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How to Engage (and Keep) Your Young Workers - Part 1: Understanding

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Elizabeth_Agnew

Many of the claims about Generation Y, the Millennials, are true. I can say that because I am one. What is NOT true are the assumptions and reasoning behind the claims. These claims are made with envy and resentment, in effect an expression by older generations of the mournful loss of an old paradigm that is being exposed and expelled from the workplace by the Millennials.

This quote from Margaret Wheatley reflects the new paradigm that Millennials are demanding from the workplace. "As we let go of the machine model of organizations, and workers as replaceable cogs in the machinery of production, we begin to see ourselves in much richer dimensions, to appreciate our wholeness, and, hopefully, to design organizations that honor and make use of the great gift of who we humans are."

You can engage (and thus keep) your young workers by considering, and then living into, a new way of viewing the workplace.

Claim: Boomers are going have to start focusing more on coaching rather than bossing. True.

Bossing has never really worked in most work environments (save for war zones and emergency response situations), and now we, as a society, are waking up to that fact. Once adults have grown up and learned to become the authority of their own lives, they don’t want to be told what to do. This has always been true. It simply doesn’t work well to work that way. Coaching is a process that allows a manager to extract the passions and opinions from someone in order to plug them into the job description. Gen Y is demanding to be plugged in to their passion.

Claim: Millennials are lazy. False.

They’re willing to work very hard at something that is close to their hearts. They find what they love and pour themselves into it. What is true is that they’re not willing to work for something that means nothing to them.

Claim: The workplace has become a psychological battlefield and the Millennials have the upper hand. True about the battlefield, false about the upper hand.

In fact, the workplace always been a psychological “battlefield”. The Millennials might seem to have the upper hand because they are willing to acknowledge this. They want to make it explicit because they want to live fully at work.

Claim: Millennials see boomers as old, redundant, untrustworthy and incoherent. False.

Young people want mentors – wise advisors who will take them under their wing and share their wisdom. This misconception arises because the respect of Millenials is earned and not automatic; finding mentors who will honor and respect them allows them to reciprocate that honor and respect.

Claim: You now have a generation coming into the workplace that has grown up with the expectation that they will automatically win. True.

And you will win too. Gen Y believes in playing a win/win game. They are able to see a world in which nobody loses. The world is ready for this. It makes sense that older generations are frustrated by Millennials. They’re changing things. What is happening at work – the thing causing this cultural clash between the generations – is that young people are demanding that individuals be honored, demanding that all people are heard, and demanding that we all play a win/win game.

Liz Agnew established Integrative Leadership Strategies, LLC in 2006 to leverage her engineering background and passion for helping teams develop their leadership skills and communicate better. She felt a yearning to address the growing trend of organizations in technical fields needing tailored leadership development that spoke their language. 

Liz has logged hundreds of hours working with individuals and teams from companies such as Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Genentech, HP, SETI, Lockheed Martin, Google, VNUS and Sun Microsystems. She has extensive experience in adult education, team facilitation, and public speaking. 


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