.

  31. Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging says:

    Gorgeous photo!

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks, Annabel. Melissa took the photo. She came to my house for Thanksgiving and I gave her a list of photos I wanted for the blog. She took about 100 photos of me and the kids and nothing from my list. This means:

      1. Melissa is unmanageable.
      2. Melissa is amazing at taking photos of people.
      3. I will write lots of posts about Gen Z so that I can use the photos of me and my kids.

      Penelope

      • Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging says:

        Lol, well that works for me – maybe Melissa knows what we really want and what’s really important :)

        They will work for posts on being a working parent too.

  32. Mark says:

    Generalizations of entire generations of people has been, and remains, the hallmark of pseudo-intellectuals. I was going to give the author the benefit of the doubt but as soon she cited Strauss and Howe, any credibility she might have had evaporated. The article reads like a glorified horoscope column only the author happens to take herself seriously (surprising given how nebulous and weak her points are). Am I alone in realizing how incredibly stupid it is to typecast someone by their d.o.b. (e.g. baby boomer -> “world handed to them on a silver platter hippie turned yuppie”)?

  33. Jerri says:

    Generational classifications are an attempt by human beings to simplify people so that we can decide how we should relate to them. This is similar to what we do with racial, gender, and other stereotypes. While there are several characteristics that may apply to a certain generation, these same characteristics will be exhibited by others outside of that generation. There are Gen Ys raised by Gen Xs, Gen Zs raised by Boomers (kids under grandparents care), Gen Ys raised by Boomers, Gen Zs raised by Gen X and there will certainly be Gen Zs raised by Gen Y. Add to that the fact that parental influence is not the only factor in a child’s life and an honest analysis will find that is unfair to paint an entire generation with one common brush stroke. The workplace is already challenging enough without adding generational conflict. The people who have succeeded in navigating the workplace, and those who will succeed in the future, are those who are able to identify their strengths and build on them and those who are able to deal with people as individuals and find what each brings to the table rather than labeling them based on their birth date.

  34. Kay says:

    Penelope, I’m born in 1986, does that make me Gen Y or Z? And after considering all these traits, can Gen Y ever hope to lead Gen Z?

    • cmadler says:

      “the oldest in Generation Z are just turning 13″

      So if you we’re born in 1986, no you’re not Gen Z. 1986 puts you very solidly in Gen Y.

  35. NB says:

    So true about Jan Chipchase’s brag tweets! He’s a lot more smug than most of Gen Y. Maybe its the design thing.

  36. Jenn says:

    I like the generational posts. In my own experience (gen x’er) I have learned more from those my own age and younger than from older people. Most of the older people have been very guarded about sharing what they know. I look forward to the next crop of young smarty-pants coming into the office, it helps me keep my ideas fresh.

    At the same time I am aware that eventually I will be overtaken by younger workers and will be not wanted in the corporate world. Unfortunately the age that the corporate world really does not want you anymore (~60) is not the same age that you can realistically retire (~70). What to do in those intervening years is what scares me. Thankfully I still have some time to try and figure something out.

  37. John Peltier says:

    Interesting thoughts. I often suggest that Gen X and older should be starting their personal branding efforts last year, because Gen Y and younger will be doing a great job of it from day one. Gen Z will all look like internet marketers by the time they are fully in the work force.

  38. Paxton says:

    Many times I have watched youtube videos with my daughter that are made by kids showing how to beat some game on her nintendo DS. It continually surprises me how articulate and talented at video games some of these kids are.

    Additionally, whenever I am getting beat at an online video game it is usually some 13-year-old kid with a very foul mouth.

  39. ykat says:

    I don’t fully understand the age denominations for the different generations. I was born i’m 1984 and feel like I am the X generation. If that is so then that would make the Y generation born at the end of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Which would mean that most of generation Z has bit been born and the ones that have were born to teen parents.
    However, your piece makes it seem like I am part of the Y generation. That notion would be false. My generation was born to parents of late baby boomers and flower children. For the most part they instilled a hard work ethic and a drive to better ourselves. My generation still kept score during soccer games, we still had dodge ball in gym class. Our coaches were not fired for making us run laps at the end of practice.
    It is only the new generation that punishes the kids who excel. the kids growing up now who are taught not to stand out. They are taught that everyone one gets a trophy and everyone is equal.
    So which one is it? Either I am generation X, which would mean that generation Z has only state. Which would mean there is no way anyone should be measuring them because we have not even seen how most of generation Y will turn out.
    Or I am generation Y, which case you have no idea who generation Y is.

