Someone elder said to me the other day; “I don’t understand your generation. Why you people like that ah?”
Defensive, I jumped back and said, “Whatttt!”
“You people are very unhappy and unsatisfied all the time. You want a lot of salary with only a few years experience, you never want to do things outside your scope and you are never excited about anything. Give you benefits and perks also, not happy. Give you increment also not enough even though your work is mediocre. Give you ownership of a project also, and then when things go wrong, you don’t take ownership. What do you people want ah?” – the conversation was longer, but basically this was the gist.
Ok. I sat back down. Because honestly, I know this problem. As an employer, I too face this issue (not all of course!! I love my team!! But I know this problem too). Do you know they call us the Strawberry Generation? The softies that can’t be scolded or else will bruise easily. I read an article once and they called us the Unicorns, the unrealistic ones who think we’re all that.
I heard a bunch of girls in a restaurant talking and they were all complaining about their jobs. “Hate my boss,” “I really wanna quit,” “Got scolded by that b****,” “Haven’t gotten a raise in a year!” all came out. And I might be biased because I’m an employer but not once did the girls mention how good they are at work. It’s all what people do to them and what makes them unhappy, but it’s never questioning or reflecting on whether they themselves are hard-workers or are they just doing what they’re told to do. I was really trying to eavesdrop (haha kepoh, sorry), and I had a burning desire to join that table and ask, “Do you guys do beyond your work?” “Are you a big complainer?” “Is there anything your boss did that was nice but you choose to not speak about?” “Is there a reason why your boss should give you an increment simply because you’re doing your job?” These are not condescending questions, I’m simply wanting to ask them have you thought about the other side, not just your side. A lot of the times, these people who b**** about their bosses, their bosses have a lot of unhappy things to say about their work too. So one problem; we’re big complainers and we skew our thoughts to only think about us.
Honestly it’s really hard to find genuinely passionate staff and this is a problem nationwide I think. There are more people who hate their job than those who love, and if you ask anyone, no one is happy with their salary. Everyone always wants more, and going to work is just a routine thing that doesn’t stem from excitement. When I started work for my dad, I was a fresh grad. I got all A’s in all exams even from primary school, I held a law degree from one of the best unis in the world, I was ready to rock the career ladder… and my dad offered me RM 1,500 to start. Like really, not lying. It’s not that he couldn’t afford, but he wanted to teach me the value of earning your own. My take-home pay was of course less than that, but I lived with my parents so I didn’t have to pay rent or food. And admittedly, my parents helped with big expenses so I was lucky. Among my peers, I was earning the least but I gave the job my all. When I started FV, I paid myself nothing for a while. After it was stable, my salary was RM 500, then slowly RM1,000. Still lived with my parents so I didn’t have to pay for utilities. Of course, back then also, I had no responsibility like kids and all. And I think this is the same case for a lot of the younger workforce, they still live with their parents. But the difference is that their starting salary now, they want it to be RM5K. I’ve asked during an interview before, “Why do you think you should get paid that amount?” Answer was, “Because my friends said that is the norm and I should get paid that much.” I probed again, “Ok. What do you think you can bring to the table in return for that pay?” Answer was, “Well, I am willing to learn. And I’m a fast learner!” Ok that’s great that you want to learn, but in a competitive world where 5 more people are after your job, I want to see what you can contribute. That’s where things go wrong in interviews, because you’re not thinking how the company will benefit if they hire you. Second problem; we have a huge sense of entitlement. And we don’t know why we’re entitled. But we just are. And believe me, nothing is ever enough. It’s ok to demand, but we need to have solid justifications ready as to why we are worth that much.
UPDATE: I am getting a lot of comments on how RM1500 is not enough now. What I said above is my experience from 8 years ago and certainly things have changed now. My point isn’t the specific value. I am NOT saying that RM1500 is enough now or not, that is not my point here. I am saying that we demand a high salary immediately and when asked, we don’t know how to justify if we’re worth that much. Also that we’re doing our jobs without excitement or sincerity. Please do not twist my words. See my replies to comments in Comment No 33 and 41 (since I can’t reply to each comment, I also touch on higher costs of living in our country). Also, I knew I was going to get the worked-with-daddy-so-lucky-you-don’t-deserve-to-say-anything comments, I can’t change that part of my life and I’m very grateful for it, but people seem to like to believe that all people who work with their dads are immediately spoiled brats who sit on gold thrones and call their friends to chat. I can’t change your opinion, nor should I try to, but hope you don’t use that specific dissatisfaction towards me to mask a bigger issue that I’m trying to address. It’s bigger than just me.
