Today, an article on wait but why came to “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” came to my attention and as things tend to go, a lot of the gross generalizations that it makes about Generation Y are inaccurate, condescending, and well, just not funny which is what I think the author was originally going for. I’ll allow the internet to address the question as to if Generation Y is quantifiable unhappier than other generations, although thus far there isn’t much evidence for that, and keep the more interesting points to be addressed here.
Happiness = Reality – Expectations
This equation summarizes the first major point that the article was trying to made; however, consider the following diagram:
Here I’ve loosely organized the Generation Y by expected current life milestone, birth year, age, and I’ve highlighted those affected by the Great Recession on the left. The years that are highlighted in blue are those generally accepted to be part of Generation Y and the ages highlighted in green also correspond to those that are in the workforce, regardless of if they went to college or not. You will note that effectively all of Generation Y in the workforce has been affected by the Great Recession and likely are still being impacted by it.
Now, one of the career milestones that I’ve always heard of is that even if you start out at a junior level position, you can usually expect to get your first promotion between three and five years. This is quite variable based upon the company, career field, and so forth, but the concept of “Up or out” is nothing new and I find it quite surprising that people are saying that employees that are approaching the beginning of their mid-career are acting “entitled” when they bring up promotions. The fact of the matter is that children do listen to their parents and many of the expectations that Generation Y bring to the workforce are reflections of what they heard from their parents when they were growing up.
So needless to say that there are expectations in place, but in many ways they are being tempered by the fact that the expectations are based upon those that have come before. If someone grows up hearing that that you go to college, get a job, and get your first promotion a couple years latter, then that expectation will be used to take stock of your current life circumstances. Don’t forget that the article was also targeted at Yuppies who might even have been given information by companies during their on-boarding that discussed career milestones and set some of these targets for them from day one.
This brings us to the whole idea that Generation Y is delusional and everyone thinks they are special, eh, no more than anyone else. If anything, Generation Y may be more pragmatic about it considering that the 2012 “You Are Not Special” commencement speech at Wellesley High School was a huge hit while an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Vladimir Putin was met with shock due to him insinuating the same thing. So really, what more can I say then that?