  40. Amanda says:

    I didn’t read every comment like I typically do before responding, so this may have been stated already but since Gen Y grew up with materialistic Boomer parents perhaps they/we are realizing that happiness doesn’t come from things. I’m speaking as a Gen Y’er with Boomer parents.

    We are a very frugal generation since most of us “grew up” in time to start our careers in the worst recession since the Great Depression which is probably another reason we value experiences over things, no one can take away your trip to Europe, even if you don’t pay your credit card bill.

    I do however agree that we don’t know what we want, I sure don’t, but I don’t think our love of travel/experiences is “forced”. We grew up with everything. Our Boomer parents gave us everything we wanted (in terms of toys and things) and you know what, we can’t keep pace with that lifestyle and that just doesn’t do it for us.

    Another point I’d like to make is that I think the next generation so much a divide in terms of a specific year, (i.e. 2000) but rather who grew up always having the internet at their finger tips and who did not. I didn’t have internet until I was in high school, my brother (born in 1996) has had the internet since he was old enough to remember.

    I know Gen Y is pretty tech savvy, but the next generation is going to put us to shame in that arena too. Their knowledge is inherent more so than Gen Y’s.

    Great post, great information and great links. I fear and welcome the time when the next generation comes into play and hopefully whips us Y’s into shape. Thanks so much!

  41. Bob says:

    Who cares what the rest of your generation is doing…as long as you’re doing well, that’s all that matters.

  42. Kyle says:

    I have read enough comments to know that America is Fu**ed. As an economics student and follower of politics and government I see no hope for our current society.
    – an 18 year old generation Yer

  43. Diane says:

    I don’t know where you work, but I am a Gen X-er who runs my own business and I work with people of all ages. The Gen Y people I engage in my industry (construction/architecture/engineering) with are maniacal hard workers, and many of them are good leaders. Maybe you are just in the wrong industry.

    And all you people whining about how there is nooooooo hoopooooope, and we are all screwed. Everything is someone else’s fault (immigrants, Gen Y-ers, etc etc etc). Snap out of it. Start your own business, pilot your own ship – and stop feeling so sorry for yourselves. That kind of victim mentality won’t get you anywhere.

  44. anon says:

    I think it’s a tad early to say what Gen Z’s traits will be. Just as the last fifteen years’ events affected Gen Y’s coming of age, the next fifteen years will affect Gen Z. Fifteen years of peace and prosperity will have a different effect than fifteen years of war and recession. Think how different current generations(all) would be if 9/11, the Iraq war, and the recession had never taken place. One example – Gen Y(like most others) went from being relatively spendthrift to financially conservative.

  45. Laaa says:

    I was born in 1990 which i think would make me gen y by what i can gather. I’m not sure this article will change the way i view people younger or older than me because i dont think you can generalise about something with so many factors to consider. I was brought up with very good morals, to talk properly, to fight for what is right and to never stop working for something you want. I was taught the importance of happiness and also of sacrifice.

    I dont personally think gen z have overtaken gen y in technology either because they are not old enough yet. Of course they will but maybe very differently. In the last couple of years i have learnt to code, program and web design aswell as taking up animation, all at home using free information online. I think my generation has yet to realise the gifts they were given. Free UNLIMITED education.

    It just depends how you use the internet. Unlike most people, i dont have facebook, twitter, photobucket or any social networking site for that matter. I never have and doubt i ever will. I also know more people who are my age refusing to use facebook than people over 40 who use it as their main form of communication. I also never check my email unless someone is sending a photo i asked them for or a specific file, bank and paypal messages etc. If i want to talk to someone ill call/text if they arnt available for instant messaging or skype but tbh everyone is always online now which makes calls essentially free so its gonna take off.

    Apart from that i do have thousands of photos stored on a hard drive since getting a decent camera, however they are ALL of my dogs :p

  46. Sarah says:

    I think it’s hard to generalize gen y because there’s a huge “generation gap” within gen y itself. Those born before/after 1990 are from different worlds. I’m early gen y. Early gen y grew up largely without technology. Even when internet/cell phones became popular, they weren’t used constantly because service was expensive. We grew up with a strong work ethic and the idea that WE would have to adapt to the older, working world, and were constantly prepared for that. We are optimistic, but we’re also realistic and have a good sense of what works.

