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Why can’t Gen Y just grow up?

Animation of an MRI brain scan, starting at th...

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I hear the complaints every day … from managers, from parents and most people in their 40’s on up … “They are lazy, entitled, spoiled …. why can’t this younger generation ‘just grow up?'”  Well, if you did a functional MRI of the brain of a Millennial or Gen Y employee, and a functional MRI of your brain (provided you are of an older generation, a Gen X, a Baby Boomer or a Traditionalist), that Gen Y employee’s brain would look like it belonged to an entirely different species. It’s not going to change because you want it to, or because of the concrete logic you offer … that brain is wired completely differently than your brain.

Because of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change and form neural pathways in response to information), this brain is hardwired to engage with what is familiar, what it knows … this generation grew up with video games, computers, cell phones … it knows not a life without an electronic device that gives it what it wants when it wants, and if this brain doesn’t like the information …”Control+Alt+Delete” works every time.  Otherwise known as “I’m outta here.”  And that employee doesn’t come back from lunch … no explanation, nothing.

Human beings just do what works … and repeat that behavior in the face of anxiety, discomfort or just the plain “unknown.”

So next time you feel frustrated at your Gen Y employee’s behavior … perhaps you might instead be inspired by the brilliance of the human brain’s deep desire to avoid pain … and it’s willingness to just “do what works. Now.”  Better yet, first seek to understand, then seek to be understood …