The Boomers and X’ers mantra on the next generation. The perception of the Millennials (Gen Y’ers) is that you have a sense of entitlement and are fooling yourselves into believing you’re actually being “social’ online. Recently, a Boomer friend of mine (I’m an X’er) told me she was taking a class at the university and was so disappointed with the younger students in her class and worried for the future. How did I respond?
I told her:
Your generation is the most socially conscious generation to date. Leyden and Teixeria found that “Millennials are civic-minded, politically engaged, and hold values long associated with progressives” (2007, p. 2). Research consistently finds Millennials to be more likely to volunteer than any previous generation, “The American Freshman survey showed 83 percent of entering freshmen in 2005 volunteered at least occasionally during their high school senior year, the highest ever measured in this survey. And 71 percent said they volunteered on a weekly basis” (Leyden & Teixeira, 2007, p. 3).
And while Boomer researchers (Jean Twenge from SDSU specifically)suggest your narcissistic and only volunteer because you’re required in high school, your civic engagement typically extends beyond high school, into college and adult hood (Burling, 2012). Your generation is not settling for the status quo or relying on the way we “used to do it”. You’re the ‘smart’ generation using technology to make music and art, be politically active and socially mobilized, to collaborate and share, to educate yourselves and teach others, start businesses, and yes, socialize. Many believe you’re so plugged in that your checked out.
This amazing demo in a TedTalk by Pranav Mistry from MIT is one example of the creative and high level of thinking happening with the next generation of leaders, connecting the “real world” to the “digital world”, demonstrating how “checked in” you actually are. It also exemplifies Millennials move away from greed and capitalism by releasing this work as Open Source technology.
Is narcissism generation specific? Isn’t it more of a life stage, most of my friends in high school didn’t have jobs, and I certainly remember going to college with people who thought it was a waste of their time. Each generation is criticized by the former for being less motivated (or lazy) and more entitled; it wasn’t Gen Xers who talked about walking 5 miles in the snow uphill to get to school (Traditionalists-Boomers). Entitlement is something we experience in our youth and grow out of, and those who don’t, become bank CEO’s.
So why this ageist misperception? Our generational experiences, values and characteristics are different:
- Traditionalists (1927- 45) believe that privilege was earned by being faithful and loyal, work hard and respect authority, corporate loyalists.
- Boomers (1946-64) grew up in an era of reform and were much more independent thinking, ambitious, and competitive than the former generation.
- Gen X’ers (19-65-80) were latch key kids born to workaholic Boomer parents, resulting in a generation that is more flexible and want to have a greater life/work balance.
- Gen Y’s (1980-02) are achievement and team oriented, you grew up with technology and rely on it, you aren’t trying to climb the corporate ladder but would rather be included and involved.
( Everett Community College, 2011)
So it’s not that your generation doesn’t want to work or don’t think you should; you want to work differently! You’re the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce, your values cannot be ignored. Organizations led by your generation are becoming far more flat (less hierarchical) and aren’t driven by the bottom line, but by the creativity of its workforce and satisfaction of its customer. Our current model for success has led the US (and parts of Europe) into the second (in the US) greatest recession of all time.
Rather than molding you in our image, what do we stand to gain if we learn to be more like you? In my work (and research on) Millennials (Gen Y) I’ve learned to:
- Be more flexible and creative
- Embrace technology (I thought email would never catch on)
- Leverage technology to my advantage
- Not be rigid with timelines
- Value the process as much as the outcome
- Allow others to lead
- Trust the team
Millennials are creative people, who care about the world and are finding new solutions to old problems. The future is in good hands.
When working inter-generationally, remember to be patient with your older counterpart, they can be assured that they have as much to gain from you, as you from them.
Everett Community College. (2011). Generational Characteristics. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from Everett Community College: http://www.everettcc.edu/faculty_staff/tlc/bag-teaching/index.cfm?id=11170
Leyden, P., & Teixeira, R. (2007). The Progressive Politics of the Millenial Generation. NPI San Francisco: www.newpolitics.net.
Burling, Stacey. (2012). The Philadelphia Inquirer “‘Me’ or ‘We’: A generational debate.” McClatchy – Tribune News Service.