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It’s Time to Stop Bashing Millennials (We’ve Grown Up.)

Ever since their first day of kindergarten, the class of 2000 was treated differently. They were the Millennium class. Now, they may have been quickly reminded that we were not as unique as the class of 1999 (the last class of the millennium), nor were they as unique as the first class of the new millennium (because the millennium did not begin until 2001.) Still, they were tracked, researched, and reported on through our graduation day. We were the generation who would make a difference. Was the world ready? Looking back, I’m not sure that the world could have fathomed just how different this generation was destined to be. They were/are different not because they were the first/last / lost-in-the-middle group of any millennium, but because the group of kids born between 1981 and 1996 would have a vastly different life experience than any who had come before. The millennials are a generation of firsts and a generation of lasts. They were the last generation to use a rotary phone, to learn the dewy decimal system, to conduct research from actual books, to learn to drive without the distraction of text messages. They were the first generation to integrate computers into our daily lives, the first generation to embrace smartphone usage, the first generation to take media outside of the confines of the traditional outlets. They are a generation that insists on political and social change. Who demands acceptance, and who is intolerant of hate. We are who we are, and we are not without our stereotypes. Though we have been hammered with labels since our early teens, it is time to embrace what makes us unique for our unique qualities. It is time to recognize that many of those stereotypes are having a positive impact on the world. As we rise into leadership roles, these stereotypes may turn out to be very positive influencing factors. THEY SAY.. we are entitled. There is a perception that inexperienced millennials feel as though they deserve the corner office. The reality is that we view the corporate ladder as a thing of the past. Instead of paying our dues and waiting “our turn”, millennials are keenly focused on delivering value. Now. We don’t want to play political games, and we don’t want to deal with “..the way we’ve always done things..” if there is a better way. They say that we’re entitled, and maybe I agree. We feel entitled to simplicity. We feel entitled to solve our customer’s problems as fast as possible. We feel entitled to delivering the right thing, instead of the requested thing. We feel entitled to build relationships with the people who can help us solve problems, fast. Entitlement is a word that has been used to describe a generation that expects more than the status quo. Who insists on the clarity of intent. In the rapidly changing 2018 business environment, is our “entitlement” such a bad thing?

THEY SAY.. we want a trophy for showing up. Our parents were involved. Very involved. As a result, we have an insatiable appetite for feedback. But, what we don’t expect is constant praise (or a damn trophy.) What we do expect is constant, constructive feedback to help us get better, to help us satisfy the customer in a better way, to build better stuff. The annual feedback model is irrelevant. It’s too slow and too subjective. We want to grow, evolve, and improve on a daily basis. The result? Better results for us all.

THEY SAY.. we are job hoppers. This one grinds my gears. We’re job hoppers? Let us not forget when our generation came of age: somewhere between the tech crash of 2000 and the financial meltdown of 2008. We worked hard in school, got good grades in college, and majored in the high-tech fields that all but assured us a prosperous future. Job hoppers? How about we’ve been the easiest to cut. Or, the least “marketable” among a sea of seasoned professionals who had been forced to flood the job market. The cognitive bias which is fed from regularly being deemed expendable has led to a generation who creates security by maintaining several revenue streams (, anyone?) and who always keep their ears open for the next opportunity. Job hoppers? How about resilient. We have not had the security in the workspace enjoyed by other generations, so we have had to create our stability. We have established the gig economy, thrived as consultants, and have embraced life-long learning as a means of remaining relevant. We have student loans to pay (HUGE bills), and we’re going to make those payments at all costs. Unfortunately, we don’t have the confidence that corporate America will “take care of us” once the next bubble bursts. You say job hopper, and we say, survivor.

THEY SAY.. we want special privileges. We are knowledge-workers. Knowledge is generated through very different channels than widgets. Knowledge generation is as much a creative pursuit as it is an analytical one. Have you ever tried to be creative in a cube farm (or an open floor plan?)Have you ever tried to be creative in an inspiring environment? How has the result differed? Would it not seem logical to capitalize on the better result? There are countless studies that tip their hat to the productivity gains tied to workplace flexibility. It’s good for creativity, it’s environmentally friendly, it is cheaper for organizations, and it promotes better balance for the staff. The organizations we lead will promote flexibility as much as we demand delivery. Flexibility is not about being lazy; it is about maximizing time and effectiveness to deliver the best results.

CONCLUSION The millennials are a generation who expect more from nearly every facet of life; who hope to make a positive impact on the world; and who will not accept the status quo. We are asking questions, and demanding answers. We are forcing change, transparency, and accountability. To our parents and grandparents who may be frustrated with us: THANK YOU. We are becoming the disruptive innovators that you always hoped we would be.

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