By the year 2020, Generation Ys (Gen Ys), born 1981-1999, will far outnumber any other generation in the workplace, making it imperative for employers to understand their needs. Thus, an organization's future vitality is dependent on its ability to work effectively with Gen Ys. Although Gen Y characteristics and needs are documented in existing literature, leadership styles and approaches that best support such needs are not clear. Therefore, this study sought to answer two questions: What are Gen Y's needs in the workplace? What type of leadership best supports these needs? Data were collected from 135 Gen Y employees working in the United States across a variety of industries, from technology to nonprofit sectors. One hundred twenty-five online surveys were completed, and 10 face-to-face interviews were conducted. Flexibility and challenging work were found to be the highest priority needs of Gen Y employees, followed by a second tier of needs: access to up-to-date technology, open communication, collaboration and teamwork, an adequate compensation package, growth and development, and a hospitable culture. It was found that Gen Ys prefer to work for someone who incorporates a participative leadership style. It was concluded that Gen Y employees have high expectations for their employers, posing a challenge for organizations to accommodate all needs. They insist on a workplace that allows for their participation. Retention will be increased by ensuring growth and development opportunities.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (MA) -- Organization Development; Generation Y -- Employment; Leadership; Management; Organizational effectiveness

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graziadio Business School



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Lacey, Miriam;