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Social Researcher – Hugh Mackay. Listen To Gen Y Findings

Want to Discover More About Your Gen Y Team Members?

Social researcher and author Hugh Mackay shares the Australian Findings of  ‘What it is like to be a young Australian in today’s world?’ Hugh Can’t Wait to See How Gen Y Shape Our World. A lot of these findings is true not only for Australian Gen Y.

Read Article Gen Y – What did we expect? by Hugh MacKay (1400 words) Fairfax Media as the first publisher.

Listen to Hugh’s You Tube Video What is it like to be a young Australian in today’s world? (9.04 mins)

What did we expect? by Hugh MacKay.
Fairfax Media as the first publisher.

Flighty, promiscuous, self-centred, impatient, disloyal … you probably know who this is about. Add a few more epithets – vulgar, violent, techno-crazy, media addicted, incapable of commitment – and there’s no doubt. For at least three thousand years, the rising generation of young adults in a society has been a favourite target for criticism by their elders, but the level of abuse heaped on so-called ‘Generation Y’ has set new records for the intensity of inter-generational hostility.

Flighty, promiscuous, self-centred, impatient and disloyal. Start off 2016 by understanding Generation Y

Flighty, promiscuous, self-centred, impatient and disloyal. Start off 2016 by understanding Gen Y

Some things never change: older people still envy the fact that young people are bursting with potential, seem able to take social change in their stride, and – their worst offence – appear unimpressed by the conventions and mores of their parents’ generation.

This time, the picture is a little more complex, and a little darker, because the world we’ve bequeathed to the young is itself a little darker and more complex than the one we inherited. But no generation is a mystery when you examine its formative context.

If we want to understand Gen Y – those now aged between late-teens and early-thirties – we only have to look at the kind of society they’ve been born into and the example they’ve been given by the rest of us. When we do that, we might be driven to the conclusion that, given the way we’ve raised them, today’s young adults are turning out just as you’d expect.

Social researcher Hugh MacKay and author. Photo: Robert Peet, Fairfax Media

Social researcher and author Hugh MacKay. Photo: Robert Peet, Fairfax Media

For a start, the members of this generation are the offspring of the most divorced generation in our history. More of them have grown up in single parent families. More of them have had to deal with the trauma of their parents’ separation – and complex parenting arrangements, often involving a part-time father – than any previous generation of kids.

Does this generation seem more tribal than their predecessors? If so, part of the explanation lies in their attempt to create surrogate extended families to compensate for the instability or dysfunctionality of their birth families. And their enthusiastic embrace of all the paraphernalia of the IT revolution is largely attributable to their desire to stay in constant touch with the other members of their chosen tribes.

Their powerful tribalism is a lesson to the rest of us. It’s as if they have an intuitive sense that the most precious resource any of us have for coping with life in an uncertain, unstable world is not education, or technology, or a good job, or a mortgage, but each other.

What about the charge that they’re more assertive, more outspoken, more prepared to speak up for themselves and their rights than previous generations at this age? Well, isn’t this generation the offspring of a generation of parents who, having fallen for the blandishments of the ‘self-esteem’ movement, pumped their children up to an extent that is both unhealthy and unrealistic, blurring the important distinction between self-esteem and self-respect?

Isn’t this the generation that wasn’t allowed to fail; the generation praised to the skies by parents and teachers who were so convinced that rewards were the great encourager, they ignored the research that suggests rewards can too easily become an end in themselves?

Isn’t this the generation that has grown up in an education system that encouraged unbridled self-expression and the idea that everyone’s opinion has equal value? How did we expect that to turn out?

This is a generation that’s been confronted with increasingly complex moral issues – relationships, sex, drugs, the ‘war on terror’, asylum-seekers, climate change, the expanding frontiers of biotechnology – long before they were old enough to have developed a reliable moral compass of their own.

Too much binge drinking? Too much alcohol-related violence? Having saddled this generation with the most liberal drinking laws in our history, what did we expect? We’ve inducted them into a society awash with illicit drugs, and expected them to respond with a maturity beyond their years. Acting as if we think US-style Prohibition was a good idea, we’ve waged an ill-conceived ‘war on drugs’ with absolutely predictable consequences: high rates of drug abuse, a thrilling sense of illegality attached to drug use, and a powerful criminal class spawned by the drug trade.

Too much debt? This is the first generation of young Australians who’ve grown up with the knowledge that if they go to university, they’ll enter the workforce already in debt. And where did they get the idea that credit isn’t really debt? They didn’t make it up: we taught them by example.

