Both mainstream and social media have branded the Millennials as narcissistic and coddled.
Narcissistic is a popular word these days used also to denigrate the most hated president of the United States ever – “vain, self-absorbed, self-centered, egotistical.” Not a very nice way to also describe an entire younger generation.
And “coddled” isn’t very nice either, meaning Millennials have been treated in a way that is too kind and gentle in order to protect them from pain or difficulty. Not just gullible like the rest of us. Clueless.
In other words, spoiled brats. But no one ever said they were helpless.
An Age Group, Not a Class
Even if some fit the mold, the generation is an age group. It’s not an economic class and the widest age range reaches from 14 to 36, born between the years 1982 to 2004. They grew up in the same spread of economic classes as their parents. At first they were called “Gen Y” because they followed “Gen X”, but they became popularly known as the “Millennials” when they began graduating from high school and college in the year 2000. And competing for jobs.
The New York Times is the most quoted Millennial basher and an editorial writer further degraded them a few years ago by calling them the “Me Gen.”
Some of the Millennials are defending themselves. Older members of the generation hardly recognize themselves when they read the stories. One who graduated college 10 years ago with a degree in business administration said he has been looking for a decade for adulthood to kick in but the best he has been able to accomplish is entry-level jobs at minimum and sub-standard wages.
Out on the employment lines he is learning that a college degree is the minimum requirement to work at Quiznos, wrapping up subs. But it’s those with experience as well as degrees who get the jobs. Overqualified beats a high school degree but not by much.
Finally in his mid-20s, he “went back to school,” received a certification and license as a school bus driver and raised his income to a whopping $22 an hour. Still he looks for a job worthy of his education but doesn’t find one that pays better than bus driver. He’s thinking of going back to college to get a masters degree, but that would cost more money than he can come up with and he would have to give up his meager income to do it. Even then, there are no guarantees on the job market.
That’s the life Millennials face when they reach the precipice that follows this coddling that you’ve heard about. Suddenly, when it’s time to leave the cocoon, harsh reality sets in. Some suffer the embarrassment of having to move back in with their parents.
Sheltered from Nasty World
You could say it’s the result of coddling, but it’s worse. In fact, too many parents in the previous generation have sheltered their children from the nasty world, keeping them unaware. To make up for leaving them home alone in their teen years, they’ve spent every dime they can lay their hands on to make their children feel like life is good. Parents have actually created the same bubble for themselves.
During the growing years, the middle class Millennials have learned the joy of excessive consumerism with closets bursting with the coolest and most expensive fashions available and pockets full of technology. Some are even wearing that technology. The lesson being that money buys happiness. Add to that technology that has allowed the unsuspecting to live in a virtual world of their own choosing, isolated from the hard facts of life they will eventually have to face. Not just unprepared, but unaware.
This all may sound like coddling to you, but when Millennials meet the world they know they’ve been duped.
They’ve been deceived and they’re pissed off!
I find that very positive! While Millennials object to being called the “ME, ME, ME Generation,” I find that encouraging.
Psychologists regard the Millennials as open minded, confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and receptive to new ideas and ways of living. They are the most educated generation ever. They have all the qualities anyone needs to take charge of their own lives and their own futures by taking matters into their own hands.
One of the most interesting reports I’ve read comes from a Millennial who attended a Linkedin Talent Connect session. The session was actually for recruiters, not job seekers. But the report inadvertently explains why the Me Gen won’t be satisfied in a work environment where the goal is what’s in it for the company, not what’s in it for them. A workplace where they get no respect, no security and no clear reward for their contributions.
The report listed eight Millennial traits that would need to be overcome by the typical corporate employer using the old command and control business model, also known as the military model. The Millennial traits are exactly why the Me Gen and the rest of us need to give up on predatory capitalism and change the way business and the economy works.
Here are some examples of the things Millennials don’t like. I can’t see much difference from the way we all feel.
No Texting Aloud
During the Linkedin session, prospective employers were told that Millennials are multi-taskers. But that’s bad! They are easily distracted by social media and texting. The solution offered is to keep them too busy to waste time.
No Connectivity? Irrelevant Company.
On the other hand, the very next attribute noted Millennials are well connected and know everything about social media because they are living in it. If a company isn’t using social media, the recruiters were told, the Millennial will consider the company irrelevant. And I add, the company will also be irrelevant in the market place.
There is no doubt Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation yet and – if a company isn’t equipped with the very latest technology and eager to use it – the Millennial will be a bad fit.
Then the report turns to what Millennials want.
Back Pats? No, Money!
Instant gratification and recognition is at the top of the advisory list. After all, the Me Gen is as it is because it breezed through school with certificates of participation rather than solid achievement. But they are not likely to be amused by pats on the back now. They’ve been duped all ready by that trick and now they expect fair compensation and good benefits.
Balance Between Work and Life
They also want a balance between work and life and they demand the flexibility necessary to enjoy both. They are not as willing as their parents to give up life to make ends meet or maintain a lifestyle they hardly get a chance to enjoy. They don’t mind working hard, but they want time to play hard too. And family life matters.
