Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Young Generation Y's Expectations to Ethics at Work in New Zealand

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Version 1 2021-12-07, 08:53
posted on 2023-09-26, 01:36 authored by Øevrebøe, Hege

This thesis is an exploratory study of the young Generation Y’s expectations to ethics at work in New Zealand. Chapter 1 sets out the structure of the thesis and introduces background information as well as the research question. The literature focuses on intergenerational conflicts in the workplace, and sees generations as an aspect of diversity that is often difficult to balance to human resource management. Generation Y has been highly criticised in relation to other generations in academic and popular literature, and are considered entitled, lazy and self-absorbed. The research aims to let Generation Y speak for themselves without stereotyping, while also focusing on the underlying values that drives ethics at work.   Chapter 2 discusses literature on the changing nature of work, as well as Generation Y before it moves on to business ethics literature. Ethics research found that values based ethical culture is needed to successfully run an ethical organisation, with ethical leadership playing a significant role. Further, the thesis discusses implications of a more complicated socialisation and prolonged formative phase of Generation Y in comparison to older generations, which makes Generation Y seem different. Scarcity theory discusses the impact that the abundance of human basic needs has on value preference, and it can therefore be argued that because Generation Y’s formative years were during a period of economic and social stability, they value other physiological means and fulfilment such as self-expression more than a basic income. A third argument of differentiating Generation Y from others, found particularly in popular media, is Generation Y’s focus on work with meaning and concern for the environment. Ecological Modernisation Theory advocates involving institutions in environmental concerns, where the focus on potential financial gain by an environmentally ethic organisation has brought the topic to public attention. This heightened focus developed in the period in which Generation Y was socialised, and provides the grounds to argue that it plays a major role for Generation Y’s focus on ethical work. These three theories form the basis of an argument as to how and why Generation Y is perceived as different, and can provide the knowledge needed to understand what the new workforce expect and want from work.   Chapter 3 discuss the Q-methodology that was used to investigate these expectations, while Chapter 4 analyses the findings. It found that Generation Y’s expectations centre around three sets of values in relation to ethics at work. This is illustrated with The Achiever, The Ethical Employee, and The Public Conservationist ideal types. People associated with the first set of values want to be the best at what they do, and expect a good work-life balance in order to be able to do the best work they can for their organisation. Though they are hard workers and wish to add value to the organisation, they do not put much focus on ethics at work. In contrast, the second group values strong ethical cultures where managers are expected to set the tone in the workplace, and want to be in an organisation where they feel comfortable and where employee behaviour is regulated. For the final group, the focus is on preserving the environment and giving back to society. They expect to work with intrinsic motivation and see work as a holistic part of their lives due to their passion for what they want to do. Further, the participants agree that money is not the main reasons to work. They wish to have a say with innovative ideas and expect that all employees should be treated decently at work. Chapter 5 discusses the findings in relation to the literature before the thesis is concluded with discussions of limitations, implications and recommendations.   This research provides data on the differences and consensus within a generation, whilst providing information that can make it easier to understand today’s young workforce. This thesis adds to academic literature by providing a New Zealand based perspective of Generation Y’s various expectations about ethics at work, where some find it significantly more important than others.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Commerce

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Victoria Business School (Faculty of Commerce)


Lasthuizen, Karin