Millennials have ascended to the height of societal importance and are currently the central and universal topic of conversation. They now outnumber the previous generational focus; the Baby Boom. Millennials have spurred a virtual cottage industry of experts and analysts focusing on how to best integrate this largest of demographic slices into the world, and also how they are changing the world.
It is a puzzle that has HR experts, leaders, and organizational theorists everywhere working hard, putting the pieces together, forcing square pegs into round holes. How can we help Millennials conform to the workforce and how we can adjust working conditions to keep them engaged will be the topic of conversation, focus groups, and conferences for years to come; keeping experts busy with study and application and reassessment.
Kids These Days!
One noted expert on the younger generation observed:
“The world is passing through troubling times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior, and dress.”
- Peter the Hermit
Laments on the degeneracy of youth do not end with Peter the Hermit, who was, as it happens, born in the year 1050.
Think about it, for at least a millennia we have been complaining about “Kid These Days”. A thousand years of lamentations and the youth are still bringing the end of days with their entry into the real world.
Do we remember the common label for the Baby Boomers? The “Me Generation,” was coined to reflect the perception of the constant self-absorption and conspicuous consumption that was rampant during their ascendency.
How about Generation-X? This often overlooked demographic valley between two peaks, which demographers didn’t even bother to assign a real name to, came of age in the shadow of the boom and is now eclipsed by the Millennials, were known as slackers. The term highlighted their lack of drive and desire to just kick back, work as little as possible, live in their parent’s basement. X-er’s never really ascended.
How will we look back at Millennials? What will be the defining stereotype? I’ll let you know in 10 to 20 years.
But here’s the point!
The essential argument boils down to Nature vs. Nurture. On the Nurture side, the environment has changed; technology has made life easier in many ways while at the same time it has made the world both bigger and smaller. We have virtual access to the entirety of human knowledge in our pockets, access to friends from around the world, but at dinner time we often don’t speak. Screen time is rampant.
But, despite the changes in society, our essential nature is unchanged. People are still people. We are driven by the same emotions and brain chemicals now as a thousand years ago, the same as ten-thousand years ago. People are still people.
I have the privilege of working with Boomers and X-er’s and Millennials (oh MY!) and in my view they all need the same basic things. Trust. Inclusion. Support. A sense of belonging. That’s it. It’s that simple. In my view anyway.
What do you think? Let me know.
2 thoughts on “Boomers and Xers and Millennials, Oh My!”
I agree. We all have the same basic needs. In leadership (and probably everything else!), it’s important to pay attention the fundamentals. As you said, “people are people.”
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I agree, Blaine! As a millennial myself, I’ve frequently felt labeled and put into a one-size fits all box. We were simply raised and exist in different times, and have adapted.
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