Millennials get a bad rap.
Now before I get a lot of irate comments mailed to me on postcards, let me explain.
My days are spent with people younger than me – and I love it. I run an agency so my staff is young and hip, and I live in RiNo, a hip emerging neighborhood populated by millennials. (Is the word “hip” still hip. Who knows… but I bet most millennials will be forgiving of my faux pas if it isn’t.)
I have a fairly evolved and “young-at-heart” circle of friends, and yet I frequently hear gripes about millennials’ work ethic, politeness, dress code, disdain for tradition, language choices, etc. I could go on and on, so to personalize this paragraph, insert your gripe here: ______.
Here’s the thing about millennials, I truly believe that what most annoys old codgers is not a specific behavior or attitude – it is that they aren’t buying what we’re selling. They’re skeptics forging their way in a society where a lot of the tips and tricks that worked for prior generations have ceased to perform. They’ve grown up in a world where everything they were told to be, do, and say in order to earn success has failed them.
Work hard, save your money, finish college, invest in a home, get married, have kids… Hell, if we’re honest, we’re not even buying what we’re selling anymore! Most of my friends are divorced, have sold their big homes in favor of a simpler life, and are seeking meaning as they progress in their careers.
In the spirit of fairness to both sides I’m going to present a handful of the top gripes and refute claims I see as biased – or at least misinformed. This is totally subjective, but hey, it’s my blog.
Here we go:
Millennials are entitled.
Really? The first generation who is projected to be poorer than their parents? A generation saddled with crushing student loan debt, a weird job market and major cultural upheaval is entitled? For starters, let’s remember who created the millennials – us. And a generation raised with parents trying to hyper-structure, supervise and otherwise orchestrate the details of their lives shouldn’t be solely blamed for the output. 58% of millennials self-identify as ‘entitled,’ which may be the antidote for actual entitlement. Young people of every generation have annoyed the oldsters with their relentless optimism, questioning of authority, and grandiose ideas. And young people of every generation need a leg up. I think millennials are entering adulthood with the deck stacked against them and we should cut them a little slack. If you still don’t feel gracious, this revealing rant by Tristen Lee in the Independent may amp up your empathy.
Millennials are lazy.
I’m convinced that millennials just appear to be lazy, as opposed to actually being lazy. My experiences with my own team don’t support the notion that <35 old workers are averse to, well, actual work. Millennials just need different working conditions to thrive. They don’t want to have meetings for meetings sake, or be penalized for coming to the office late when it doesn’t matter, or have to jump through mindless hoops to earn a promotion. They want to perform meaningful work, avoid nonsense, and be rewarded holistically vs solely through compensation. And you know what? That’s awesome! Good for them for demanding common sense, transparency, true productivity, and work/life balance. They will make the workplace better for all of us in the future. (For a great debrief on why millennials seem lazy peruse this Lifehack article.)
Millennials over-rely on technology.
Millennials may be the most educated generation yet. Unfortunately, that hasn’t necessarily translated into plush jobs and limitless earning potential. They have entered a tough workforce and like to learn through experience, teamwork, purpose-driven projects, and autonomous education. They are aces at using technology to solve problems because we raised them in a world filled with technology! Progress is both good and inevitable.
Three fascinating stats from a recent PWC study refute the idea that millennials neglect true learning and over-rely on technology:
- Three quarters of millennials say they are ready to learn new skills and retrain to stay relevant in the workplace.
- Three quarters of millennials believe that technology enables them to do a better job at work (they are also better at unplugging than Gen X).
- And about three quarters of millennials think technology can never replace the human mind.
Makes you love them, doesn’t it?
Millennials are self-absorbed little turds who are ruining life as we know it (my paraphrasing).
Millennials are the most diverse generation the earth has ever seen. And that diversity is translating into greater tolerance, kindness and philanthropy. They are also very eco-conscious and willing to sacrifice to live a life aligned with their stated values. Despite the forces working against them, most millennials are optimistic about the future.
A few other highlights on this unique generation:
- Millennials earn 20% less than their parents at the same age (adjusted for inflation).
- Millennials are laboring under double the load of student debt than Gen X.
- Nearly half of millennials have a side hustle to increase their income (see, they do work!).
- A third of millennials 34 and under live with their parents – and it’s not because they are losers. They save at the same rate as Baby Boomers and simply make less and dish out more.
- Millennials are arguably the most generous generation. 84% donate annually.
- Millennials are not only committed to the environment, they are willing to modify their behavior to fit their values.
Maybe millennials aren’t always contributing or behaving in the way we think they should. (They certainly don’t shop the way marketers think they should and that is driving my industry NUTS!) And maybe they exhibit some annoying sporty fresh traits typical of the young. But they are solid citizens launching into adulthood with a lot of factors weighed against them.
The next time a millennial enters your circle of influence, open your mind and swipe right.