Are Millennials really that bad?
In 2013, Time magazine called Millennials the “me, me, me generation,” and cited studies that seem to indicate that these young ‘uns are more narcissistic and entitled than any previous generation. When you simply say the word “millennial,” people respond with things like “disloyal” and “special snowflake.”
Well, I’m a Gen X, and I’m calling BS! Do you remember what they said about us? We were supposed to be disengaged, apathetic cynics, but the data don’t bear this out, and I’ve certainly not seen that among my friends. In fact, we outpace our Boomer parents in volunteerism and recent civic engagement. Knowing this all to well, I came to this discussion of the millennial generation with some healthy X-er doubts. And, as Elspeth Read noted in The Atlantic in reaction to that Time article, “it’s not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it’s that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older.” As the Talking Heads once reminded us, it’s the same as it ever was.
I see Gen Y is having a really positive impact on the world of work, particularly if we can get rid of some of our presumptions. From where I’m sitting, some of what people have complained about in these young workers is simply what it looks like to come of age in the 21st century. In 2000, Jeffrey Arnett proposed a phase of life between adolescence and adulthood, which he termed “emerging adulthood.” People in this life stage are legal adults but do not own homes or have kids or even have clear career goals, things we have long seen as makers of adulthood. I think this makes a lot of sense, given our increased life expectancy and longer work lives. I mean, if you can realistically anticipate working into your 70s, there doesn’t seem to be such a rush to commit to a specific profession, does there?
And here’s the thing: this is a huge generation. By recent estimates, Millennials now make up about 50% of the US workforce! Yeah, those lazy, job-hopping special snowflakes are now your coworkers. So the rest of us need to figure out how to work with them! And I have some good news about them to share with you on Thursday.