It’s 2018 and yet, people still have a hate on for millennials.
First, let me clear up what I mean by ‘millennial’ — a term that is heavily overused (similar to the terms innovation and digital). Apparently, there is confusion over the time period in which these individuals (of which I count myself) were born.
According to me and Pew Research Center, millennials include anyone born between 1981 and 1996, thus ‘growing up’ at the turn of the millennium.
Remember Y2k? Or that epic song by Will Smith? Or Passions, that amazing yet horrible soap opera? Then, chances are that you are a millennial.
So why does everyone hate this generation so much? Well, it isn’t everyone. The most vocal proponents of millennial hate are those from the older generation, mainly Baby Boomer and Gen Xers, and the battleground: the workplace.
Corporations, bosses, and older generations still subscribe to what has been called the ‘millennial myth’:
- We are lazy
- We are entitled
- We don’t have strong work ethic
- We are unmanageable in large corporations and impatient to rise the ranks
What’s weird is that there are now 38 year old millennials out there.
Yet, yesterday on my LinkedIn, this video parody was shared on what it is like to interview millennials and does not put us in a good light (and should actually be changed to Gen Z as Facebook was still cool in my day).
There is no ‘one’ millennial. There are millennials (like me) who didn’t grow up with a cell phone or mass internet. There are also millennials who are 23 and have had an entirely different experience.
What people or employers are saying when they say they hate ‘millennials’ is that they don’t like people younger than them. Particularly, how this younger generation values work.
So, let me set this often heated record straight with some facts — not only for millennials ourselves, but also for those older and younger.
Fact: The hate on millennials is the same as that of our grandparents towards our parents.
Every generation before us has also been called lazy and entitled, its just our turn. And now it is Gen Z’s. In a 2017 article, the BBC used their archives to show that older people have been griping about young people for hundreds and thousands of years, and their criticisms have been remarkably similar.
Even at work. An article in the The Economist on the ‘Millennial Myth’ found that research shows workers from different generations have many things in common. Most workers “roughly want the same things regardless of when they were born: to be given interesting work to do, to be rewarded on the basis of their contributions, and to be given the chance to work hard and get ahead”.
Fact: Millennials are a product of our environment, and not just technologically.
Millennial behaviours are the same as previous generations, just under new circumstances: the rise of the internet and smart phones, access to information at unprecedented speed and volumes, change in the ability to travel, longer life spans (yet more and more younger people being prey to cancer), and expensive living costs.
Another major change has been in the value of education. While still fundamentally important, post-secondary education is no longer a guarantor of financial success, often bringing someone into middle class with everyone else with a bachelors degree.
This has changed our values, and our attention spans, in many ways.
I won’t say whether I think this is a good thing or a bad thing. Nor will I argue against the fact that yes, our attention spans may be shorter, we can’t go somewhere without GPS (gone are the days of a physical map), and researching for work or school may be easier than previous generations.
But that doesn’t discount hard work.
Fact: Corporations need work from millennials (or younger workers) more than millennials need them.
This leads to the aloof nature of this generation. Millennials have a choice — a viable choice too — to work for corporations or for themselves. They believe and know they can make money online, work remotely, and work flexibly.
It is human psychology that people who care less, tend to have more options — just look at dating.
So why would a millennial choose not to work for you and be self-employed instead?
Lots of reasons. Younger workers may not value the same things that your office or work culture does. To be honest, your work culture or office space might suck.
I know for me, I left the corporate world because I could no longer sit in the same office day-after-day, without flexibility to work from home or work in even a common area setting.
Without generalizing, millennials value prestige and security, but they often do not seek it through titles and pensions. What many millennials value is paid off time, freedom, and flexibility, within a results only environment and with location autonomy.
However, there are also those that flourish in hierarchical and structured environments, and enjoy that type of work. Once millennial workers start to have children and homes themselves, the value placed on security and benefits also increases, and they may choose to forgo the self-employed route.
Fact: Many millennials do not change jobs out of choice.
One of the biggest complaints about millennials is that they are ‘job hoppers’, never staying with one company or in one job too long. .
When millennials change jobs, it is not likely to be done because they are fickle. Most people do not change jobs out of choice.
While Millennials are often called lazy, they are also workaholics. There has been an erosion of life and home in this new technologically driven world.
The items the previous generations fought for — security, overtime pay, higher pay — are also no longer guaranteed. Instead, millennials may be leaving jobs due to unhealthy work environments or bad bosses (because again, they may have more options).
Fact: When you talk about millennials, you may be talking about the 36 year old Director directly below you. So think before you speak.
And start blaming Generation Z for all of your problems.