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Can you turn Gen Yers into solid workers? And are you ready for Gen Z?

By Lynne Curry  bio

Your youngest employees grew up fast. September 11 happened in 2001, when the oldest of them was six. They’ve known severe economic recession, the War on Terror and global warming. Is it any wonder they don’t believe in the American Dream?

They’re fifteen to twenty-one, and entering the workforce. If you’ve hired Gen Z employees, or if your children were born between 1995 and 2001, you need to understand them.

What about your Gen Y workers, those born between 1981 and 2000, who seem so entitled you’d like to toss them out on their ears? What do you need to know to manage, bring out the best in them, and have your payroll dollars pay off?

About Gen Y

Please complete the following sentences:

Patience is a ______.

Good things come to ____________.

If you wrote “virtue” or “those who wait” you clearly aren’t a Gen Y employee.  If you wrote “mystery” and “those who go after them,” you might be Gen Y or at least understand Gen Yers.

Gen Y employees refuse to do the “what” until they hear the “why.” Raised by teachers and parents who allowed them to freely speak their minds, these employees can drive managers crazy with questions such as “why should I believe you?” and “why do I need to do it that way?” 

Techno-literate Gen Ys grew up with IM (instant messaging) and watched the Gulf War fought on television screens in their own living rooms. Stimulus junkies, they want instant feedback, rapid results, immediate compensation, and often have a stronger connection to the Internet than to their supervisors.   

For these employees, job security is an oxymoron and a dollar reward today outweighs fifty at the end of the year. Raised in large part by television, video games, and their peers, these employees want to live now because they don’t know what the future holds. Further, they’ve seen the bad guy get away with it too many times to buy into the starry-eyed innocence of “all this and more can be yours in the future if you work hard and fly right.” Thus managers can’t easily stir their emotions with rah-rah motivational pep talks nor expect them to be deeply saddened by verbal warnings. 

Because they’ve witnessed a president shade the truth to get out of trouble and heard endless stories from their parents about Dilbert-style managers, Gen Ys consider most rules negotiable and refuse to treat those in authority with fear, reverence or even respect. Gen Y employees need jobs that offer excitement as well as a paycheck and can’t abide micromanagement. 

About Gen Z

In the workplace, Gen Zers operate differently than Gen Xers, Yers and Baby Boomers. Gen Zers grew up with Gen X and not Baby Boomer parents. They watched many of their Gen Y siblings return to live with their parents because they couldn’t afford to live on their own. Gen Z doesn’t want this fate. Unlike some Gen Y employees who feel “entitled”, Gen Z hasn’t been given everything they needed or wanted when growing up and know they need to work for success. As a generation, they’re independent, realistic, adaptable, entrepreneurial and flexible.

Here’s how to make them happy, with a few warnings.

Gen Zers crave constant and immediate feedback. They want information now and at the touch of a keystroke. They grew up with the Internet and can process massive amounts of information quickly. They prefer texting, because it’s faster than email or voice mail.

According to surveys, Gen Z employees are motivated by opportunities for advancement money and meaningful work. They don’t intend to wait years for their chance and view their opinions equally worthy to their managers. While they don’t look for the freely-given hand-holding that many Gen Ys expect, they do expect quick results. 


Do you know how to bring out the best in Gen Y? Are you ready for Gen Z? If not, get ready.

Lynne Curry, PhD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” and “Solutions,” which has great articles on how to remember names & 60 real-life workplace dramas with practical solutions. Both have 4.8-star ratings on

Curry and her group regularly work with law firms and medical practices and hospitals, providing HR on-call, training, expert witness work, facilitation, strategic planning, investigation, mediation, and executive and professional coaching. You can reach her at or or via LinkedIn or Twitter @lynnecurry1.

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