If you grow up in a society where the rate of change – social, economic, technological – is faster than ever before and keeps on accelerating, how should you respond? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep your options open –whether you’re talking about a course of study, a job, a sexual partner, a fashion label, a set of religious beliefs or a musical genre? That’s precisely what this generation has done.

Growing up in a cultural kaleidoscope, it’s no wonder most members of this generation have adopted ‘What else is there?’ as their favourite question. And, since keeping their options open is an article of faith, why would we expect them to rush into marriage, parenthood or a mortgage?

And why wouldn’t it seem sensible to change jobs from time to time, for the same reason? Likewise, travel, living arrangements and political allegiances. ‘Don’t get too committed’ seems like a reasonable response to the way the world is shaping up.

When the global financial crisis threatened us with recession, many older people were rubbing their hands together in gleeful anticipation of what this might do to the young: this will straighten them out; they need a good shock. How ironic that anyone should have expected Gen Y to stumble and suffer in the face of economic or any other kind of uncertainty when they, more than any other generation before them, have been bred to cope with uncertainty, to expect change, to be adaptable, and to accept that nothing will last for long. Yes, their impatience to achieve, to progress, can be frustrating for employers used to the expectations – and acquiescence – of previous cohorts of entrants to the job market. But that’s a challenge for the employers rather than Gen Y: can we offer them the kind of stimulation they are demanding?

If not, many of them will continue to do what they’re already doing: launching their own businesses. This generation might be criticised for its conservative values (“Why aren’t they marching in the streets like we were?”), but its lively entrepreneurial spirit might give us all a fright.

Of course, many members of this generation have struggled with the challenges we’ve thrown at them. Not all of them thrive on uncertainty. They have a higher incidence of depression than any previous generation of young Australians, and, tragically, they suffered record levels of youth suicide.

Those who survive learn to be tough. Highly educated, media savvy, flexible, adaptable and group-anchored … on balance, this looks like a generation better equipped than most to cope with the wild ride ahead.

The obsession with generational labels began with the Baby Boomers, born in the 15 years after World War II. The Boomers cut a swathe through Western society, quickly establishing their credentials as iconoclasts and social pioneers. Their sheer numbers gave them a loud voice and a huge footprint.

Their generational ethos was shaped by the contradictory pressures of the Cold War and the post-war economic miracle, which is why they adopted instant gratification as their mantra: ‘We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time’. (The label ‘Me Generation’ was actually invented for them; in a neat switch, they are now pinning it on the young.)

The generation that followed – the product of a fast-falling birthrate – was more relaxed, less revolutionary, less scared of the Bomb, more interested in ‘lifestyle’. Content to cruise in the Boomers’ slipstream, they were the product of the cultural and economic influences of the 1970s and ’80s. US social analyst Douglas Coupland, trying to explain the culture-gap between

them and the Boomers, decided there was a mystery ingredient, X, he couldn’t identify. Hence, Generation X.

Along came the next generation and, in a brilliant leap of the imagination, someone said, ‘The last one was X so this must be Y’, thus creating an opening for some of their most exasperated critics to dub them ‘Generation


All Hugh’s recent books are available online as e-books, through Hugh Mackay’s Amazon Page.

The Art of Belonging advances the argument put forward in Mackay’s bestselling The Good Life: a ‘good life’ is not lived in isolation or in the pursuit of independent goals; a good life is lived at the heart of a thriving community, among people we trust, and within an environment …



Why Don’t People Listen?
sold 40,000 copies and became a classic on the art of successful communication. This ebook-only edition has been fully revised and updated to include a summary of the benefits and pitfalls of multi-media communication. Hugh Mackay shows us a simple yet revolutionary way to improve the quality of our relationships.

The Good Life
“You hear that insistent message, echoing through the philosophical traditions of East and West: treat other people the way you’d like to …

About the author

Lisa Mangelsdorf

I confess that I work to live rather than live to work. But when I can combine my passions into my work, I work best. This blog brings together discussions about one of my passions which is connecting people. I endeavour to fight the norm by chasing flexible working options and change seekers, hence my involvement with this blog. I'm fortunate to be connected with a global team at GAIA Insights. Retaining Gen Y within the workforce is an issue for most businesses across the globe. For help contact us because we know EXACTLY what they want from the workplace and we can help your business retain that key talent.

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