Current AffairsFamily/CommunicationLeadershipPeopleReflectionSeptember 22, 20158Why Millenials Are Great

Tired of all the millenial-bashing? Here's an alternative view.

I spent the week­end most­ly with mil­lenials: two of my kids and their spous­es, and two nieces and their spouses/significant others.

And once again, I sim­ply didn’t expe­ri­ence all the neg­a­tive things peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion tend to say about peo­ple of this new gen­er­a­tion. Lazy? Every one of them is gain­ful­ly employed and work­ing hard. Enti­tled? None of them seem to be expect­ing to have things hand­ed to them on a sil­ver plat­ter. Dis­en­gaged? All of them are pas­sion­ate about the things that mat­ter to them.

In fact, we had many won­der­ful con­ver­sa­tions all day and into the night – and I was con­tin­u­al­ly impressed by their insights, humor and curiosity.

Now, they are skep­ti­cal about the things that deserve their skep­ti­cism: cor­po­ra­tions, the gov­ern­ment, adver­tis­ing. But when it comes to the impor­tant stuff: love, con­nec­tion to oth­er peo­ple, find­ing work that has mean­ing for them, being stew­ards of the plan­et – no skep­ti­cism at all: 100% in.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time try­ing to under­stand why Boomers and Gen Xers are so dis­mis­sive of Mil­lenials. I believe part of it is sim­ply the age-old and con­tin­u­ous dis­re­gard for every new gen­er­a­tion by every pre­ced­ing gen­er­a­tion. I think of it as the why-in-my-day phe­nom­e­non: “Why, in my day, we had to work hard, and we didn’t expect…” I’m com­plete­ly con­vinced that grown-ups in Pom­peii were com­plain­ing about their young adult kids in just this way even as the lava rolled in.

But part of it is also based on a mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Mil­lenials’ val­ues. I was work­ing with a senior group at Face­book a cou­ple of weeks ago and the head of the group said, “Mil­lenials as a group care most about mean­ing, chal­lenge and flex­i­bil­i­ty.” I agree, and I also think that mil­lenials see work as one of a num­ber of ele­ments in their life that can give them these things, AND that they believe they have the right, per­haps even the oblig­a­tion, to look for those things in work – and if they’re not get­ting them, to ask. And if they’re still not get­ting them – to leave.

For exam­ple, my assis­tant Dan and his wife Jen are par­ents of a 10-month-old daugh­ter, Ted­dy (short for Theodo­ra). They recent­ly decid­ed that they didn’t want to raise her in NYC– both because it’s so bru­tal­ly expen­sive and because they want­ed for her the kind of child­hood they had both expe­ri­enced: a house with a yard, grand­par­ents near­by, a less fre­net­ic pace. (That’s “mean­ing,” for those of you keep­ing track.) Dan came to me and said that he real­ly likes and val­ues his work with Pro­teus (mean­ing), that he thinks there’s still a lot more for him to learn, and lots more the com­pa­ny wants to do that he could help with (chal­lenge), and that he’d like to fig­ure out how to make it work for him to work long-dis­tance (flex­i­bil­i­ty). From what I under­stand, Jen had a very sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tion with her employer.

Now, if I were look­ing through the lens of mil­lenials-are-bad, I might very well have inter­pret­ed Dan’ announce­ment and request with indig­na­tion: Who does he think he is? I might have thought. Does he think we’ll change the way we work just for him? How entitled!

But I don’t see it that way at all. I think the mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion looks at their whole life and wants it to be a qual­i­ty life, with mean­ing, chal­lenge and flex­i­bil­i­ty. And they see work as one aspect of cre­at­ing the kind of life they want. In oth­er words, they’re not will­ing to put aside their life in order to meet the demands imposed by work. And to most baby boomers, who have done just that for thir­ty or forty years years, it seems uppity.

For­tu­nate­ly for Dan, it turns out that I’m kind of mil­lenial in my view of the world — mean­ing, chal­lenge and flex­i­bil­i­ty are key to me, as well, and — unlike many folks of my gen­er­a­tion — I’ve been craft­ing my life to deliv­er those things for a long time.

So, we’re try­ing to make things work with Dan’s new cir­cum­stances, and I’m pret­ty sure we can shift to accommodate.

And I know that he will be even more focused and excel­lent than he already is when we do. Because one thing I’ve learned about mil­lenials is that when you col­lab­o­rate with them in their quest for a life of mean­ing, chal­lenge and flex­i­bil­i­ty, they respond with all of their con­sid­er­able ener­gy and passion.

I actu­al­ly think the world is going to be in good hands as this new gen­er­a­tion takes the reins over the next few decades.  I’m excit­ed to be a part of it. 


  • Duncan from Vetter

    October 2, 2015 at 2:08 am

    It’s great to see that there still are peo­ple who see the good in the future gen­er­a­tion. Your arti­cle is so empow­er­ing and opti­mistic, that even the Boomers and Gen Xers would give Mil­lenials a chance. Instead of focus­ing on the bad aspects (or bad from a gen­er­a­tion’s point of view because for Mil­lenials seek­ing for a per­son­al — work bal­ance is com­plete­ly nat­ur­al) it would be bet­ter to try to imple­ment the parts that can actu­al­ly make a com­pa­ny more flex­i­ble, thus more productive.


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