Gen Y Has a Thick Skin, After All

Gen Y has sometimes been labeled as the “praise generation” by jaded Boomers, but some new research reveals that younger people are thicker-skinned than many give them credit for. In fact, they often thrive on negative feedback.

New data from leadership development specialist Zenger Folkman reveals that the Millennial generation is anything but the entitled, instant gratification-craving (read “spoiled”) folk that this 18-34 set is often tagged with being.

The firm said it surveyed more than 3,000 employees, asking the question, “If I had my choice I would rather receive…” The choices were: “Praise or recognition for a job well done;” orSome helpful corrective feedback.”

According to Zenger Folkman, the #1 answer from Gen Y, (with a 66% response rate), was, “Some helpful, corrective feedback.”

When the question got more specific to the boss/employee relationship, as in, “What I appreciate most from my manager is…,” — with the choices being: “Clear, specific critiques of what I could do better;” or “An abundance of recognition and praise” — Gen Y clearly preferred clear and constructive feedback.

Does this mean that today’s younger workers are more open to criticism than their forebears? The answer is somewhat complicated: as Dr. Joe Folkman, President of Zenger Folkman, points out, the survey reflects the views and wishes of workers who are relatively new to the workplace.

Ambitious young workers have always valued constructive criticism, so these results may not signal a generational shift. However, today’s young worker has grown up in an environment of uncensored opinion and (often) harsh criticism otherwise known as the Internet.

They have been immersed in a culture of criticism in which they and their peers have submitted their ideas, philosophies and images to a worldwide (and often anonymous) audience of critics. Ideas about privacy and polite debate have therefore changed considerably over the past 20 years.

Given this state of affairs, it is perhaps not surprising that members of Gen Y have grown a thicker skin than many expect, or give them credit for: they’ve had to, after all.


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