Economic Downturn: Who’s walking and who’s wounded…early views

Economic Downturn: Who’s walking and who’s wounded…early views

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It maybe too early to ‘post mortem’ the spate of job losses over the past few months, especially since it is not clear whether we’ve ‘hit bottom’ but it is possible to discern some general trends. Chief among these is the perception that ‘Generation Y’ (generally considered to be those born in the 1980’s and 1990’s) is going to have a tougher time than most.

A recent survey, conducted by the Young Emerging Professionals Initiative (YEP) of Spectrum Knowledge and the University of California Fullerton, showed that the Boomer and X generations have some very negative perceptions about the performance of Y’s in the workplace. These include:


    • Members of Generation Y are looking for instant gratification and therefore struggle to stick with projects over the long term.


    • Members of Generation Y feel entitled to job benefits that they have not yet earned.


  • Members of Generation Y are unwilling to ‘pay their dues’ in the workplace
    (The full text of the ‘Gen Y Perceptions Study’ can be downloaded here)


It should be stressed that these points are perceptions and that most Generation Y workers would probably disagree. However, perceptions can create realities and we are starting to see something that is looking suspiciously like revenge!

Several Australian newspapers are reporting that Y’s are being targeted for redundancy ahead of their Boomer and X’er counterparts. It is difficult to determine, beyond anecdotal evidence, whether this is really the case but it does raise interesting issues about how perceptions can actually have ‘real life’ consequences in the workplace. It is clear that at least some managers are thinking about using the current uncertainty to have a go at Generation Y’s perceived lack of commitment and loyalty. This is clearly borne out in the some of the articles discussing the issue. Business Day minces no words with its headline “Less Loyal gen Ys in firing line!” An interviewee in The Australian weighs in with: “…an employer isn’t going to make a commitment to you in tough times if you weren’t prepared to make a commitment to the employer in good times.”

The trend (if it is indeed what it is) towards the reaffirmation of ‘traditional’ business values could have interesting implications in the field of change management. This also raises questions regarding recruitment practices, and workforce planning. It is perhaps up to every manager to decide whether this is a good thing, but it seems that the move towards the much heralded ‘Brave New World of Business’ supposedly spearheaded by Generation Y is not going to happen without at least some resistance.


Perhaps that new office design with the beanbags and foosball table should go on hold…at least for this quarter!

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