    I think when you talk about gen z you’re really talking about late gen y. Gen z is 0-13 years old right now, so the average age is 6 1/2. The characteristics you describe of gen z can’t have possibly been deduced from elementary school aged children. You talk about teens. We’ve only got 10 days worth of gen z teens in this country.

    So I’ll assume when you say gen z, you mean late gen y/very early gen z. It’s funny that you say they’re over photography. Maybe formal photography, but teens post photos of every day moments constantly.

    You seem to have failed to consider weaknesses of “gen z”. Gen y has always been called the “me generation”. But late gen y/early gen z is sooo much more self-absorbed than gen y ever could be. That is not a good way to lead a company. They’re not as good at compromise and they have a harder time considering the wants/needs of others. They also tend to be impatient and dislike the idea of being at work for any great length of time. Despite the fact that more jobs can be done virtually, most organizations need at least some work-a-holics, virtual or not, to be successful.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that they can seem to be intelligent and well-informed, and they’re sorta are… but then out of nowhere, they’ll make a statement that is soooooooo wrong. Some very basic concept that would have been unthinkable for older generations not to know. The worst part is that when you correct them, explain, provide evidence. They immediately dismiss your correction, refuse to hear it, and insist they’re right. It’s bizarre. Even the best of them are like this and it’s comes out of nowhere. I’d say it’s due to growing up online. The virtual world can’t provide all the basic knowledge people need. These kids are very sheltered. It’s not their fault, but it makes them a little delusional at times. Please, someone back me up here!

    You say gen z are great communicators. I disagree. They’re great at self-broadcasting. They’re terrible communicators. They’re not good listeners. Gen z leading would likely be chaotic.

    I agree that they’ll WANT to become leaders. I don’t know what will happen. I think they’ll be terrible leaders due to erroneous thinking, self-absorption, poor communication, and impatience. If they become leaders, it’ll be a disaster and they’ll crash and burn. I’d actually guess that gen y, who’d be great leaders, will realize this and will not allow gen z to surpass them. You’re right that gen y is laid back and most don’t want to lead, but they’re not going to let things fall apart.

    Plus, let’s think about this. Gen x is having a hard time getting into leadership positions which they want and can excel at, because baby boomers won’t retire. You think gen z can someone get these positions? No. They will NOT jump ahead of two generations when they enter the workforce. Sorry. Won’t happen.

    • Luke S. says:

      I’ll back you up. I was born in ’84, and I feel like people my age have one foot in and one foot out of the Generation Y bracket. When I was in the third grade, we learned cursive and were told we would need to learn it in order to write fast when taking notes in college or in the workplace. Now everyone just jots down notes on their laptops.

      By high school, we had Internet connection via AOL. I remember waiting for hours for particularly slow webpages to load. But I was willing to wait because the novelty of being able to surf the web hooked me. It wasn’t until college I had access to high-speed internet, but you still had to plug your computer into an ethernet cable. Wi-Fi wasn’t in the equation until several years later, and I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

      I also agree with you on cell phones. By high school, some of us had cell phones and brought them to school to show off, but it was by no means the norm for every student to have cell phones. And those of us who had them couldn’t use them for more than emergencies and brief chats because the per-minute rate was ridiculously high.

      But overall, I don’t like my generation. I also remember being made fun of quite a bit for not wearing the right name brand clothes or being aware of popular bands or MTV shows. And as my generation moved into adulthood and embraced the whole “hipster” thing, they became even more obnoxious. Millennials tend to follow trends, usually set by slick marketers, and then boast about how unique and special they are. It’s not uncommon to see a clique of “unique souls” who all just happen to purchase their clothes at Hot Topics, or maybe the thrift store, and dye their hair in similar shades of red or blue. Then you have the “unorthodox” free thinkers who are pretty much a clone of the 1960s. Rather than creating their own rebellion and sorting out their own interpretations of the world, they regurgitate the talking points from their parents’ day.

