There’s something about going out on the town that every Gen-Yer loves. Most of your new Gen-Y hires have just come into the workforce from college, where you can party 24/7. If they have moved to a new city, there is the added element of building a social network. Face it, life can be pretty lonely for a twenty-something on their own in a new place.
So when your office announces that there is a happy hour this Friday to celebrate (fill in the blank), your Gen-Yers get really excited. And they should…with the traditional golf games and steam rooms being taken over by happy hours and white water rafting, these outings are the new means for building rapport on a personal level.
But happy hour is also something Gen-Yers do best, and perhaps the rest of the office may be taken aback by behavior. See, there isn’t that hard-fast line between the professional and personal life.
With Facebook and MySpace allowing everyone to find out everything about a person, many young people would consider life and work to have blurred boundaries. "Anna’s 22nd Birthday!" picture albums are the norm, and they don’t include just pictures of Anna blowing out the candles. There’s lots of hugs and smiles, and almost always a glass in hand.
Add to those the photos from Halloween, Homecoming, Blowout, and You-Name-It parties from college, amazing memories for your Gen-Yers, the content could be considered shocking. Sure, you may have burned your bra in the past, but you grew out of it. Shouldn’t these kids catch up to the times?
They have. Gen-Yers have grown up with more danger in their lives than most of their older colleagues. It’s normal to see young women with rape whistles and mace on their key chains, to have young people tested for HIV on a regular basis, to have a Gen-Yer professional be the victim of identity theft. Not to mention 9-11, Iraq, and Virginia Tech.
All of these things happened in your lifetime too, but you might have had the luxury of a bubble growing up. Most of the Gen-Yers haven’t.
So they work hard to party hard.
And yes, they will grow out of it. Usually it only takes a few months for Gen-Yers to figure out that bars are more expensive than dorm parties. But what will happen is that the social aspect that many of these young people desire has to be met in the workplace. Why not? We spend most of our waking hours working. Thanks to technology, we can be responsive to the office any time, day or night.
Gen-Yers shouldn’t be punished for social networking. Some may stick to the idea that their Facebook profile is considered private, but often it’s really more of a matter of private from certain people. Most Gen-Yers are connected with peers, but perhaps not with bosses. Again, it is a fear of being punished and disrespected.
But that is who they really are. And at the end of the day, that should be what matters. Because understanding who your Gen-Yer really is means that there is a chance you might actually engage him for the future good of your company.
Let them have a few too many cocktails they’re first few times out with the office, be sure they get home safely, and really only start worrying when they show up continually hung over. Because that is a performance issue. Celebrating for the good of the office isn’t.
And remember, you’ve been there before. Like it or not. It’s all about thinking on the bright side of life.