Those used to be acceptable personal goals, but now it’s called selfish. Right? I don’t think so. Unfortunately Millennials want to have a family but they are forced to delay marriage and children until they can do it better than what they remember. A conundrum.
Could it ever happen under the current employment conditions? There is no parity between the employer and the employee. Employees have no leverage. Fulltime workers get no job security. New hires rarely get the benefits the previous employees got. As I say time and again, mega corporations view people as liabilities, not assets. Tomorrow’s stock price is the bellwether, not employee stability or value.
Where does child-rearing fit in?
Employees are so unwanted in the corporate community that forty percent of them are now rented from employment agencies. No promises from the company, no assurances from these wholesalers of humanity either. No leverage in the hands of the worker who has time on his hands for sale. It’s a win-win for the agency and the company; a lose-lose for the workers.
Collaboration or Greed?
Collaboration is another thing they want. They’ve become accustomed to it online, but they won’t find in the workplace.
Millennials are team-oriented and enjoy building friendships with colleagues. They enjoy exchanging knowledge among themselves, knowing that each grows more knowledgeable because of it. And they hunger for it. They are both teachers and learners.
But I can tell you from personal experience that the climate for interaction and knowledge-sharing in corporate America is worse than ever before. Employees still see – correctly I’m sad to say – that knowledge is power and so they hoard it. If their employers see knowledge as an asset at all, they seize it, capture it, store it and then litigate over it when someone – often the employee who created it in the first place – dares to use it.
Transparency and Trust?
Millennials want to feel they have an open and honest relationship with their managers and co-workers and they don’t want any surprises when they join the company. They’ve had enough of that.
But in the typical corporate culture, managers are as insecure as those who work for them and compliant to the letter with the laws set down by corporate practices and procedures. Bosses are not friendly mentors. And they are not go-betweens connecting workers and their messages with the next level; they are disciples of the upper crust. Furthermore, your fellow employees are trolls willing to betray you at any time to gain a little advantage in a dog eat dog workplace.
I’m going to go deeper on this subject when we get to a class on knowledge management in the Yellow Zone. Soon!
Millennials want to know that they will have the opportunity to advance and develop their careers with the company they choose to join.
With some exceptions, that’s a fantasy. There is no long-term commitment in today’s work environment on the part of either the employer or the employee. No matter what generation you are in, you might as well accept the truth: career advancement is only achieved through mobility. The wise worker always has his resume in circulation.
On that low note, let’s return to my earlier statement.
I said I find encouraging that the Millennials are characterized as the Me Gen. Here’s why. Every trait identified as Millennial is only bad for the old business model and the old economy. The rulers of the Wall Street economy abhor independent thinking. I love it!
Praise the people’s gods and pass the ammunition! The Me Generation is good for a new business model and a new economy, which is just what’s needed now. And hold your hat. I’m about to tell you about the next generation. We’ll call it “Z” until they start tacking labels on it. The “Zs” are just two years away from entering the workforce. Just in time to team up with the “Ys,” facing common challenges and becoming a combined force to be reckoned with.
Together they can become the We Gens instead of the Me Gen – two generations working together to turn economics right side up.
But first, the Me Gen will have to stop looking back, spending too much time blaming the Boomers. They’ve purposefully avoided blaming their parent’s generation, leveling the charge of squandering the best prospects any generation ever had on those who were born two generations ago.
Well, I have an announcement to make.
Attention Me Gens: If you are taking this course and you’ve skipped the very first class, the History of Economic Injustice, I send you back. It took centuries to wreck our economy, not years. Certainly not one generation.
If you must look back, and I encourage it because history is a great teacher, look all the way back. Then get the Baby Boomers out of your heads and move forward with the newest generation to come, the one that looks forward. Go forth and collaborate!
And Here Come the “Zs.”
Generation Z is described as Millennials on steroids.
There are not yet specific years that totally encompass this generation, but researchers are using the years between the mid-1990s and 2000 as the beginning of their era which overlaps the Millennials.
As a result, Gen Z shares some of the same traits as the Millennials but shows differences that come from being on the post side of 9-11 and two economic crashes, one in 2000 and the latest in 2007. Unlike the Millennials who were sequestered from a world turned bad, Gen Z was more exposed to the ugly side of the world, resulting in a great deal more caution in their dreams. But also more confident.
The Millennials were raised during the boom times of a false economy only to see their world crash. To the Gen Z, that’s history. It didn’t happen to them but it did prepare them to enter the real world with eyes wide open. You might say they are younger and wiser.
While the Millennials were confused and angry at the start, Gen Z people are fully aware of what they face. Their generation is full of early starters who know what the score is and what they need to do to change it. Teenagers in Gen Z are more likely to go straight to the workforce, opting out of higher education, opting into education online, dodging the debt that college grads have around their necks when they finally join the workforce.
They Will Save Us All
And the trait that most excites me is that the Gen Zs know the true value of independence and prefer independent work environments. They’re highly entrepreneurial. One survey reported that 72 percent of the teenage respondents said they wanted to start their own business some day.
Why wouldn’t this news just set me on fire? Of course it would! These are the very qualities that will save us all and the very qualities we are looking for in those who take this course. You’ll see.
Please move on to the next essay.
Seniors at the Tipping Point