Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

Lucy is part of Generation Y, the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s.  She’s also part of a yuppie culture that makes up a large portion of Gen Y.
I have a term for yuppies in the Gen Y age group—I call them Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs.  A Gypsy is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.Before we talk more about Lucy, let’s quickly figure out if you, the reader, are a Gen Y Protagonist & Special Yuppie.  The Gen Y part is easy—you have to have been born sometime between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s (there are various opinions on the exact range of time, but this is the most common).  As for the Protagonist & Special Yuppie part, let’s lay out some guidelines.  You’re probably a Gypsy if:
– you went to sleep-away summer camp during your youth.
– you’ve won a number of meaningless awards.
– you studied abroad during college.
– you, after graduating college, considered (or will consider) big, famous cities like New York, San Francisco, LA, or DC, or small, fancy cities like Boulder or Santa Barbara as the only acceptable places to move (i.e. you feel like too special of a person to move to somewhere like Cleveland).
– you have disdain for a restaurant like The Olive Garden or Red Lobster.
– you need to have an iPhone and wouldn’t consider an Android phone.
– foodie is a word you’ve ever called yourself or anyone else.
– you’ve been to a therapist without any severe mental illness.
– you have started your own business or have plans to do so.
– you regularly talk or think about your passions.
– you’ve ever had a blog.  Shit.
Now that you know where you fit into all this, let’s get back to Lucy.  Lucy’s enjoying her Gypsy life, and she’s very pleased to be Lucy.  Only issue is this one thing:
Lucy’s kind of unhappy.
To get to the bottom of why, we need to define what makes someone happy or unhappy in the first place.  It comes down to a simple formula:

Happiness = RealityExpectations

It’s pretty straightforward—when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy.  When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy.
 Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy
To provide some context, let’s start by bringing Lucy’s parents into the discussion:
Lucy’s parents were born in the 50s—they’re Baby Boomers.  They were raised by Lucy’s grandparents, members of the G.I. Generation, or “the Greatest Generation,” who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and were most definitely not Gypsies.
Lucy’s Depression Era grandparents were obsessed with economic security and raised her parents to build practical, secure careers.  They wanted her parents’ careers to have greener grass than their own, and Lucy’s parents were brought up to envision a prosperous and stable career for themselves.  Something like this:
Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy
Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

They were taught that there was nothing stopping them from getting to that lush, green lawn of a career, but that they’d need to put in years of hard work to make it happen.

After graduating from being insufferable hippies, Lucy’s parents embarked on their careers.  As the 70s, 80s, and 90s rolled along, the world entered a time of unprecedented economic prosperity.  Lucy’s parents did even better than they expected to.  This left them feeling gratified and optimistic.
With a smoother, more positive life experience than that of their own parents, Lucy’s parents raised Lucy with a sense of optimism and unbounded possibility.  And they weren’t alone.  Baby Boomers all around the country and world told their Gen Y kids that they could be whatever they wanted to be, instilling the special protagonist identity deep within their psyches.
success vs expectations
This left Gypsies feeling tremendously hopeful about their careers, to the point where their parents’ goals of a green lawn of secure prosperity didn’t really do it for them.  A Gypsy-worthy lawn has flowers.
This leads to our first fact about Gypsies:
Gypsies Are Wildly Ambitious
The Gypsy needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security.  The fact is, a green lawn isn’t quite exceptional or unique enough for a Gypsy.  Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, Gypsies want to live Their Own Personal Dream.
Cal Newport points out that “follow your passion” is a catchphrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years, according to Google’s Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how prominently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time.  The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase “a secure career” has gone out of style, just as the phrase “a fulfilling career” has gotten hot.
To be clear, Gypsies want economic prosperity just like their parents did—they just also want to be fulfilled by their career in a way their parents didn’t think about as much.
But something else is happening too.  While the career goals of Gen Y as a whole have become much more particular and ambitious, Lucy has been given a second message throughout her childhood as well:

You’re special

This would probably be a good time to bring in our second fact about Gypsies:
Gypsies Are Delusional
“Sure,” Lucy has been taught, “everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling career, but I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.”  So on top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual Gypsy thinks that he or she is destined for something even better—
A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn.  

So why is this delusional?  Because this is what all Gypsies think, which defies the definition of special:

spe-cial | ‘speSHel |
better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.

