Bridging The Gap

• Penchant for confrontation

• Stubbornness

• Entitlement

• Seeking constant affirmation

• Disrespect for authority (some of the time, anyway).

Although our shortcomings may present difficulties in working with us, we depend greatly on structure and leadership. Because of this, the level of investment shared by our camp superiors may guide us in overcoming these weaknesses.

How Can A Director Motivate Generation Y?

Gen Y’s are looking for the following in the workplace:

• Structure

• Positive environments and people

• Direction

• Challenge

• Meaning

• Flexible schedules

• Good pay

• Fun!

Although many influential factors motivate our work in camp, the biggest motivator is empowerment! Through our civic-minded nature, we want to know and feel we are making a positive impact towards a larger effort. We desire this not only through our roles working in camp, but also for the populations that we serve.

As suggested by Jeffery Leiken, camp directors should “stop trying to teach [us] how to make a difference in one child’s life. Teach [us] instead how to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of thousands. This is where the greatest potential for the future of camp resides.”

Our generation is tightly focused on how the work we do now will enrich our future.

The Ideal Director for Gen Y Staff

While camp directors must possess many characteristics to successfully manage a camp, their ability to foster positive working relationships with Gen Y staff is vital. We encourage directors to create an open dialogue with this staff, to cultivate an environment in which generational differences are directly addressed, embraced, and leveraged as strengths.

Through a discussion of managerial expectations, staff investment, and communal goals, directors can provide Gen Y staff with both the professional and personal growth they desperately seek.

Directors with these characteristics connect best with Gen Y staff:

• Authenticity

• Mentorship

• Truthfulness

• Investment

• Structure

• Empowerment

• Flexibility

• Sense of humor.

In maximizing outcomes, directors should utilize staff training as a platform for communicating any differences in their world-view and that of their Gen Y staff. By encouraging this staff to be active agents in establishing the working culture of camp, directors will produce greater levels of ownership, cohesion, and direction for the camp.

Where To Take It From Here

As current members of Generation Y, we firmly believe that camp directors can improve their relationships with Gen Y staff, thereby thwarting conflicts over job performance.

As more Generation Y workers enter the camping industry, the benefits of investing appropriate time will result in major dividends. With purposeful changes in communication and empowerment opportunities, camp directors will find themselves coaching young adults who are optimistic, confident, civic-minded, hungry for a challenge, and ready to make a positive contribution to camp.


Eisner, S.P. “Managing Generation Y.” SAM Advanced Management Journal (07497075), 70(4), 4-15, 2005..

Howe, N. “Millennials: Shaping the future.” Retrieved from

Raines, C. Connecting generations: The source book (1 edition ed.). Menlo Park, California: Crisp Learning, 2003.

Leiken, J. “The hidden motivator for to-day’s staff.” Camping Magazine, 81(3), 1-5, 2008.

Jay Derick and Michael Griswold are currently second-year graduate students pursuing master’s degrees in Recreation Management and Policy at the University of New Hampshire. They are both aspiring professionals in the summer-camp industry. Derick can be reached at and Griswold can be reached at

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Related posts:

  1. Staff Pointers
  2. Preparation Points
  3. Me a Mentor?
  4. The Importance Of Candid Feedback
  5. Continuous Professional Development

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