Before the recession a 60 Minutes segment featured current employers and employment consultants talking about what they called the millennials, those teens and 20 something’s born between 1980 and 1995, and their journey into the workforce. It spoke of these kids having climbed Mount Everest, having gone to far corners of the world, but never having punched a time clock, never having flipped burgers because doing so does not get you into Harvard. They spoke of helicopter parents that bombard schools now even employers who say that “I’m paying for it (college) what am I getting a C for,” or calling bosses and commenting on the ranking of their child’s job performance evaluation. It also talked about these kids have been on teams where they were rewarded simply for showing up, where no one won or lost and went on to blame Mr. Rogers’ saying your special along with parents who ran with that and told their kids they could be anything they wanted to be for the current crop of so called narcissistic, job hoping teens and 20 something’s that they need but don’t know how to deal with. Featuring a top ad executive, the segment outlined the change in work climates, many times viewed in the negative, saying that it is the older 40 50 60 plus generation that must change.
Changes that included not being able to speak harshly to this current crop of employees, speaking somewhat like a therapist would to a patient, realizing that these people will schedule their life around their yoga class, the company focus of pervious eras replaced with a focus on friends and self. As there were consultants for the employers now scratching their heads, there were consultants in a now booming business, as it was called, attempting to acclimate these millennials to a workforce they have never seen, even going so far as lessons on how to use a knife and fork. Other highlights included commentary on the increasing trend of college grads returning home to live mom and dad procrastinating on getting a job they do not particularly like; there was speculation on a prolong adolescents that does not end until somewhere in the neighborhood of age 3O, worrying some about the possibility of further stagnation of the economy because of this protracted transition to true adulthood. However, it also explained the incentives now used by employers to attract and keep this generation of workers, that included wines and other food stuffs to say thank you to employees, humorous boss abuse such as shaving their head for specific goals met, flexible work hours and more casual dress codes.
While there have been many things said about the seemingly self evolved persons now approaching working age, characterized as having been raised by coddling parents and never having the opportunity to fail and thus learn to cope, there are far more positives than negatives to the trends emerging, illustrating that this generation is far greater than the bad rap it is currently getting. Where the older generations find this one selfish and spoiled, clueless and lazy, this piece was particularly condescending, particularly judgmental, showcasing the very attributes they look down upon younger people for. Fact is, the workforce is due for a revolution, the winds of which we have seen for years. Fact, we now have the technology to make possible the ideal workforce for this generation; fact, there is far more wisdom in viewpoint of millenials than the current stock of employers would like to admit.
And though different ideas, attitudes and work objectives don’t always mean better, likewise it doesn’t always mean inferior either. As revealed upon interviewing them, these are people who have seen and learned from their parents’ mistakes; they have seen the company loyalty of their parents find them laid off. They have seen their parents work a job only for the paycheck while being angry and miserable. By that same token others have seen their typical type A personality parents work 16 to 18-hour days, having no time for anything else, and still others watch their parents’ very identities disappear with the loss of, or retirement from, a job. The ad executive interviewed for the piece stated the following, that they see themselves rather like merchandise sold on e- bay; “if you don’t want to hire me Mr. employer I will go down the street, not only get paid more and have a much more positive experience, but they’ll love me and you don’t even like me,” she missed the part where the statement was absolutely RIGHT.
These are a group of people who can begin their own web-based businesses, who can market themselves all across the world with a computer and an IP address. Likewise, for the first time in a number of years we have a group that understands what they are worth and the opportunities afforded to them; as one of these nicknamed millennials said, now is the time for us to hop jobs and find what’s right for us while we are not tied down with children and families. The unseen upside to this job maneuvering supposedly pointing to perceived instability and unreliability in terms of employment, is that logically we should have less of people in jobs they are ill-suited for, customer service people who know nothing about customer service, frazzled, short tempered receptionists, out of control flight attendants, because today the problem is not just the blue haired, teeny bopper, tattooed, unenthusiastic receptionist, it is the older ones, in all fields, who hate their job and it shows. Choosing the right job also could potentially cut down on workplace violence as individuals feel more freedom to make choices that do not include high stress jobs such as air traffic control or day trading. A different work environment also cuts down on accidents and other mistakes due to distracted workers.