      I agree that Generation Z isn’t going to be better. Though more of them will be home schooled, many of them are still at the mercy of draconian school districts. When I was in school, I saw freedom slowly being squeezed away from students. I just barely escaped No Child Left Behind and state standardized tests. This generation will be used to metal detectors in school (though mostly in urban areas), strict “no-tolerance” rules that they have no input on, and being taught to ace tests like performing circus monkeys. Many of them are used to cops roaming around their schools and drug-sniffing dogs scouring their lockers during surprise inspections. On top of that, many of them are attending school year-round, eliminating the iconic tradition of the summer vacation, and being subject to extended school days. I don’t know how a bunch of kids who are raised to just blindly accept authority at school will magically grow up to be the creative, free-thinking leaders that this country needs.

      One fact that I did come across is that Generation Z is in terrible physical shape. They’re more likely to be obese, and they’re less physically active than past generations. Health care for this generation is going to be a major problem when they get older. They’re the ones who are expected to have significantly decreased lifespans. So that’s one thing about being hooked to the Internet that isn’t so great.

      I also question how tech-savvy any young generation is. It seems that it’s really Gen X that made all this stuff, and we simply get credit for existing when they brought these things to the market. I mean sure, we play with all of these cool gadgets, and some of us know how to design a web page, write code, etc. But most of the gadgets we use are engineered to be user-friendly, involving no expertise on our part. Learning to edit a video for YouTube really isn’t that special. Just because I own a Mac, doesn’t mean that I have the brains or desire to design one. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ease provided by technology decreases the next generation’s problem-solving abilities. I have heard that technology has made it very, very easy to cheat on school assignments.

      Anyways, good discussion. I must admit, I haven’t really even begun to think about the next generation yet. I do feel bad for the generation that’s being raised by generation Y though. One thing I notice about my peers is that we don’t seem to think that kids need/want anything close to a “traditional” family. I’m very surprised at how many of my friends are divorced with kids, and they aren’t even 30 yet.

      I actually do like Boomers though. Some of my best friends are Boomers, and I hope that they never die.

      • Kelly L says:

        This is one of my favorite comments – it raised a lot of points that hadn’t occurred to me, eg – the obesity problem, the fact that technology is making it easier to be lazy and less inclined to engineer new things.The old cliche goes “necessity is the mother of invention” – but if we’ve already got everything at our fingertips (thanks GenX!) then where’s the impetus to create anything new? As it is, just look at Hollywood. There are more sequels and reboots than anything “new.”

        I suspect I’m hovering on the cusp of X and Y. Age-wise, I suppose I’m GenY, a product of the early 80s. Mind-wise, I identify more with those in GenX.

        The other thing that concerns me is how savvy kids are with video – okay, great, they are excellent verbal communicators, but the two words that chilled me to my core: “no reading.” This immediately created a spiral of worry that GenZ was going to be the beginning of the end for written communication, for books, for all of it. I grew up on books – we weren’t allowed to have video games. (So what if they’re great at video games, by the way? That’s ALL THEY DO, and it’s not particularly useful. It’s more socially isolating than I think we think – unless you count swearing at other players over the Internet as communicating). I worry about the culture shifting to that immediate gratification and more people who don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re” – what difference will it make, anyway?

        I do think Penelope was spot on about a few things. I’ve noticed my peers’ obsession with travel, and it makes sense that it would be rooted in a need to feel – eh, I hate the word “special” but we’ll go with it. You want to live a life worth envying, and perhaps it works, because I do envy those who act upon their wanderlust and aren’t tied to a desk like I am. I am rather photo-happy, but I don’t think it’s necessarily as an attention-gathering mechanism. I don’t share all of my photos. It’s a cheap souvenir to remember happy times in your life when you’re stuck in a dark slump.

        I personally do avoid conflict – I guess I wasn’t aware it was a generational thing, just a weird personality quirk. I guess I’ve opted to bite my tongue rather than stir up trouble – perhaps I took to heart the advise of choosing one’s battles I don’t know.

        I have no aversion to work, however. Nothing makes me feel more useful and validated as a person than to get my hands dirty (metaphorically speaking – again, I have a desk job) and to walk away at the end of the day having accomplished something. I think GenY is underestimated in this respect. We do work hard – some of us. Sure, a lot of us are also entitled d-bags, but I think you’ll have that within any generation. (Admittedly – I was brought up with the Midwestern work ethic, so, grain of salt, etc. I might be biased.)

