Let's Talk About Millenials

Michelle Nardi's picture

Let's talk about millennials, again. I just read yet another slight about them. While the article it was in was quick to point out that there might just be a reason for their attitude, it bashed them anyway.

Let's Talk About Millenials

Look, maybe they were largely raised by helicopter parents, with a case full of participation trophies. Or maybe they were constantly told they had to go to college, without any thought for the unprecedented mountain of student debt it would leave them in. Maybe they are asked for proof of a college education for a $10/hour job, that 25 years ago when their parents applied for it only required a high school diploma and paid the exact same amount of money, dollars not adjusted for inflation.

Maybe they are told constantly that you have to work hard to get ahead, by coworkers doing the exact same job for considerably more money. For a company that no longer gives out raises, benefits, or offers long term job security. Maybe their input, innovation, and skills are overlooked every day in favor of dismissing them with accusations of entitlement and poor work ethic.

Gen Xers got our fair share of those same generation gap insults. We tended to mouth off about it a bit faster, made more of an effort to put in our time and hope it paid off. It didn't. We accepted our fate more readily and with greater meekness. When we were screwed out of the housing market, we were more likely to let them tell us we just didn't want to buy houses. When our wages stagnated, and our benefits disappeared, and our pensions never materialized, we allowed the blame for it to fall on our shoulders.

Obviously my generation made the wrong call. We played their game, by their ever-changing rules, for so long that we lost the will to rise up and play it our way. Millennials knew the game was too rigged to ante up, and are finding ways not to play, living their lives outside a system too broken to fight. They are more than willing to let the game collapse on itself and find ways to stay as far out of the fallout zone as possible. They job hop. They live in unconventional housing arrangements. They embrace technology and change. They let the insults sail over their heads and don't adjust their behavior to suit the critics.

Most of them manage to do it with a grace and sense of purpose that I find admirable. A few of them make the effort to explain what they are doing and why they are doing it, if you bother to listen to them. I've noticed that they don't bother if you call them entitled spoiled brats who don't understand hard work. Once you dig yourself in as their adversary, they walk away and do their thing, unconcerned by your judgement. Good.

We could all learn a thing or two from them.

I certainly have. I've matured in the space between boomers and millennials. I've been called a slacker most of my employment history, usually by people watching me work and profiting off my effort. I raised a healthy crop of millennials, doing what I could to prepare them for the onslaught and encouraging them to remember that some of us do recognize who the true entitled folks are. Maybe I've done enough to defend them, maybe not.

I'll keep defending them.

I'll keep listening to them.

I'll watch them change the world, and I for one won't be surprised by the results.

I'll learn from them, because they have plenty to show us. In appreciating their value, I'll be a better person for my efforts. One thing I know for sure is I'd rather try playing their game than keep losing the one I was born into.