According to this definition, most people are not special—otherwise “special” wouldn’t mean anything.

Even right now, the Gypsies reading this are thinking, “Good point…but I actually am one of the few special ones”—and this is the problem.
A second Gypsy delusion comes into play once the Gypsy enters the job market.  While Lucy’s parents’ expectation was that many years of hard work would eventually lead to a great career, Lucy considers a great career an obvious given for someone as exceptional as she, and for her it’s just a matter of time and choosing which way to go.  Her pre-workforce expectations look something like this:
Unfortunately, the funny thing about the world is that it turns out to not be that easy of a place, and the weird thing about careers is that they’re actually quite hard.  Great careers take years of blood, sweat and tears to build—even the ones with no flowers or unicorns on them—and even the most successful people are rarely doing anything that great in their early or mid-20s.
But Gypsies aren’t about to just accept that.
Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor and Gypsy expert, has researched this, finding that Gen Y has “unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback,” and “an inflated view of oneself.”  He says that “a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.”
For those hiring members of Gen Y, Harvey suggests asking the interview question, “Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?”  He says that “if the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the ‘why,’ there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They’ve been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief.”
And since the real world has the nerve to consider merit a factor, a few years out of college Lucy finds herself here:
Lucy’s extreme ambition, coupled with the arrogance that comes along with being a bit deluded about one’s own self-worth, has left her with huge expectations for even the early years out of college.  And her reality pales in comparison to those expectations, leaving her “reality – expectations” happy score coming out at a negative.
And it gets even worse.  On top of all this, Gypsies have an extra problem that applies to their whole generation:
Gypsies Are Taunted
Sure, some people from Lucy’s parents’ high school or college classes ended up more successful than her parents did.  And while they may have heard about some of it from time to time through the grapevine, for the most part they didn’t really know what was going on in too many other peoples’ careers.
Lucy, on the other hand, finds herself constantly taunted by a modern phenomenon: Facebook Image Crafting.
Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation.  This leaves Lucy feeling, incorrectly, like everyone else is doing really well, only adding to her misery:
So that’s why Lucy is unhappy, or at the least, feeling a bit frustrated and inadequate.  In fact, she’s probably started off her career perfectly well, but to her, it feels very disappointing.
Here’s my advice for Lucy:
1) Stay wildly ambitious.  The current world is bubbling with opportunity for an ambitious person to find flowery, fulfilling success.  The specific direction may be unclear, but it’ll work itself out—just dive in somewhere.
2) Stop thinking that you’re special.  The fact is, right now, you’re not special.  You’re another completely inexperienced young person who doesn’t have all that much to offer yet.  You can become special by working really hard for a long time.
3) Ignore everyone else. Other people’s grass seeming greener is no new concept, but in today’s image crafting world, other people’s grass looks like a glorious meadow. The truth is that everyone else is just as indecisive, self-doubting, and frustrated as you are, and if you just do your thing, you’ll never have any reason to envy others.

Making awesome people happy at work (and stopping them from quitting)


It’s fairly common knowledge that happy employees are simply better at their jobs. No matter the industry, hours, or education required, individuals perform better when their spirits are high. They are more engaged, more motivated, more likely to be pleasant to one another and any customers they encounter, and are thinking more creatively to solve problems and improve company operations.

This makes perfect sense, and the opposite is equally true. Employees who are miserable, angry, depressed, or just generally unhappy do not perform to the best of their abilities. They are disengaged and easily distracted, they cut corners and deflect responsibility, and simply don’t care about the quality of work they produce.i love my job

And yet a great deal of businesses just don’t do it. They think that extra investment in perks, or making their employees happier won’t get them anything other than in the red.

They’re wrong. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Noelle Nelson, you can literally Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy. I’d have to agree – when CEOs and managers can put their egos aside and focus on making the actual workers happier, they’ll be richer too.

The challenge? Well, because every company, and every individual, is different, there’s no steadfast rulebook for making employees happy and engaged. It’s interpretive at best, and most companies will have to reflect on their own internal processes and workflow to determine how to make the company a more enjoyable place to work.

While this is vague at best, there are a few principles to follow. And they’re obvious to some – but you’d be surprised how many companies (startups and Fortune 500′s alike) fail to provide them:

1. RecognitionRecognisation

People want to know when they are doing something right. They want to receive credit for their accomplishments, and they want to know that their contributions to goals of the company are seen and appreciated.

