Gen-Y and “Why?” – The Pressing Question

A recent article from Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, asks “Why?” of the management generation … And the question isn’t just raised from an executive or managerial level. Managers today are perplexed because their young workers are asking them “Why?” And on the younger side of things, the question is “Why does it bother you?” What is an older generation of managers to do?

Generational difference play a large role in the way that even small, three-letter words are understood. It means something totally different to the younger generation in the workforce. How can the elder generation grasp this? When the elders were younger, they were taught to never question their elders and the younger generation was not brought up in this manner at all. To the elders, “Why?” challenges their authority, and characterizes being haughty and generally unruly. On the other side of that coin, Generation Y employees see asking “Why?” as a way to learn more. They were taught to seek the educational value in everything, that what they do will contribute to the big picture of life.

There are two noteworthy reasons why Generation Y employees ask the daunting question:

Reason #1: Big Picture “Why?” – Generation Y workers want to know how they, as well as their work, fit into the whole. They want to know how the tasks they do affect the department, organization, field or world as a whole.

Top managers have learned to expect this question, and are successful with motivation and engaging their employees because they can help them see how they fit into the big picture. These managers can easily assign tasks and parallel that with the overall success of the organization, fulfilling the quest of “why” the work is important.

Reason #2: Significance “Why?” – Employees from Generation Y are typically more enthusiastic to do something when they know the reason behind why they need to do it. Their parents taught them that rules and instructions are important and good, but only if they make sense and fit the situation.

Learning the why allows individuals additional, continual, life-long learning. Gen-Y was trained to seek this in everything they do. Although the question at hand may make managers delve deeper into the work, it will shine light on the reason and significance of what each employee does. As a manager, it will let you see where policies and procedures don’t make much sense, thus a circle of continual learning for everyone.

Discussing dress code policies clarifies any questions as to why the code is implemented, and that’s simple enough. More difficult policies can be more difficult to explain – and when they are, question them! Creating change through query is never a bad thing, sometimes change is the key to motivating and engaging employees. Questioning the norm may present an opportunity to look beyond what your might normally see.

Subordinates questioning you may be difficult at first. Embracing this as a generational difference and allowing it to broaden your mind can benefit the organization as a whole. There are many positive aspects to being open to more possibilities. Answering the question “Why?” will let your employees know that what they are doing is meaningful and relevant to the organization’s overall success.

With this knowledge in hand, maybe we can reduce our annoyance at that little three-letter word. It’s not there to usurp your authority. It’s not there to make your life miserable. “Why?” is being thrown at you because you have curious, inquisitive and intelligent young workers who want to learn and grow through their work with you.

For more insight on how to deal with employees that ask, “Why?”, click here for the full article.



Post a comment