Stephanski Essay 2

The Corporate Culture: Google & Generation Y

“So much of what is going on in our lives is seen through our own generational lens.”

This is the sentiment of Lynne C. Lancaster, a researcher in generational business interaction. Our lives are indeed filtered by our influences. In this age, these are namely media and peers.

The fast-paced way of life spawned by the emergence of digitization has become central not only in the ways we interact socially, but also in the ways we operate within corporate America.

Most business offices now comprise several generations of thinkers; older employees must now compete with the young, fresh-out-of-college “kids” who strive for goals much different from those of their elders. This generational divide, as Lancaster explains, creates tension between the business notions “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and “let’s change it because we can change it.”

Is the latter notion not at the very core of the Google mission? Page and Brin are known for their cutting-edge take on management and company development, one that is often scrutinized by those with a more conservative approach to business.

Generational Data

Lancaster outlines the variances across generations:



Generation Y clearly has the most modern thinking in terms of business practice, followed by Generation X, of which Page and Brin are members. The main notions are characteristic of proactive and progressive thinking and motivation; these tech-savvy youngsters, due to the Internet and other stimuli that produce instant results, want to input information and extract quick results in the workplace. Their older counterparts, through years of working via traditional methods, possess a level of patience that the younger generations do not.

This lack of patience must be approached in a different manner. Generation Y sees business institutions much differently –– these young people wish to blend their personal lives and interests into their business lives with the ultimate goal of creating a balanced workplace that is both enjoyable and rewarding. Hard work, thus, is not enough to build a desirable career for the younger generations. Management must bring something else to the table.

In his book Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y, Bruce Tulgan explains a scenario described to him by the president of a health care consulting firm who interviewed a 25-year-old man for a job:

“The young candidate came to the interview armed with a number of ordinary questions about job duties, salary and benefits. When these questions were answered, he made a request: ‘You should know that surfing is really important to me and there might be days when the surf’s really up. Would you mind if I came in a little later on those days?’” (1)

The solution to this problem? Managers bring the ocean to the office.

Google’s office is somewhat of a playground. Beanbag chairs, video games, and a mini bar in case you’d like a cocktail. But it works.

Page and Brin instill a dynamic in their offices that isn’t seen at many other establishments. This work-hard, play-hard notion is what keeps the staff members motivated and stimulated, and both are essential to the satisfaction of younger generations.

In another anecdote told to Tulgan, a nurse manager encounters an issue with workplace expectations in a young employee:

“She stopped a new young nurse from administering the wrong medicine by intravenous drip to a patient. The manager pulled the young nurse aside and explained emphatically how serious a mistake she almost made. ‘I explained that this is how patients die unnecessarily. I told her, ‘You need to check the wrist bracelet, then the patient’s chart, then the charge list, then the IV bag. Then you need to check them all again.’’ Before she was finished, the young nurse interrupted her. ‘Actually, you are doing this conversation wrong,’ she told her boss. ‘You are supposed to give me some positive feedback before you criticize my work.’’ (2)

Though an extreme case, this scenario is characteristic of Generation Y's expectations to experience the good before the bad within the workplace. Older generations paid their dues, so to speak, and experienced several failures before realizing success. Similarly, Google has been criticized as not possessing the wisdom that comes from experiencing failure. But hasn’t the dynamic changed? In a super-charged, fast-moving society, does success need to be a drawn-out, lengthy process, or can it be instantaneous?

Young employees from Generation Y thrive on instantaneity; staying with a company for more than 20 years, like their grandparents may have done, is now very rare. If work is not satisfying their needs or meeting their expectations, they make the proper adjustments to find a job that will. Impatient and demanding, or proactive and driven?

Though Google, in its more recent years, has shown signs of a more traditional company (placing the engineer first and making sure the job gets done over anything else), it’s not certain whether or not younger generations will follow suit. Tulgan explains this conundrum:

“Gen Yers’ ‘attitude’ probably is not likely to go away as they mature; their high-maintenance reputation is all too real … Yes, Generation Y will be more difficult to recruit, retain, motivate, and manage … But this will also be the most high-performing workforce in history for those who know how to manage them properly.”


Perhaps, then, there is a need for self-management. Generation Y possesses a “Be-my-own-boss” mentality, and this could very well be the solution. Google is a young business in several capacities, not only with respect to the company’s age, but also in terms of those who keep the business afloat. Young college grads and those in their 20s and 30s manage the company and define its culture.

In comparing Google culture to Generation Y, there is a drop-off point. Google, even with its young, fresh approach to business, stays true to its mission and ultimately has very focused goals that remain constant. While Generation Y will adhere to a specific business culture for a period of time, the need for a diverse, ever-changing setting will emerge. Diversity is key, and young employees thrive on unique experiences. Eventually, even Google will seem like a bore.

At the end of the day, what these young people want is a life of meaning and purpose, and that includes a satisfying career. In such a fast-paced world, there is little time left over for leisurely purposes, so why shouldn’t work be fun? Eric Schmidt explained these ideas at a press conference in late 2009:

“Life is short. And everybody here understands that. Life is short; you should work on the things that are most important. If you want to work on what Google is working on –– cloud computing, search, all the things that we talk about all the time –– then come to Google and we will pay you well.”

What more could a young person want? What Schmidt describes is enough, at least for today.


Kafka, Peter, (07 October 2009). Google Says Google's Perks Are Overrated, and Belt-Tightening is Underrated. Media Memo. Retrieved from

Lancaster, Lynne C., (17 March 2004). When Generations Collide: How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work (presentation). The Management Forum Series.

Tulgan, Bruce, (2009). Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y. California: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License