Generations, Part 6: Millennial Ghost Stories

Millennials: Can We Fix It? Yes, We Can!

(Born 1981-2001)

How does it feel to be the newest generation in the workplace? Millennials will tell you, if you ask and then listen to them, that they are often ignored or treated as if they are ignorant. In return, Millennials often find it easier to simply ignore those in the older generations who ignore them, and this is not healthy in the workplace, the family, or the church. To appreciate those misunderstood Millennials, Haydn Shaw offers 6 ghost stories.

  1. Heavy Parental Involvement was a reaction to the hands-off approach taken by many Traditionalist and early Boomer parents. Millennials tend to view their parents as their role models and as valuable resources in helping them settle into adulthood.

  2. Fear of Low Self-Esteem led to not keeping score and giving everyone a trophy. Millennials became the center of attention in the home as their parents gave them the freedom to express themselves. Is it any wonder that they have the confidence to make suggestions to older, more experienced colleagues at work or in church?

  3. The Consumer Age meant that Millennials have been consumers since birth and given choices no other generation has ever had. They have been conditioned to search for what they want (Google, anyone?) and to look elsewhere until they find it.

  4. 9/11/01 taught Millennials that working today and being rewarded tomorrow is a risky proposition, because tomorrow may never come. Metal detectors, bomb squads, and drug sniffing dogs in public places have reinforced that the enemy is not somewhere “over there,” but is likely here among us. Shaw says that 9/11 had two powerful impacts on this generation: “First, Millennials learned to not wait until tomorrow to do something important, because tomorrow may never arrive….Second, and related, they have a strong impulse to keep work and life in balance.”

  5. Technology Everywhere is a good description of the Millennials, because they were the first generation to grow up in a digital world. “Boomers learned computers at work, Xers learned them at home or school. Millennials never had to learn computers – they were built into their earliest toys.” For several reasons, Millennials love technology:

    • Technology makes the Millennials important to the older generations. For the first time, the youngest generation is the most experienced when it comes to future technology.

    • Technology gave the Millennials freedom. Unlike prior generations, who spent much of their time outdoors and unsupervised, Millennials weren’t allowed to roam freely, so they turned to the Internet to escape their parents’ control.

    • Technology shrank and expanded the Millennials’ world. They’ve got the world in their pocket in the form of a smart phone, and friends around the world on social media.

    • Technology gathers Millennials into tribes. Being constantly connected to a network of friends means they have a much larger group of friends and influencers.

  6. Emerging Adulthood is a new life phase that has been developing since the 1960s, but it is a product of the fact that we do not really consider young people to be adults until they reach the second half of their 20s.

While it may be easy for the older generations to dismiss Millennials as lazy or entitled, Shaw explains that that attitude is really a mistake. He says, “those who ignore or disparage Millennials won’t get much argument from them; they’ll be ignored. The Millennials who work for them will pack up the ideas (and with it their enthusiasm) that they so badly wanted to contribute. They’ll smile and nod and then go back to texting people who care about what they think. Those managers and organizations will miss out.” So if we want to reap the benefits of their youthful enthusiasm, we should stop criticizing Millennials and start engaging them in conversation, treating them with the respect we want to receive. That would be a good first step in moving past the sticking point and leading into the future.

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