Gen Y Isn’t Strange, You Just Fell Behind

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

Increasingly, Generation Y employees are dominating the workplace, and they are bringing their technology-enabled communication styles with them. To their older colleagues, they seem to speak a different language, one filled with jargon about the internet and social media. They use unfamiliar communications tools like FriendFeed and Twitter. They shop online, comfortably whipping out their credit cards and sending their data around the world. They post personal photos on Flickr, and they announce breakups on Facebook.

When their older managers from the Gen X or Baby Boomer generations insist on face to face meetings, or shun email because it lacks “the human touch”, Gen Y wonders why they are limiting themselves to just one form of communication.

The older managers in turn wonder, “Who are these crazy kids, and when will they grow up and act like adults?” They see more and more Gen Y members on their teams, and they see them taking on more responsibility, but they feel puzzled by the unfamiliar communication style. They talk amongst themselves, wondering how they are going to work with these young people.

Instead, Gen X and Baby Boomer managers should be looking at this from a different angle. They shouldn’t be asking why Gen Y is so different, they should be asking, “Where was I all these years,” and “How did I miss such a major transformation in the world?”

The technological developments Gen Y uses are actually not that new. They started to affect our lives about 15 years ago, and they are becoming part of our world more and more each day. However, Gen X and the Baby Boomers are often way behind the curve on their use.

The older generations fell behind like this because they neglected their leadership responsibilities. Leaders need to understand what is going on around them, and they need to be comfortable working with change. Since communication is a key responsibility for all managers, being up on the latest communications trends is vital to their success. Unfortunately, for years the older generations haven’t been paying attention, and now they don’t even recognize the tools and styles the younger generation is bringing to work with them.

Some managers argue that their familiarity with technology is just one of many things they should be judged on. In fact, some claim it is one of the least important. They say, “I am responsible for leading a big team and turning in big results for my company. Keeping on top of tech trends is something I can delegate to my people.”

However, it’s not just something you can pass off to your underlings. These developments in internet communication technologies are changing the world. Even if they aren’t changing your world yet, they are changing the world around you, and the new world will inevitably overtake yours.
There is only one way to get back on top of this trend: start being a hands-on user of these tools. If you use them, you will understand them better. And if you understand the tools better, you will understand your Gen Y employees better.

It’s all about hands-on practice. You can read about these technologies for the rest of your life, or you can spend the next 20 years wasting your time in training sessions, but you will never understand these tools, or the people who use them, until you use them yourself.

Do not think of this as a fun diversion, or an idle game you can play with the kids in your office. It is vital for your career. If you still want to be at the top of your game 10 years from now, you need to learn these tools today. Imagine how powerful a leader you would be if you could take the tools your Gen Y employees thought they were masters at, and use them to leverage the networks and experience you have, but your employees don’t. You’d be the most influential leader at your company. That would be so much better for your career than standing around wondering why young people are strange.

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