June 25, 2009 / 2:10 PM / 8 years ago

Generation Y makes waves in workplace

<p>A generic picture of a woman working in an office sitting at her desk typing on a computer. REUTERS/Catherine Benson</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - They might wear flip flops to the office and address colleagues as “dude,” but the youngest generation of workers brings fresh creativity and openness to the workplace.

The challenge of managing Generation Y, or the Millennials -- born between 1980 and 1999 -- has spawned a small industry of expertise and literature, including “Keeping the Millennials,” new this month, and “Y in the Workplace,” due out in July.

Both books argue that the newest generation is making waves in the office that must be addressed and tended. Some 40 million Millennials work in corporate America, a figure expected to hit 58 million by 2014.

Tech-savvy and fast-working, Millennials are also impatient and indulged, the product of hovering parents and educations that never let them fail, the books say.

And they communicate differently from the rest of us -- tweeting and texting and writing “CYL” for “see you later.”

“Y in the Workplace” (Career Press, $15.99) cites an impasse between a Generation Y worker, working at home, and her older boss. “I‘m only texting today, not talking on the phone,” she wrote. He replied: “Well, I‘m only talking on the phone.”

“WHINERS, BABIES, BRATS”

Older managers tend to generalize that all younger workers are alike, said Joanne Sujansky, co-author with Jan Ferri-Reed of “Keeping the Millennials” (Wiley, $24.95).

“The mistake we make is we don’t listen, and we have them stereotyped to be whiners, babies, brats,” she said. They may expect more praise, feedback and flexibility than their older colleagues, but those needs aren’t all bad, she added.

“If we try to meet some of their needs, we make a workplace that is attractive to other generations also,” she said.

The recession is hitting Millennials -- a protected generation -- particularly hard, said Nicole Lipkin, who coauthored “Y in the Workplace” with April Perrymore as a guide for managing the “me first” generation.

Taught to take their time deciding what to do in life and to job-hop if things get tough, they don’t have coping skills for hard economic times, she said. “Life isn’t like they thought it was going to be,” she said.

But they have also been taught to speak their minds and say what they want, she added.

“Obviously it’s going to annoy some people here and there, but I think that’s a really good quality,” she said.

THE ‘ME FIRST’ GENERATION

Once the economy improves, Millennials are likely to be the first to look for new jobs, said Sujansky, whose book focuses on the high costs of losing them.

While Millennials have many good qualities, they can also be aggressive and arrogant and need to learn some decorum, said Sujansky.

“The Millennial group is an eye-rolling, sighing group,” she said. “If they could learn to make that not quite so obvious and find some patience, that would be helpful.”

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Eddie Evans

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