From ‘Village of the Damned‘ (1960)
I was chatting with an associate when out of the blue he said “By the way, dealing with Millennials is exhausting. I’m worn down.” This gentleman is no indolent plodder; he’s a man with a reputation for accomplishment across companies. “Exhausted” is not the first word I would use to describe him. He pounced on an opportunity to work with a young team of entrepreneurs. A seasoned man experienced in the language of the C-suites, he could help them hone their flashy product. Yet a few months in, there were problems. Why was this guy under siege? Was there a GenY — Boomer friction? He said “yes.” Things weren’t going smoothly.
What was going on? Do Millennials require new rules of engagement? Must the rest of us go to Y-School?
We’ve been reading about the march of the generations for a long time now. The Greatest Generation, the Boomers, Generation X, and now the Millennials, Generation Y. There are attributes unique to each of them: toe-the-line and sacrifice, (Greatest), rebellion and ego (Boomers), anomie (Gen X) and “look at me” (GenY). In the Zodiac Of The Decades, each generation is molded by world events. Technology and prosperity are important as well.
Does when you are born define who you are? The ancient Chinese thought so. Their Zodiac defines people by birth year, each with an avatar and a defined set of superior attributes. Shortcomings, too, unless you are a Dragon.
Thank goodness I didn’t marry a Tiger.
Got a problem with someone? Want to hook up with a Snake? Visit your nearby Chinese restaurant and find out. We chuckle at the absurdity of birth year personality, so why do we accept the concept of ‘Generation Y?’
Are the generations really that different? PewReseachCenter thinks otherwise, at least in the areas you would assume they would be. How about, say, technology and acceptance of social change?
Members of the Millennial generation also give generally high marks to societal changes such as the greater availability of green products and more racial and ethnic diversity. But, as was true of technological innovations, in many cases their views are not much different from those of the age groups that precede them.
Academics and marketers make their living exploiting differences between groups of people. Marketers seek “segmentation.” Sociologist pursue “demographics.” People aren’t people; they are generations.
But Boomer pundits forget a few things. If they climb into the 1980 Wayback Machine and turn themselves into 25 year-olds what would they find? Maybe Time articles like “Here They Come, the Baby Boomers. Confident and Educated,” or “Will the TV Generation Fit In The Workforce?” They would see older employees recoil when PCs came into the office. Boomers were social and free in their youth, just like the Millennials are now.
Could it be that Generations are not innately different, that differences are merely the point in life they are in at that moment? I work with younger men and women and I see myself thirty years ago. Millennials are the most independent, attention-deficit and idealistic of the generations? Oh, please.
Each human is an individual and it is as individuals that we respond to the world. I know parents who Facebook-stalk their kids. I know of Millennials who don’t like Facebook. Mom and Dad got the iPads first. And most of Generation Y doesn’t like Twitter or Google Plus.
I’ll agree Generation Y grew up with instant-on, SMS and video games. They will always be better at those things than their elders. Electronic gadgets don’t make them a different species, however. At some point, Generation Y won’t be any good at them, either.
Boomer friends, I have a thought for you: the young who walk your office halls are you. Or, maybe you were them. Did you change? We are the ones who became different; we are more cautious. Conservative. That is normal. As more older employees leave the work force, those who remain will be outnumbered.
But only if we view ourselves as ‘Boomers’ and their younger colleagues as ‘Generation Y.’