By Jim Camp
Generation Y, those born between the late 1970s and during the 1980s, is now entering the work force and, in the process they are transforming it, requiring Baby Boomers now facing retirement and Generation X’ers, born in the mid-1960s to late 70s, to face up to our short comings in our ability to negotiate.
Becoming better negotiators as a society will take us a long way down the road to protecting America’s future, both domestically and internationally. We must face it. Being able to negotiate with this cohort, estimated to number 70 million, is going to transform America’s workplace and is likely to impact the way we deal with the rest of the World in the future.
As the inventor of the Camp System of Negotiation and the father of five children and six grandchildren, any parent will tell you that every child hears “no” as the start of the negotiation, not the end of it! Yet, we as a society are behind the children. We are steeped in compromise and will do almost anything to not say no or hear no. Simply put, we are compromisers.
Thus, a generation that has grown up believing that compromise is the only approach to resolving problems is discovering in Generation Y a very different point of view. This new generation is causing us baby boomers heartburn by essentially saying “NO” to values that us older folks believe.
The generation currently in charge of the nation’s affairs grew up in an era of “collective bargaining” that affected all its institutions, but bargaining is not negotiation. We think negotiation is a search for compromise and a fall-back position. We don’t know that compromise is not a rule in negotiation. In short we don’t know how to negotiate without compromise. That begs the question, if the Generation Y won’t compromise, won’t play ball our way, what do we do?
Consider this, according to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds are not registered to vote. By 2015, Generation Y will make up one-third of the electorate. How do we negotiate with them to get them involved sooner than later?
There’s a reason John McCain regularly appears on television shows like the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. There’s a reason why Barack Obama has a page on Face Book. Reaching this generation is going to be a critical negotiation in the next and future elections.
Getting Generation Y to actively participate in the affairs of the nation will only come from our ability to create a vision that will motivate their decision. It will not come from spewing out of hard facts that are not likely to accept on face value and it surely won’t come from our eagerness to appease them with compromise.
This is an amazing time. Information goes out in real time. Generation Y has seen rampant divorce, ineffective or corrupt government, the collapse of Enron and Arthur Anderson, pay to play in local government, jobs their families had go overseas and they communicate what they see globally from their cell phone.
They saw the fall of the Soviet Union, but have no memory of the nearly fifty years Americans negotiated our way through the Cold War with Communism. They don’t see their classmates or themselves being drafted so they have no personal risk and no stake in the outcome. This is reflected in a generational passivity. This explains in part why this post-Vietnam War generation has not been in the streets actively opposing the two conflicts in Iraq.
In many ways they have no concept of international affairs. They travel the world easily and yet stay detached from international events that directly challenge American values and their way of life.
Studies reveal that more than half do not have a church affiliation, suicide is the third leading cause of death for Generation Y, a third of its young women have become pregnant at least once before the age of 20, and quite a few clearly see an entitlement to be happy, no matter what career path they pursue.
They are unaffected by the history that got us where we are. Passing through a school system and a college environment that puts most of the blame on the United States, they arrive in the workplace with a warped vision and understanding of the most unique and successful experiment in democracy to have ever existed.
Told from birth that they are “special”, raised in a non-competitive environment where everyone gets a trophy and where “winning” is secondary to self-esteem, an older generation, the managers of corporations and other institutions, are discovering to their dismay that Generation Y responds to criticism by leaving, not changing.
A workplace that is compromising to accommodate Generation Y’s preference for less traditional relationships is not the answer. The workplace, like society, must learn to negotiate, create vision, say and hear no. That vision is going to influence how Generation Y responds. Their decision to take on—or avoid—serious challenges to our economy and our foreign policy will shape the future.
We are a nation that has institutionalized “compromise.” Generation Y is a product of a compromising society. A give-in or fall-back attitude prevails all around them. As a society we must change and create vision around that change. It must be a vision Generation Y can embrace, one based on the values that have gotten America to this point in time.
The risk is that Generation Y will weaken America. Starting with “no” will still be the only way to deal with those who challenge our values, our beliefs.
Jim Camp is CEO of the Jim Camp Group, www.startwithno.com, and the author of two best selling books on the science of negotiation.