        I just read an article that I linked on from a different post on this blog (I swear this website is a black hole of post-surfing!) and it cited an example of a mother wearily arguing with her young son to stop a movie and do his homework. It indicates to me that GenZ is perhaps VERY (too?) engrossed in media, almost brainlessly so (if people can make sweeping and unflattering generalizations about my generation, I will take that as permission to do so about the next one)… will they grow out of this? I fail to see how they will ever out-lead us (which, sounds like we are three-deep in the queue, if GenX sorta-but-not-really wants to lead but are waiting for Baby Boomers to step down, and we’re parked behind them), if they can’t focus and can’t understand the importance of things like interaction, education, and following direction. Now, I know that good leaders aren’t always known for “following direction” or “playing by the rules” – but you have to know the rules to break them, if you’re going to do it successfully.

        I found this post to be incredibly interesting – though I do feel like GenY has been underestimated and GenZ to be overestimated, but I suppose that’s the point of a piece like this. You can’t draw theories without strong ideas. And it will truly be interesting to see how GenZ evolves as they hit their late teenage years and then the soul-sucking void of their 20s, and what influences might shape and skew these predictions through the course of time.

    • Lisa says:

      I agree with you, Sarah.

      I was born in ’84 as well and often a lot of the generalizations that I read here, and on other sites and blogs, about Gen Y simply don’t seem to fit me and my peers (pre-90’s but even more specifically; from ’84-’88). I think Sarah is very right about there being a huge difference between those born before 1990 and those born after. A lot of the tech advantages that our generation gained advancement through truly weren’t felt for those born pre-1990 until we were in high school.

      We weren’t born into technology like Gen Z will be. In some ways that is a benefit for Gen Z but in some ways it could be a hindrance or disservice, because just as Penelope notes that sometimes Gen Y’ers attribute their productivity to intelligence rather than to technical savvy and the internet, how would Gen Z entirely avoid doing this as well or even more so?

      Playing video games may benefit Gen Z in terms of creativity and problem solving; maybe.They may be able to make Youtube videos and such but there are times when the written word is still a necessary evil (contracts anyone?). As another poster mentioned, with this generation’s love of video games and simulated activities, they are being hit the hardest by the childhood obesity epidemic. At any rate it is still way too early to predict or even logically make claims to what Gen Z will be, because a a generation is not molded only by the technological advancements given them. None from this generation have entered college let alone the workforce and yes, as much as some may argue, college will still be a necessity in the future.

      Who is to say politically, environmentally or socially what will happen within the next decade? That in itself will impact the story of this generation greatly, just as it has Gen Y. We did in fact start off as a spendthrift generation because things came easy to us, some would say too easily, and then the recession hit and it taught us that what was given easily can be taken just as easily. Hell, even things that are won through great difficulty can be taken away easily. It taught us that are shiny expensive degrees were useless when there simply weren’t enough jobs for everyone that possessed the same piece of paper.

      Things can change overnight and we as a generation have learned and continue to learn to adjust and be flexible and marketable given the economic landscape.

      I get the feeling that a lot of Gen X’ers in this post are heaping praise on Gen Z simply because they are the proud parents of said generation (totally understandable!), but let’s not forget that a sizeable amount of Gen Z will be born from early Gen Y, so their “greatness”, if any, is not solely a product of Gen X but should also be credited to elder Gen Y.

      At 28, we’re definitely in our prime baby making years, not to mention the children that resulted from teen pregnancies, and if the Gen Y parents are so inept at leadership, where’d did these Gen Z offspring get amazing leadership skills from?

      No need to make Gen Y out as worse to make Gen Z seem good (or even “better”).

      I for one welcome our over-stimulated baby faced, physically inactive, terribly techy and impatient overlords but I doubt they’ll be leading much other than the next “Occupy Movement”.

  47. McKenzie says:

    The truth is, we don’t lead because we weren’t allowed to. Helicopter parents did their best to ensure that everyone had a trophy and everyone got an invitation to the birthday party. Problematic as it is, we are quite reluctant to believe that not all people are equal in gifts (despite the fact that there are many types of gifts indeed).This is the legacy that incapacitates us. In the real world, feelings are hurt and disappointments are had. The behavior is learned-mid grade effort=equalizing reward class wide=no possibility for failure. Workplace provides opportunity for failure and singular reward, which is both unfamiliar and uncomfortable for adults who were consistently taught to blend. These teachings in the formative years breed avoidance, narcissism and antisocial tendencies when the fantasy begins to shatter (specifically avoidance which is what many of you are perceiving as laziness or nonconfrontational behavior)
    I am in gen y. My mother overinflated my self esteem, to be sure. However, she dogmatically upheld expectations for success and personal responsibility (highly unpopular in gen y) that have insulated me from some of these tendencies. if you are in gen y and lucky enough to be given some skills to guard against these traits, the benefit is that you don’t need to expect stiff competition in the workplace (joke, obviously). anyway, i plan to work as hard as my parents did to become successful and leave these lazy peers behind and raise children who understand that life is not about you, because you are fleeting. It is about the positive contribution that you can make in a short time to the collective whole.

