A Boomer Defends Millennials

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They’re lazy. They are more interested in their leisure activities than in getting the work done. They’re spoiled rotten.

Those were the exact sentiments hurled at my age cohort when we were 28-year-olds embarking upon our careers. Except the wording was quite a bit coarser. “Long-haired hippie bastards” was a favorite. “Pot-smoking low-lifes with loose morals” was another. The older generation was absolutely convinced that we were going to cause the ruination of society as they knew it. Guess what? It didn’t happen. Turned out that many Boomers contributed strongly to the workplace. And, some of those very same Boomers even liked the way it felt to move ahead in their careers and make money, although they went about it differently than the prior generation. In essence, some values were shared between the generations, but some were not.

Now, we Boomers are the ones making the same kinds of claims against Millennials that were leveled against us 35 years ago. They care more about their free time than they do about furthering their careers. They aren’t willing to commute long hours. They don’t want to pay their dues.  They’re spoiled rotten.

A Perspective

Let’s break it down a bit. First, let’s think about some of the “radical” changes that stemmed from ideas of the Baby Boomers – the changes that the older generation feared.  Long hair on men. Dresses without pantyhose. Working from home. Wearing casual clothes to the office. Maternity leave. And, what did the older generation fear about these things? They worried that such changes would destroy the fabric of the businesses where the Boomers were working. That the tried-and-true methods of earning a living would go up in smoke. Hell, that society as they knew it was in deep trouble!  And what happened?  Did societal structure disintegrate?  No.  In fact, all of the “radical new ideas” noted above are now widely accepted practices that have actually helped the workplace to evolve and grow.

Now, onto Millennials. Isn’t it just possible that the things Millennials care about, which the Boomers currently fear, will also help the workplace evolve and move forward? Shorter commutes. Work-life balance. If a Millennial would rather go zip-lining than come to work on a Saturday, does that make her lazy or simply well-adjusted? Perhaps she will be a happier and more effective employee come Monday, because she isn’t burned out from working all weekend.

I’ll bet you a nickel that many of the Millennials being bashed today end up running businesses or otherwise working at jobs that they are very proud of. Who’s to say that the cranky Boomers’ perspective is the appropriate one and not that of the energetic, wise-beyond-their-years Millennials?

The Takeaway

 So you probably want to know, “What’s the takeaway?” Here are three:

  1. Don’t assume that your definition of “success” is the only definition of “success.” Is making money all there is to success, or is feeling proud of your work and being balanced in your life a better way to define success? It’s an individual choice with no right or wrong. The best man at my wedding is now a very successful NY lawyer. His brother lives on an Ashram in India. Can’t we say that they are both successful in their own ways?
  2. If you are a Boomer considering hiring a Millennial, look at that person as an individual, not as a member of some large, amorphous cohort. As Mark Twain so aptly put it, “all generalizations are false.” Meaning that all Millennials are not created equally.
  3. Look at the changing workplace as your personal opportunity to evolve, as well. Try to understand the perspectives of your co-workers, whatever generation they belong to.

No generation has a monopoly on good ideas, workplace etiquette, or knowledge of what’s truly important. We are all in search of the Holy Grail. We’ll be much more likely to find it if we search together than if we are at odds. So, I say, “bring on the Millennials!” They are a refreshing addition to the workforce. I haven’t shaved in two days and I’m loving it!

 

 

Photo: Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix) from Flickr.

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