Leave It As You Found It: Gen Y Won’t Remake Corporate America
Finally, I thought as I read the Harvard Business Review piece claiming that Gen Y was no more likely to change the face and nature of the American workplace than any generation that had come before it and had been predicted to do likewise. Finally, someone admitting that the more things change and the more we talk about them changing, the more they stay elementally the same, especially in corporate America. As Andrew McAfee states:
…we still have org charts that mean something, jobs with narrowly defined responsibilities, promotions, bosses and subordinates, and most of the other longstanding trappings of organizational life. We also still have office politics and intrigue, careerism, coalitions and rivalries, informal structures and processes, and all the other elements of a dense and hierarchical social system.
The whole plus ça change idea has been (and will continue to be) the underlying thesis of my writing on all things youth-related. The kids are alright. A little strange, a little anxious, filled with hormones and braggadocio and stressed to the hilt about an economy that holds little promise for them, but possessed of the same bedrock desires and doubts that have defined the American psyche throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. Hell, desires and doubts that have been hardwired into us since we long ago heaved ourselves up onto two legs (Am I good enough? Am I going to be okay? Will I find someone to love me? etc., etc.). Context (historical, technological, social) changes, human nature does not.
There comes a point where the binding ties of shared age slacken. Every era’s enfants terribles eventually grow up. We find other characteristics with which to align and define our identity. Our politics, jobs, sexual orientation, family status and so on eventually take precedence over the decade in which we spent our formative years. We stop tilting at windmills, stop raging against the system and accept that we’ll simply have to do the best we can within its strictures (a realization our Boomer parents eventually came to). In our case, maybe our hacks will be a little more sophisticated and extensive than in the past (we aren’t gamers and ostensible techno savants for nothin’, are we?) and maybe our critical population mass will be leverage for winning a few more concessions. But reinventing the wheel seems unlikely in light of the failure of every touted game-changing generation before us to pull off such a feat. Perhaps the media narrative around Gen Y is catching on to this? Maybe the HBR piece is a sign that the bloom is fading from the Millennial rose and that the attention will begin shift to greener (younger?) pastures.
Now, that Gen Z. Those kids have potential…
P.S. Thanks for reading, commenting and telling me bullet point by bullet point just how off base I am over the last 11 months. I’ll see you around and maybe you’ll even see me.
P.P.S. I was this close to quoting from Hey Hey, My My. You’re welcome for my uncharacteristic display of restraint.