When Gen Y Just Doesn't Fit In

Sometimes younger workers won't be able to change the system.

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Andrew G.R.
What do government agencies, nonprofits, and unionized entities have in common?

Dinosaurs. (And I mean that affectionately.)

While many career blogs and job-related social networks would have you believe otherwise, there are still many baby boomers in our workforce. Don't let their weaker eyesight and slower response times fool you--these folks are not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Many of them are still damn good at what they do.

Jobacle recently received the following E-mail:

My organization recently hired a worker fresh out of college. While she performs competent work, her attitude and demeanor have rubbed the majority of staff the wrong way. How do I address the issue? --Don

This isn't the first time I've heard the issue raised. There is a certain swagger Generation Y brings along. In many industries, such as media-driven fields, this know-everything, do-anything confidence helps foster career advancement. However, there are plenty of other industries and companies where these "positive" attributes are not embraced. In fact, they hinder the Gen Y employee from moving ahead within the organization.

If you’re a member of Gen Y, your initial reaction is probably, "I wouldn't want to work at a place like that anyway." And that might be true. But the harsh reality of a difficult economy is that you might not have any other options.

Understanding your work environment and your office's culture is an important success asset--one I have seen missing in many Gen Y-ers. They can demand a new title, push for a bigger raise, and attempt to impress everybody with their depth of knowledge--but if you come across as a cocky know-it-all, you will not gain the respect and support you need to climb the ladder of success.

Since managers are partially judged by the employees they hire and develop, bringing a member of Gen Y on staff is a risk that I've seen backfire.

Ambition, creativity and self-reliance are all attributes we are trained to believe employers desire. Yet there is usually an unspoken limit to how much of each they truly want.

Millennials usually seek out feedback and assert greater (sometimes unearned) responsibility than former generations. While no one can get angry at the former, it's the latter that get most people I know worked up in a lather.

Don is up against it with his question. How do you reprimand a person for who they are, how they were raised, or for the generation they were born into? You can't. But what we can do is teach all generations the importance of understanding work culture, and how people of all ages must do their best to become part of the fabric. If you're good at what you do, you'll have plenty of opportunities to impress people along the way. Raging against the machine --in many industries--is not the right way to do it.

(Related reading: 12 tips on managing the Facebook generation.)

After holding down various media jobs, including stops at MTV Networks and Fox News, Andrew G.R. was completely discouraged—not only about his own career, but also about the lack of job resources that truly spoke to him. Enter Jobacle, the employment blog and podcast designed to Make Work Better.