Again, this will be different for every company, but the simple and straightforward act of thanking employees for their contributions goes a long way. This can be taken a step further with bonuses and reward systems, of course, but the psychological validation that comes from honest and thankful recognition works wonders.

Also, don’t reward people who don’t do things. Don’t give someone a bonus or a pat on the back if they had a cursory role in something. Especially don’t reward those who ‘led’ a team and not reward those who did the work. Understand and know each and every person’s contribution and reward that.

2. Individuality

Individuality at workThis goes hand in hand with recognition, but on an even more individualized level. People don’t like to feel like cogs in a machine, with no identity beyond their job description. The best way to avoid this is to get to know employees individually, and, more importantly, to understand the complex and unique lives that each and every one of them lead.

This is manifested in less rigid attendance policies, where picking up a sick child from school or attending to an important personal matter isn’t met with accusatory questions or a demand for documentation, but is instead met with genuine concern for the employee’s wellbeing.
Individuality is also important when forming teams or assigning tasks. When managers have a sense for people’s personalities and interests, they can at least make the effort to create groups or dole out work to meet preferences, and hopefully create a work environment that suits everyone involved.

Do feel free to reward those who have a problem, too. A post from the Drucker Institute in 2011 covered a Businessweek article on firing ‘those seemingly always part of problems instead of solutions.’ It’s fair to give someone a hard time for doing badly – but if someone is consistently saying that things need to change, and they have valid reasons that might be painful to face, you should hear them out and potentially reward their willingness to fly in the face of conforming.

3. Perks perks of the job  

People want to be proud of the place they work, not just of the company’s end product or service, but also proud of what it means to be an employee of that particular company. One of the best ways to add prestige to particular job is to include bonuses that go beyond a standard paycheck.

The classic example is a benefits package, whether that’s insurance coverage, pension plans, profit sharing, or any other traditional “bonus” that could accompany employment. This is just a small portion of the realm of available employee perks, though.

Some companies are able to include recreation facilities on company property, from foosball tables to full-sized basketball courts. Other companies provide lunch on a certain day of the week, or host company social gatherings. All of these can be seen as “perks” of a job that contribute the overall happiness of the employees involved. There are even opportunities to partner with other business to share discounts or other special advantages.

These perks give people extra confidence that they are valuable to the company, and that the company has their best interest in mind. These are not rewards for performance or incentives for higher sales figures or productivity rates – they are to be seen as inherent benefits of working for a given company, a mark of status that and an employee can take pride in.

4. Understanding

Many corporations and startups find themselves growing faster than they ever thought possible. The result is rapid hiring and the onset of deep management – many people controlling many other people. The result is that the higher-ups can get remarkably distant from the work product.

This means that decisions begin to be made in a very vague way – on a ‘strategic’ level versus a level where thought is put into the day-to-day drudgery.

As a CEO, a manager, or anyone ordering around other people, you have to understand, use and work on your own product. I don’t care if you’ve got a million meetings. I don’t care if you like your comfy chair and the lack of stress. As a manager you should be as or more stressed as the employees. If they’re not, they’re probably a crappy manager.

This also means that if someone makes a mistake you cannot and should not skewer them. Disciplining an employee is a necessary and painful evil. Making an example of them and breaking them on a personal level is worthless. I’d also wager it makes you worthless too.

5. Ignorance of “Company Culture”healthy

Your company culture should not be complex. It should be about doing good work, making your customers happy and executing on an idea. This may come with a few elements of stress. This may involve the eventual firing of people. This should not at any point involve not taking someone on because they’re not a good cultural fit.

“Culture” in companies has become an abused term to ostracize and oust those who might disagree with the incumbent staff. It’s very easy to be upset when someone says that something that everyone does is wrong, or that someone who has been around for a while is doing wrong. You have to be wiling to review every process and element of your company with a critical eye.

It hurts a great deal to be disagreed with, but it can and will help your company. And great people tend to disagree with you. Management theorist Peter Drucker embraced disagreement and believed it should be cultured.

