Article | 5 min read

Management takeover: Gen Y takes charge

By Blake Morgan

Published October 28, 2015
Last updated October 28, 2015

The 2015 film The Intern depicts a seemingly strange situation—a 70-year-old man (Robert De Niro) working for a Gen Y woman (Anne Hathaway). While this is a cinematic exaggeration, these nontraditional work scenarios are becoming more frequent.

Career paths are different than they were 100 years ago.

In the past, people worked for the same organization for most, if not all, of their career. Today’s younger generations will have between ten and twelve careers in their lifetime, and many roles within each.

And it’s not just the frequency of job-hopping that’s new. In many businesses, the entire personnel infrastructure has changed. No longer is it a given that leaders are older than their subordinates. Younger generations are now earning management roles faster than their older counterparts. In some industries, like tech, it’s common for someone under 30 to be the founder or CEO. This leads to a similar situation as The Intern where the company’s leader is significantly younger than many of her employees.

In a 2013 research report by EY (the global firm that includes Ernst & Young LLP), 87 percent of Generation Y managers moved into management roles between 2008 and 2013, compared with 38 percent of Gen X managers and just 19 percent of aging Baby Boomer leaders.

Why is there such a stark imbalance in movement into management positions across the generations?

Lay of the land

One might think that it’s just a numbers game. In mid 2015, Pew Research Center noted that more than 53 million American workers are Millennials (born between 1980-1997) and that they’d officially surpassed Generation X (born between 1965-1980) as the largest share of the workforce.

The Baby Boomer workforce (born between 1946-1964) peaked at 66 million in 1997, and now stands at less than 45 million. And that’s not even the most interesting part. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the Generation Y population as a whole will surpass the Baby Boomers later this year.

But this is not just a numbers game.

Much has already been written about the Gen Y stereotypes. But it’s their personal ambition, adaptability, high expectations around work flexibility, and heavy use of technology that clearly sets them apart from other generations. And these differences make them likely candidates for leadership positions.

In PwC’s 2011 By 2025 they will represent 75 percent of all employees. Their takeover is inevitable, but their success is not.

Leading companies understand the generational mix and recognize the challenges in management shift. They seize the opportunity to embrace technology. They facilitate flexibility through work-life-fit accommodations. They alleviate the multi-generational strain by providing team-building, generational differences training, technology instruction, and cross-generational networking. They equip all generations for success.

Blake Morgan is the founder of

Related stories

World Humanitarian Day: It takes a village
Article | 5 min read

World Humanitarian Day: It takes a village

Learn more about our partner organizations that are supporting humanitarian aid workers all over the world, and—most importantly—how you can help.

Pride month ends, the action continues
Article | 6 min read

Pride month ends, the action continues

Zendesk celebrated Pride 2022 under the theme of Love Sparks Action. Here's how we will continue to support LGBTQIA+ rights and champion diversity, equity, and inclusion for all.

Urban Alchemy uses Zendesk to help heal homeless communities
Article | 6 min read

Urban Alchemy uses Zendesk to help heal homeless communities

Learn how Urban Alchemy is scaling its efforts to transform more disenfranchised communities in city centers.

This World Refugee Day, stand with refugees
Article | 4 min read

This World Refugee Day, stand with refugees

Learn more about Zendesk's Tech for Good partners who are assisting Ukrainians and others fleeing crises across the world, and—most importantly—how you can help.