    • Lisa says:

      I could be completely wrong but you sound like an early Gen Y’er.

      Your post is more or less how I feel a lot of my peers feel. We’re not as materialistic and overindulgent as one might think. I think we were early on but the last decade for early Gen Y’ers has been somewhat sobering and we’ve become realists minus the cynicism.

      I don’t think we’re perfect, messianic, or that much better necessarily than previous generations in the least but I for one, more or less, like my generation. There’s just too much variation with us to label it all bad, lazy, or indifferent.

  48. Trishna Sharma says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Great post – but I completely disagree. You have it completely wrong.

    All relationships are 2-way. Both sides have to adjust in order for the relationship to work. I understand that older generations feel like they are the only ones who have had to adapt, but it just simply isn’t true. I find it contradictory that you say that older generations have had to change to the point where it is a negative thing for you – but then you say that Gen Y gets along too well with their parents… a generation that actually LIKES their parents is a generation that is much more in tune with older generations and one that will be happy to work with you to make a company or the world a better, more successful place.

    Gen Y comes from a generation where their parents instilled responsibility in them. As kids, they often scheduled their own doctor’s appointments, dentist appoints, etc. If they need additional help on school work, they help found a tutor. They discuss with their parents and we proceeded. They were put in charge, they are go-getters. Look at all of the startups that are coming from the Gen Y generation!

    But in the working world, they are forced to fit into the “old way” of doing things. The old way is hierarchical and based off of paying dues. It is not based as much on the value that you bring. It isn’t based on merit. Gen Y feels suffocated because they are fully capable of doing great things, and many have when given the chance. But they are constantly being pushed down by Gen X and Baby Boomers who feel like Gen Y has to pay their dues just like everyone else, the way it has always been. But, if Gen Y is performing at a higher level and producing better results than everyone else, is this really the best solution for the company? Therein lies Gen Y’s frustration. They want to help and to lead but they are not given the opportunity.

    Which brings us to leadership. I can see where you believe Gen Y leads from the middle. But that isn’t really what it is about at all. Gen Y is not afraid to lead. The difference between Gen Y and other generations is Gen Y knows that ideas can come from anyone. You don’t have to be a dictatorial leader and force your ways and ideas upon anyone else. Gen Y believes in listening to others because great ideas come from the masses and from diversity. They like to lead, but they believe that true leadership comes from working TOGETHER.

    Finding their passion is an important characteristic of Gen Y. And yet, Gen Y is not only able to pursue their passions, but they also hold down full-time careers and they are highly accomplished in those careers. Look at all of the blogs created by Gen Yers pursuing and discussing their passions while being highly successful in their careers. Isn’t this a good thing? Isn’t it good that you can be great at more than just one thing? Does embracing your hobbies and passions not add diversity to the workplace and people’s thought processes? Isn’t this beneficial for us all?

    On the communication aspect (and as in many other aspects of your post), you are blurring your lines between Gen Y and Gen Z. All of the greatest YouTube stars are from Gen Y. Gen Y is the generation using Khan Academy. Gen Y learns and teaches on YouTube. YouTube could be considered a top 10 country by population! Who do you think is mostly on those sites? Gen Y! I do expect Gen Z to be better at communication. Each generation is supposed to improve upon the other, that’s how we evolve as a species. But several of your points are very misguided and don’t take into account the whole picture.