“Culture fit” has been abused to actively push away disagreement. If someone is going to be offensive and annoying to the rest of your staff, sure, they’re maybe not the greatest person to hire. But if they’re going to be bringing something great to the company that may utterly destroy it, then you may have to kevlar up and prepare for some arguments.


happy employee more salesMuch of this boils down to respect, and just taking steps to foster a work environment that radiates positivity. When individuals are surrounded by smiling, happy people, they tend to feel that way themselves. Happiness has a way of breeding more happiness, and when each employee feels like an asset to the company, those feelings of value multiply upon themselves.

Value really is the key principle here – what can companies do make employees feel valued?

By treating each worker with respect, recognizing their individuality, and trying to make sure that whatever the job may be, it fits in with the other aspects of their lives as best it can, businesses can build a mutual commitment between workplace and employee.

Perks create convenience and personal attachment to a workplace, transparency helps employees feel involved and abreast of company-wide operations, and the more personal investment an employee puts into his or work, the better they will perform. Make sure that everyone involved in your company cares about the company, and doing business well. Not about their own personal hangups or the potential of looking bad because they made a mistake.

When a company legitimately cares about its employees (and shows it), it’s much easier for the employee to care about the wellbeing of the company, and put in the effort to help it flourish.

Success through self-development

 Success through self-developmentAn individual’s success is directly related to the level of his/ her personal development. Personal or self-development includes activities where an individual works on enhancing his/ her skills, awareness and/or identity. Can organisations be held responsible for employees’ self-development process? Not always. According to experts, whether or not the organizations works towards your skill development, you need to take initiative and work towards a structured self-development programme.

Why is self-development important?

In a recent webinar on Techgig, Shantanu Paknikar, GM, Solutions Initiatives at Happiest Minds Technologies Pvt. Ltd., outlined, “It is important to learn even when you are not working.” Organisations invest time and money in skill development and training to retain good talent. However, with 1000+ employees, often it’s a daunting task to make this available to all employees. On the other hand, in smaller organisations a lot of focus is been given on individual performance, timely delivery and growth – which again poses a big problem on the employee’s self-development process.

According to experts, there is an immediate need to apply a 360 approach to resolve this issue; there is a need to have some system in place where every individual will take responsibility for his/ her development – this is where and why the concept of self-development becomes so important.

However, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone is following the same self-development approach. “My approach towards upgrading skills over the next one year might be different from another person who wants to achieve something similar. Therefore, any structured or systematic approach can be used by employees across the organisation which in turn will make a huge difference as results will be more predictable,” adds Paknikar. He defines this self-development approach through the AEIOU framework. Success through self-development

What is the AEIOU Framework?

This represents a structured approach towards self-development. If we consider ‘A’ as the lower most block of a ladder and ‘U’ the top-most; according to Paknikar, over a period of time an individual can move from one block (vowel) to another, thus learning or understanding the various aspects of the self-development process. Only when one completes all the five blocks he will successfully finish his self-development framework. This approach must be used by an individual in a personal capacity and the idea is that the framework can help each one of us to understand where we stand in the block and which is the next step.

How can an individual leverage the AEIOU Framework for self-development

‘A’ stands for Awareness – Awareness for a team is critical. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the following questions: What are my team’s objectives? Are my objectives connected with my team’s? What were my team’s achievements during last year? What are the key offerings of my teams?

Only if you can answer these questions you are eligible to move onto the next block in the ladder – ‘E’. This represents enthusiasm – and in the AEIOU framework it’s important that awareness is translated into enthusiasm, where we volunteer to participate in various activities. Often it’s difficult to measure if your enthusiasm in on the right path or not. Therefore, it’s imperative that you ask the following questions: How many times have I volunteered to conduct training? How many times have I volunteered to mentor? How many times have I volunteered to take a revenue target? How often do I come up with ideas to help my team perform better?

Only on successful completion of answering these questions one can move onto the next block – ‘I’. Here, ‘I’ stands for involvement. Translating enthusiasm into involvement is the next step of the framework. Often we see that though there is enthusiasm amongst employees, not too many take initiative in showing their enthusiasm towards a particular task or activity.

Once you have been involved in one or more initiatives it’s time for you to go ahead and take ‘O’wnership for at least one.

‘U’ block represents the ultimate goal. What is ‘U’ltimate goal? The ultimate goal for most of the employees within the organisation is growth. Growth can be tangible or intangible. Intangible growth is important since it results in long-term tangible growth in the organisation.

Only when the above law is followed strictly there is a better chance of growth and therefore success.

via techgig