We had an interesting discussion here at Inc. after reading the response to Mike's blog entry. There's a lot of talk about the tensions between older and younger workers today. Supposedly, Gen Yers (like me) won't work late, live with their parents, and were all raised to think they could be president.
Writing stories about generational issues is always rather mushy. "Generation Y" can refer to anyone born between 1977 and 1995. A recent Fortune cover story described a Gen Y employee as a combination Ferris Bueller, Carlton Banks, and Ryan Seacrest. But those three cultural references appeal to three totally different groups of people -- Ferris Bueller's Day Off came out in 1986, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was popular in the 1990s, and Ryan Seacrest is a star today, in 2007. Matthew Broderick, who played Ferris Bueller, is now 45, and while I loved the Producers, I can't say that he's a Gen Y hero. And by the way, no true Gen Yer would ever aspire to be Carlton Banks.
I have to admit, I like getting out of the office by six p.m., I did indeed grow up thinking I would be president, and if my parents lived someplace cool, I would probably be perfectly happy to move back in. But I hope that my Gen-X and baby boomer colleagues don't see me as a member of some freakishly strange species. Like other humans before me, I grumble about Monday mornings, make small talk around the office coffee maker, and get a little more cheerful when pay day rolls around. Yes, I know how to use AOL Instant Messenger, but I have no odd piercings or tattoos. I promise.
What do you think? Does the generational divide in the workplace really exist? Is there a cultural gap between business owners and their 20-something workers?