    Which brings me to the point about money and travel. Let’s tackle travel first. How is travel an issue? Maybe it is time for you to look at the lessons Gen Y brings instead of fearing change. Life is not about working to the bone and then dying. It is about learning about the world, exploring it, getting exposed to cultures and growing your mind and your perspective. There are many lessons you can only learn through travel. Instead of criticizing Gen Y for being more open to experiences and being much less risk adverse and being more proactive, you should understand that maybe the old systems of living don’t work anymore. Who decided that EVERYONE needs to work from 9-5? Why are you asking Gen Y to become complacent just like the previous generations? There are many things in our world that don’t make sense and maybe it is time that we learned to heal our society and be happy! There are many countries in Europe who are thriving and REQUIRE that employees take 4 weeks of vacation in addition to the MANY national holidays. But here we are working to the bone and then at retirement we finally have the time to start enjoying life and traveling at old age – except can we really enjoy ourselves to the fullest when our body and our joints hurt? Just because things are changing does not mean they are wrong.

    In terms of Gen Y’s not having money. There are certainly Gen Y’s who have money. But if we are to look at the big picture, you could say that Gen Y is not doing as well economically. But is that really a fault of Gen Y? Or is it the fault of Gen X and the Baby Boomers? Gen Y is going to college, they are getting their degrees. Many are getting Masters, not just Bachelors. They are all hard workers. But you are saying that they have no money because they don’t know what they want and they just want to follow their passion. Uhmm… what about the economy? The recession that we’re in? The one that has a greater supply of Gen Y’s looking for jobs than there is a demand for?

    It is great to get the perspective of an older generation but I think it is important that we start learning to see the beauty in each generation instead of criticizing them because they are different or because they are helping you grow.

    • Sarah says:

      What an eloquent and beautiful reply. I couldn’t agree more, especially on your argument regarding travel. I read a wonderful article a few months back describing Gen Y as a generation of global citizens. We are very globally minded. That’s not a bad thing by any means.

    • Joe says:

      What a great post all my Yers stepping up and making a stand for our selves when apparently ” we don’t step up and do things like that” Frankly I think this article is ignorant and a huge lack of judgment. Traveling and seeing the world for what it is, is a great thing specially at a young age. I am currently studying in business management and international business “Global Citizens” probably the best term I heard all day. Oh and I’m taking real estate classes in the summer its what us Yers do were good at more then one thing and are always open to something new and understand there are plenty of opportunity’s out there and has nothing to do with not being able to stick to one thing….(boring). Personal I think Penelope is a bit jealous and worried about the generation z because her kids are part of z. We can all learn from each other and the baby boomers and Xers dont understand that. Its either there way or the highway which is extremely ignorant and one minded. Take a look at the new you tube video called kid president where Obama and a little ‘ kid president” come together to show the world that adults can learn from kids and kids can learn from adults. Like I said down below in my post the Yers are disgusted with the way the baby boomers and xers left the country for us and they need to realize we are the ones who are going to pick up the pieces and bring things back to where they need to be which is the reason why traveling and education are huge to us because we have a lot of shoes to fill in and a lot bindings to repair most of us are still in college and still working on building our careers the fact that you admit where one of the best generations for writing alone shows how much potential we have and how well educated the Ys. Poorly said, Poor facts and even more disgusted by the xers after reading this…

    • Joshua sade says:

      Dear Tristan I’m just curious how old we’re you when you wrote this statement. I’ll tell you. Because u actually kind if sound like a gen z

  49. Sarah says:

    Haha. This is cute, coming from a Gen Xer (AKA the most obnoxious generation ever).

    If you think members of Gen Y are non-confrontational, you must not know very many of us. We didn’t have to be rebellious because we grew up watching you doing that, and how well that worked out for you. At least we won’t be 30 and wishing we were still 20.

    I doubt we do know enough about Gen Z to know how they will react; I also think that the Baby Boomers or even the generation before them would be far more insightful when looking at the relationship between Gen Xers and Gen Yers, and the relationship between Gen Yers and Gen Zers. They’re the ones who can sit back and actually observe the differences and similarities without having inane biases about one generation being “better” than another.

  50. dnautics says:

    This blog is completely biased. Are you feeling ok Penelope? I am not sure why you have so much hate towards Generation Y. We are the generation who grew up with the first “commercial” computers. Education? I am working on my second master’s degree and I am in my late 20’s. Your “opinion” about the passive nature of Generation Y is the only point I can agree with.

    Since we seem to be throwing around opinions left and right here is mine. Generation Z will be very similar to Generation Y. Generation Z’s success will be dependent entirely on Generation X and Y.

    Besides, it’s far too soon to be passing judgment. The oldest ‘Gen Z’er’ alive is only 13 years old. Perhaps, its best to wait for Generation Z to become an active part of society ;)

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