Bridging The Gap

Generation Y has come to be known by several different titles: The Internet Generation, Echo-Boomers, The Boomlet, Nexters, and most commonly, Millennials.

Working with Generation Y staff can be challenging — but also rewarding and fun! © Can Stock Photo Inc. / iodrakon / summoners

The different classifications suggest the generation is open to many interpretations. As a result, many older camp directors have been left wondering how they can understand the working behaviors of their younger adult staff.

As an extension to a recent conference workshop discussing staff entitlement, camp directors acknowledged similar difficulties in how they might “deal” with the enigmatic behaviors and attitudes in the workplace.

As working representatives of Generation Y in camping, we are looking to create opportunities for an open dialogue in addressing the questions modern-day camp directors may have regarding our generation.

Based on our perspectives and complementary research, we hope to provide pertinent information that outlines our identity as a generation, strengths and weaknesses, motivations, and strategies on “working” with our generation as opposed to simply “dealing” with us. The goal is to aid current camp directors to better understand our working culture.

Bringing Some Sense To Generation Y

Some observers say our generation consists of the most optimistic, civic-minded, inclusive, and technologically savvy people this country has ever seen, while others suggest we are impatient, lazy, stubborn, and entitled. As contradictory as these characteristics may sound, they are closely connected.

How we are defined depends on which end of the spectrum we are viewed from. It is important for camp directors to view us from a holistic perspective; this will allow for a greater appreciation of how we think and operate.

What Messages Will My Generation Y Staff Connect To?

Gen Y’s connect with positive messages from camp directors, such as:

• Be smart, and you are special (Raines, 2003, p. 175).

• Let me show you the way.

• You are valuable to the success of camp.

• You have the power to make positive change.

We are a generation that has been told since birth that we are going to be great in this world, and we believe it! However, it is important for camp directors to remember that we are also a generation striving to succeed in the face of many societal pressures. Prioritizing and conveying these positive messages will reaffirm that what we are doing in camp is important and valued.

How Can I Best Communicate With My Generation Y Staff?

Directors must be positive:

• Challenge us through action.

• Give us feedback regularly.

• Acknowledge what we’re good at and reinforce our value to the camp.

• Bring levity to our conversations.

• Give us structure in what is asked of us.

• Don’t talk down to us; talk with us.

• Be real and genuine.

• Don’t manage us, but coach us.

• Be clear in your intentions.

We are a generation built on communication. For camp directors, know that a warm tone and maximum clarity are important to us. We want to understand what it is that you expect, and we appreciate consistent, genuine feedback. We will value your supervision when you lead by example.

What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses of Generation Y?

Gen Y’s strengths in a camp setting include our being:

• Team-oriented

• Able to multi-task

• Technologically savvy

• Civic-minded

• Inclusive

• Goal-oriented

• Optimistic

• Focused on meaning and personal growth.

We deliver our best work in camp when our strengths and skills are properly highlighted. As a result, we are empowered to create meaningful experiences that will enrich our sense of belonging to the staff and the camp.

Gen Y’s weaknesses include the following:

• Constant need for structure

• Dislike of menial duties

• Dependency on mobile devices

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