Date of Award

5-2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Professional Communication

Advisor

Williams, Sean

Committee Member

Haynes , Cynthia

Committee Member

Walters , Shannon

Abstract

For the first time in history there are four generations in the workforce: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. Generation Y, the emergent working generation, has a vastly different way of communicating, a different perspective on work, and a different set of needs and values than those who dominate the current workforce. When Traditionalists and Baby Boomers retire Generation Y will be placed into professional positions they may not be prepared for. With the current trend of young people frequently changing jobs and feeling unfulfilled by the work they do, Generation Y needs guidance, leadership, and mentoring in order to become the professionals the workforce needs. In order for this to happen, older generations have to take those leadership roles now before they retire. The major issue is that there is a drastic difference in generational characteristics, values, needs, and communication practices between older generations and Generation Y, which may hinder this much-needed mentoring.
This empirical study interviewed 17 participants and conducted focus groups containing 12 different participants whom are categorized as Generation Y. Interviews and focus groups addressed Generation Y's needs and expectations of the workplace, preferred communication practices, and desired leadership qualities. Based on participant responses, this study then explored how Generation Y most effectively responds to leadership communication practices in the workplace, and how leaders can adjust behavioral communication patterns for an emergent workforce.
This study found that Generation Y seeks conflicting leadership communication patterns. They desire directive and consultative leadership communication yet they want to be autonomous when working while still craving praise and guidance. This paradox in desired leadership is a result of Generation Y's orientations and needs, which are much different than those of older generations. Due to this paradox and the lack of responses from participants the question emerged: is the concept of leadership obsolete? This study found that leadership is wanted among Generation Y. Leaders have to establish personal relationships founded in trust and adapt on a situation-by-situation basis to successfully communicate with Generation Y.

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