Generation ‘why-not’

Those of us in the workforce who are over the age of 30 have one thing in common: we have nothing in common with those under 30.

Those elements that are true in this sweeping generalization (crafted solely to offer a punchy lead) are a pity: we “old folks” should have more in common with the “younger ones”.

These savvy young people are very aware that 92 per cent of us old folks (by one study) do not like our jobs. And yet we continue to punch the clock because we are addicted to the money they pay.

They see older workers change careers with alarming frequency as we are downsized and burned out and, each time, it batters our self-esteem.

So, what gives us the right to complain about how uncommitted the younger ones are? It seems to me that this so-called Generation Y has the right idea.

Still speaking generally, because there are exceptions everywhere, younger people need to be sold on the jobs they are about to take because they don’t want to be trapped in a job they hate.

And they are not afraid to tell their employers that their social life is their No. 1 priority. When 5 p.m. comes around, they are gone, so procedures must be in place to ensure projects don’t drag past that hour.

Is that not the way it is supposed to be?

My generation was pretty excited by the idea of computers and the four-day workweek they would bring. But the generation before us, still in power, beat us over the head with computers and insisted we get more and more done.

So, we stayed at our jobs into the night and on weekends and we allowed our employers to pile on more and more pressure as we died from stress-related illnesses, alienated our children and watched our marriages crumble.

As a result of all that sacrifice, the shareholders in our companies earned an extra 25 cents.

The idea behind the theme of this issue of How’s Business Yukon – Excellent Youth – was borne in an e-mail from a reader who was so impressed by a young person named Ammanda Partridge. She just bought KB’s Esthetics and has renamed it Elements Esthetics.

Hearing about how Ammanda works so hard and so long each week, I thought, “Yes, I know lots of young people who break the mould of Gen-Y … this could be our next theme.”

Word went out to my writers to go forth and find those exceptions to the rule and to find out how business can relate to this weird new generation.

Surprise, surprise. Ammanda is not an exception to the rule … instead, she embodies what is unique and wonderful about those under 30.

Yes, she works hard, but she works hard at a job that she loves. Yes, she is full of untested ideas, but those ideas are grounded in careful training and keen observation of other operations.

The stories came in and I learned from Shari Morash, of Business Philosophy, that young people breathe fresh air into a business. As the owner of Northern Elegance, she sees high school students come in at 3:30 with energy that renews those who started much sooner in the day.

And she suggests that “Generation Y” be called, instead, “Generation Why-Not” for their unencumbered perspective.

Rick Massie, writer of Trippin’ On Tourism, agreed, saying, “The new generation of future tourism champions are arriving with fresh ideas, endless energy and a level of enthusiasm that can both inspire greatness and leave smiles on the faces of even the most unenthusiastic of visitors.”

He goes on to say that young people should not be penalized for lack of experience as employers should be wary of the same-old, same-old of those who may be set in their ways already.

However, Tom Rudge cautions us in his Real Food column that young people may be a lost resource to those industries that do not engage them. The food industry, for example, pays very little for hard, hard work.

Young people do not want to be unappreciated cogs in wheels.

So, it is with great humility that I present this month’s How’s Business Yukon. I thought it would help teach business how to work with young people but, instead, it is all about what we can learn from them.

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