The Millennial Generation

Good Morning, my name is Tom and I love the Millennial generation. I don’t love everyone or everything about them, but I love what they will become. Are they perfect? No! Do they ALL want the same thing, no? Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course. Yet, I can’t seem to follow along with my generation and call them lazy and entitled. After all, the Gen X’ers were called the “slacker generation,” and now we’re starting to run the world. The Millennials are next and they’re going to blow the doors off everything.

I’ve heard my colleagues and friends calling Millennials ‘lazy’ and ‘entitled.’ How they don’t want to ‘cut their teeth’ and do the grunt work. To my generation, when did we get so old? What’s next? Screaming ‘get off my lawn?’

Understanding the intergenerational work force is something I’ve been curious since I lived both sides of the divide. When I graduated college, I entered the Civil Engineering world. I was young and had high expectations when I entered an industry dominated by ‘old white-haired men.’ A lot of my expectations were quickly ‘managed’ and my creativity squashed for the standard ‘this is how we do it since the dawn of time.’ I learned what it was like to survive and thrive in Engineering world but If I started out as a square peg, I was quickly whittled down round peg over time. Then I made a move to the ‘startup world’ and worked predominately with bright young Millennials. I was the ‘old white-haired man’ in the room. There was no ‘this is the way we did since the dawn of time,’ because everything was brand new! Everything was about agility, sorry-not sorry, break the rules, and make shit happen!

Why is it so hard?

Working with Millennials (M’s) requires a new way of attacking problems and letting ‘go of shit.’ It’s not like we’re talking different languages, just reframing the questions better. It’s helped me because M’s are fresh, creative, and haven’t had life beat them up too much yet. Yet, my generation (Gen X) and the Baby Boomers before them still have a hard time assimiliating the M’s. Rightfully so, so many M’s are completely disrupting the ‘order’ before them. They’ve given us AirBnB, Uber, RobinHood, and many more new ways to do old things better. The M’s look at our old way of doing thing and say, “Why do we do it this way?”

They strip old processes apart, re-engineer them with the latest technology, and then free up time and money to go do something fun. Whereas we would take that free time and go back to work. This pisses the older generation off. To my generation, why do we do this? M’s threaten the existing order with their ‘new fangled technology’ and touch upon a lifestyle we all dreamed about since graduation.

I think we’re jealous.

Communication breakdown

Last year I angered someone over Twitter about this very subject. It was a typical intergenerational misunderstanding that reminded me of this Ted Talk from Kelly Williams Brown.

Some key takeaways from this video:

  • Question: What is a Millennial?
    • A. A narcisstic a–hole
    • B. An Instgram/Facebook/Self-branding manchild
    • C. Someone who ‘rejects the system’, opting instead for parental subsidies
    • D. Someone born between 1981 and 2000
  • “The Now Generation has become the Me Generation” – NY Times about Boomers in 1976
  • “They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike the Himalayas than climb the corporate ladder…” – Time Magazine about Gen X in 1990
  • Estimated 52 to 86 million Millennials
  • Entitlement is always attached to Millennials
  • Collective wringing our hands over young people, why are they young?
  • What do we expect from work? 22 year olds want more pay and less work than a 50 year old
  • Why is that? 22 year olds don’t understand the working environments, expectations too high
  • Millennials were told their path to success was to make themselves special, take classes, rack up college debt, get unpaid internship, and then a job will come
  • The path to success for Millenials has not been this way, it’s way volatile
  • Asked, what do Millennials care about? #1 Answer: Be a good parent (via Pew Research
    ** Second answer: Be a good husband or wife
  • Third answer: Be a good member of the Community
  • Look at the assumptions you’re buying into, don’t blindly follow the “lazy/entitled” mantra
  • Question the narrative

Kelly fights back against an intergenerational onslaught. The M’s are not taking it anymore. They saw how Gen X’ers just rolled right over. When we were the “Slackers” and bumbled our way into the workforce, We woke up one day and wondered what happened, we lost control. We got pushed around and now we want revenge too.

Lindsay Pollak goes a step further and tells us to stop shaming Millennials. Instead of taking intergenerational revenge on M’s, we have a chance to make it better for generations to come.

Some key takeaways from this video:

  • Older generations tend to shame newer generations
  • Speaker got a grad degree, couldn’t understand how to get a job
  • Moved home, read books on how to do find a job, ate ice cream
  • Former co-worker helped her make an introduction
  • Since then she helped young people succeed in jobs when starting out
  • What if we supported young people vs shaming them
  • Mullennials will become the largest working generation (75% by 2025)
  • Marketers have been studying this generation, they want to sell to them
  • “No one gave me a trophy when I started out, they’re being entitled”
  • Coaching and development tends to matter more to Millennials than money
  • Companies that get it provide ‘instant feedback’ via apps/realtime, all generations love that
  • Millennials (and me) love flexibility in working hours/environment
  • “They don’t want to do their grunt work”, Millennials want to know why this work matters. It’s about transparency
  • Do you want to what is effective, or do you want to get revenge on how you were managed (ed. big one)

The Time is Now

All of us will come into contact with Millennials, whether socially or at our work. We owe it to ourselves not to be jealous or seek revenge for perceived wrongs in our past. We owe it to them to nurture, guide, and mentor them. They’ll be the ones shaping our future today and we can either be a part of that glorious change or start screaming ‘get off my lawn.’


Also published on Medium.