Generation Y challenges supervisors – the boss should be like a personal trainer

Uutisen oletuskuva
In her dissertation, Susanna Kultalahti examines Generation Y in working life. Generation Y, also known as Millennials, consist of people born approximately between 1980 and 2000. They have been described as demanding subordinates, challenging the working life and their supervisors.
Väitöskirjan mukaan Y-sukupolvi toivoo esimieheltä arvostusta, kunnioitusta ja kuuntelemista.

– My research concerns Generation Y’s appreciations and perceptions of what meaningful work is for them, says Kultalahti who will defend her thesis on Friday at the University of Vaasa, Finland.

The dissertation reveals that Millennials value good work environment and social connections at the workplace. Millennials prefer a work community that allows them to be themselves and where people support and help each other.

When it comes to the supervisor, Millennials have totally new expectations and needs.

– Generation Y challenges the supervisor by demanding lots of time for both informal and formal discussions and interaction with the supervisor. They wish that the supervisor takes into consideration their personal hopes and needs. Especially they hope that the supervisor listens and shows appreciation and respect, Kultalahti says.

According to the research, Generation Y sees the supervisor as a sort of personal trainer, who, by providing feedback and responsibilities, helps the Millennial not only with the current job, but also with the entire career.

Money is not the issue – the job content is

Millennials value flexibility and work-life balance. Also the job content is important.

– Millennials are not afraid of change, but that nothing changes, says Kultalahti.

According to Kultalahti, the Millennials do not want to get stuck in a rut in their career or routinize themselves. Instead, they hope to get new duties and responsibilities in order to develop themselves in their careers and also in their current position. However, the challenges should be reasonable because they value their personal life as well and do not want to sacrifice themselves for work.

– It seems that the money is not the number one issue for Generation Y. More than money, they seem to appreciate job content and meaningfulness of the work.

An un-committed generation

Kultalahti reminds that in addition to economic upswings, Generation Y has also witnessed the depression in the 1990’s. As a consequence to depression, they have grown up seeing news about redundancies and temporary lay-offs, also currently present in the news, and indicating to the Generation Y that the organizations cannot always take care of their people.

– It has made the Millennials think that why should they engage themselves and commit to the organization if the organization is cannot do the same for them.

According to Kultalahti, the current working life with short-term contracts is more fragmented than before.

– Generation Y, which is an image of its time, is only trying to cope and adapt to this situation. Millennials have been forced to change their object of commitment. Instead of the organization, they rather commit themselves to the job itself, the supervisor, and the work community.

Method of empathy-based stories in data collection

Kultalahti, a Millennial herself, has utilized two rather innovative and new approaches in gathering her data. The data consists of stories based on the empathy-based stories method that has not been used in business studies before. In addition, the data was collected via Facebook.

By combining these two innovative methods, altogether 252 Millennials provided their own insights and perceptions concerning working life. The whole data consists of 1004 stories that these informants provided.

Scary, difficult and demanding?

According to Susanna Kultalahti, Generation Y wants to have it nice at work. For them, nice means flexibility, appreciation, respect, good spirit, working for a common goal, varying tasks, development, and learning.

– This kind of nice should not be underrated, says Kultalahti.

Generation Y has been described often in the media as challenging, scary, and difficult. According to Kultalahti, Generation Y is better than its reputation. Being challenging can ultimately benefit the whole work life.

– If they demand a lot from their supervisors, challenge the current state, and provoke change in organizations, it could benefit everyone in the long run, reminds Kultalahti.

Public defence

The public examination of M.Sc. Susanna Kultalahti’s doctoral dissertation It’s so nice to be at work! Adopting different perspectives in understanding Generation Y at work will be held on Friday 4 December at 12 o´clock in auditorium Kurten. The field of Kultalahti’s dissertation is Management.

Professor Pia Heilmann (Lappeenranta University of Technology) will act as opponent and professor Riitta Viitala as custos.

Publication orders and pdf

Further information: Susanna Kultalahti, tel +358 40 750 7679, Email: susanna.kultalahti(at)

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