Recently, I was sitting in a conference room full of people, and the presenter started talking about Millennials and how they don’t work hard, they feel entitled, and don’t understand how to be professional (I’m paraphrasing). Most of the heads began to nod, and there were audible affirmations and body shifts. As I looked around the room, I realized I was one of about five millennials in the room. So I sat back in my chair and thought, aren’t some of the millennials your children?
I am a Millennial — I am actually on the cusp of Gen-X, too, born in 1981. So while most of the generalizations about Millennials do not apply to me, I do understand. I can relate and see both sides. Relating and understanding others is hard one-on-one. It is even more complicated when it is an entire generation. I offer you these simple ideas, but they aren’t easy. I guess I am still coming to terms with my last article, “Simple and Easy are not the Same.”
My first idea is to stop talking about it all together because it just makes it worse. Classifying a whole generation of people into a few statements is silly. Talk won’t fix it — if it needs to be fixed at all. It does not help for speakers, presenters, managers, and co-workers to talk about people and what they are not doing if they will not teach, mentor, coach, or help them. Do something other than talk about it. Make something different happen.
Next, if you are a Gen-X or Boomer and you have children of your own, then go ahead and take a Millennial under your proverbial wing and start to teach them. If your own children have co-workers and managers who are Gen X or Boomers, then they may be talking about your child the same way you are talking about someone else’s. The same is true for Millennials. We can try to help create understanding, but we have to talk and offer alternative thoughts, so find someone in your organization who may be older and get to know them. I think you will find out you have more in common than you thought — at least that has been my experience.
Maybe they watched and took notes. Maybe they missed their parents at ball games, dance recitals, and karate matches, and they wanted something more out of life. Perhaps they listen to their parents and work hard at getting it right for themselves. Maybe they think it’s not worth it to give everything to one company or organization and get only security at the end. What if security isn’t what they want? Maybe it is the feeling that they tried new things, explored their options, and live a life without regret. Maybe, just maybe, the lazy and entitlement is the way millennials keep their power and control over their lives.
These are my thoughts, and I would encourage you to leave yours, too. I choose to show up as a Millennial who wants to understand and help bring people together.