Comparative to some of my other entrepreneur friends, I’m pretty lucky with the team at FV. But I’ve had this one case where this person wanted to quit. So I had a heart to heart and asked, “Why?” Answer was, “I’m unhappy.” I asked, “Unhappy about what?” “I don’t know… I just feel like I’m doing the same thing everyday. I’m bored.” I asked, “Ok but that is what your job entails. You knew this. And to be honest, you haven’t mastered your work because you still do a lot of things wrong. When I ask you to help out with other departments, you are not interested in doing other things to learn new things. So how can I help you if you’re already bored?” Silence. This person has been working for 2-3 months btw. So there’s that problem as well; we are impatient and we get bored easily. We want to be rich or successful like yesterday. We hate long term benefits, we only want to see what we can gain next month. We don’t know why we’re not being promoted after a year. A year is like a decade in the Gen Y world. Two years? Omg, I should be CEO already.
We also cannot be commented on. We do x amount of work, and think we are giving our all to it. And sometimes when I hear stories of our older generations at work, I’m like wowww now that is hard work, that’s so inspiring. With our generation, our ego is high. There’s a lot of “You can’t talk to me like that”, “That’s not my job”, “I feel so under-appreciated here”, and I kid you not (this has happened to me), the moment you scold, you will get a resignation letter the next day. We cannot be scolded. Even if we’re wrong. Because we feel that our pride is bruised, and screw this, another company will take me and treat me better.
I was thinking long and hard about this. How did we get here? Because our older generations are not like this. They are complaining about us, saying that we are the most difficult generation to crack.
So I thought of some reasons:
1) Our parents tell us we’re perfect
God bless my parents. They will rip you apart if you tell them anything wrong with me. I feel that way with Daniel and Mariam too. But this doesn’t help with their future. When you constantly hear about how good you are, you get big headed. You feel entitled to good things and praises, so the moment you don’t get it, you just don’t understand why.
And if you’re not doing well at work (even if it’s because you yourself are not working hard), your parents only tell you to find work at another place where you’ll be appreciated more. It’s never fix ourselves. It’s always they don’t know what they’re missing, so forget them, go somewhere else. If you have to work late during peak periods and even if you’re fine, your dad will keep calling and your mom will be really sad seeing her son/daughter work till late. They will say “So kesian my child…”. Heck, I’ve had so many encounters with parents of staff e.g. moms calling to tell me their child is on MC today, dads coming to interviews with them, conversations that start with “My mom told me to say x and y…”. We become very manja because of our parents.
See, my friends abroad don’t have this because they’re not with their parents. So they don’t pamper themselves with praises and instead they just improve improve improve until they get so good. They don’t have this big sense of entitlement.
2) Social media
We live in the social media era where we’re exposed to the happiness of others and materials that they have. So we could be perfectly happy with our lives but then we see someone else’s better life and think omg why don’t I have that. Like out of nowhere, our contentment suddenly changes so quickly. We start over-analysing our own lives and point out what’s wrong with it. Instead of focusing on the good of it. And it’s all because of one post that a girl put of her new handbag. If we think about it, it’s pretty silly. One thing we don’t have and another person has it, and we suddenly forget everything good about our lives.
How to fix this? (a) take social media with a pinch of salt. People post what they want you to see. Nobody’s life is perfect. (b) Don’t forget to be grateful. Always be grateful with your life because everyone’s life is cut differently. Once we are truly content and grateful with what we have, there won’t be this sense of unhealthy discontentment and the feeling that nothing is ever enough.
With social media also, we become narcissistic. Everything we post is about us, about our lives, so with the technology that we have, it’s all me-me-me and my selfies. I’m guilty of this too, so umm less selfies now.
3) Spend spend spend
Malaysia especially is a very mall-focused place because it’s too hot to enjoy the park or just have a nice stroll with your family. What do you do on weekends? Malls. What do you see at malls? Shops. What else can you do in malls? Eat. Every one of these requires us to spend money, and it’s basically the same activity all the time. It can get pretty mundane and we have to spend so much money on the weekend to spend time with our family. A day indoors is the only alternative, which could get boring after a while. So maybe this is why our generation feels like we need more and more money. Because everything is spend spend spend. So we need to earn earn earn. Hence why so many Gen Y have secret side businesses to earn side income, and even uses working hours to do work for this side business (e.g. even something we think is so harmless like posting an instagram post for that business), which I find quite dishonest and against your amanah to your employer.
Why does this happen? Why do we feel the need to spend spend spend? I’m going to be very unpopular for saying this but it’s the truth. Because we are all trying to live outside of our means, and we all want to keep up with others. We see what they have and we need to be better. We are very competitive and sometimes jealous people, but it’s only going to eat ourselves from the inside. When I went to San Fransisco and met some of the richest there, they’re sitting in cubicles cracking codes. In their culture, material things are not priority. But over here, the designer bags and BMWs are necessary to prove we are successful. Even if we can’t afford it, we will borrow so we can get it. Where did this come from, you think? That’s why credit card debt is so high amongst our generation and that’s worrying.
4) The rise of entrepreneurship
More and more, people our generation are being taught entrepreneurship and role models of success seem to only be entrepreneurs now. Unless you own something, you’re not successful – is the kind of message we are giving to young people. Which I think is so wrong. Just like any other subject in school, not everyone likes or is cut out to be or is even interested to become an entrepreneur. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Not everyone wants to devote their lives to building something from zero in hope to make it big, because really, there’s a huge risk attached to entrepreneurship. Most people hear the good stories only, but they ignore the bad stories of businesses failing. So there’s this beautiful cloud being associated with entrepreneurship, more seminars and talks that actually chant “Saya mahu kaya, saya mahu kaya, saya mahu berjaya!” that I find bizarre. It seems that now success means entrepreneurship, and this is giving the young people pressure that they have to start something of their own, or not they’re not successful. That’s why I decline to give talks to inspire people to become entrepreneurs because honestly, I never want to give people that kind of pressure. I don’t believe everyone should aspire to be an entrepreneur. You do what you love to do, and just because you work in a company as an employee, doesn’t mean you can’t be successful being that.
5) The weather?? Maybe??
No seriously, don’t laugh. When we are constantly hot, we get very angry and uncomfortable. It’s seriously depressing to walk outside because it’s so hot most of the time now. We get moody and never in the mood to work happily. Some of my friends abroad earn a normal amount, they have to pay rent and utilities and bills, they don’t have cars and have to take the public transport everywhere… and honestly they are so happy and content (again, not general here. I’m just talking about the few people I know living there and don’t want to come back). Because it’s so nice and breezy there (apart from summer) and you get to go to the park and walk around and just be happy. I loved my time in London and I realize it’s so much to do with the weather! Over here, people are complaining about how hot it is and because we’re left sweaty, smelly and uncomfortable, we can’t be happy and productive. Remember that big war that happened during the hottest summer ever? People were hot and angry, y’all!!
I could only think of these for now, but I found it so interesting that this Gen Y stigma is becoming more and more of a problem. Of course this is not applicable to ALL OF US, I know some reallyyyyy hardworking people at FV and people who have come up to me and said I love my job so much. But I also know a lot of people on the other end of the spectrum. We are so focused on me-me-me kind of attitude and we couldn’t care less about others or our employers or the company’s growth. It’s more on what’s in it for me. Which honestly, could be good and bad.
People could see us as an ambitious generation? Or are we impatient? If we are forced to be like this because of the higher living costs etc, then how do we solve this case and produce a happier Gen Y? Either way, every generation always has some room for improvement, so let’s just see if there’s any truth to these above and make positive changes.
What do you think?
Btw, read this article. It’s a good read.