Other things the buckle down generations, the graying bosses used to barking orders don’t want the younger up and comings or even their colleagues to know is, not only do statistics constantly show that those who enjoy and have a passion for their work do better, but productivity increases. And while traditional employers find the idea of nap and multi media rooms appalling, working from home and setting ones own hours an insult, the truth remains that when electronics giants like Best Buy allowed employees to set their own hours and work from anywhere, again productivity went up, not down. When the Internet giant Google began letting workers spend up to 20% of their workweek as they saw fit, one of the innovations that came out of that is the now popular Google News. Currently many companies are outsourcing things like customer service, their workers, stay at home moms working out of their living rooms, so if it can work for them why not the younger generation?
Not to mention that many of the places that have nap and multimedia rooms are think tanks in internet designs, advertising, software, games and other products, all things that require enormous amounts of creativity that are becoming the new type of mainstream job where it is not necessarily required that they punch a clock. The same can be said for the more casual dress codes and derogatory comments about this particular group desiring to come to work in flip flops, if you work in a think tank type environment and work best in flip flops, who cares; it is the creativity they’re after. Even in large corporations it can be looked at as only an extension to casual Friday, something that has been around for ages; it might also be a way to catch off guard and wow new business clients when they say something akin to, you dress like that and you came up with this business proposal? You dress like that and these are your ideas, shattering stereotypes in a good way.
Wanting to work differently doesn’t imply laziness or an unwillingness to work, wanting to schedule work around their yoga classes does not mean that no work gets done; it means work gets done and they have the benefits of a social life. In fact, the ability to do this successfully shows creativity in planning, superior time management skills and the ability to balance life between work and home, attributes currently looked for in employees. And, lo and behold, to the surprise of many, it works; work obligations are met and you have a more balanced, productive employee in the process. Further, allowing this flexibility has a tendency to cause persons to work more not less. Yet all that was focused on in this feature was the fact that these young workers were not there always at their bosses feet for 40 plus hours a week. This also paves the way for when these millennials have kids themselves; they will have created a work structure that allows them to spend more time with the families they create, something everyone agrees has been, and is, missing now. As for how bosses speak to their employees nowadays, we’ve all seen them raging like Mr. Spacely from the Jetsons, bosses historical or fictional who are tyrants that make working a chore; reality is, there is a better way to get more from employees. There are ways to make your expectations and needs known, and real consequences for not doing so, as authors of books like Working Wounded along with many others on the subject detail the effects of poor workplace dynamics. The wide-ranging effects on all ages in the workplace included a decline in basic work function, decrease in productivity, and an increased likelihood to become ill or leave the job all together.
Coupling different working environments and a different way of communicating has other benefits when workers are less stressed; medically it has been shown that those love their work and operate in low key work places are less likely to get high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, migraines and perhaps is even a preventive step in warding off some types of cancer, all things that should be of interest to employers footing the bill for health benefits in a climate of ever growing cost. In fact many employers now offer gym access, support groups and other aids in cessation of smoking even the yoga classes millineals were distained for trying to work in. One of the major themes down played in the piece for the love of the older generations name-calling was the positives this group was having on the workplace in making it a nicer place to be. It also raises questions about who we should be catering the work force to 40, 50 and 60 year olds who are on their way out, even the youngest of whom, have less years to be in the work force than they will spend out of it, or the ones just starting out who have 40 years to give to it? Common sense says the latter.
It too seems an extraordinary cop out and an extraordinary leap to pin this countries current economic problems on this younger generation or to have a doom and gloom perspective of what may happen because these teens and 20 something’s do what can only be called the responsible thing in moving back home with mom and dad not just to avoid undesirable employment, as those in this segment would have you believe, but to have a shot at paying down or paying off their student loans. Because, the reality is even if they get a job just to be employed, just to be responsible, minimum wage, what they will likely get into, many times does not take care of basic needs forget the student loans; moving back home may be the only option.
The opinions of the older generation do nothing to address those who do change career goals due to the amount of debt incurred in getting their education, those who did flip burgers throughout school and are now afraid or unable to leave their menial job and break in to their career field because of the current employment climate cultivated by the ones before them along with things like NAFTA, the brain child of the 40+ crowd; it says nothing about the already failing employment system that has people holding masters degrees and PHD’s flipping burgers, something else this generation is aware of and would like to avoid. Contrary to the analyst forecasting a slump in the economy due to the teens and 20 something’s being more selective in jobs and returning home, it might just infuse the economy, if only enough to produce no major change, as they have more discretionary income than they would otherwise to pour back into it.
This being just another one of the fallacies used to bombard this generation with negatives; a similar case can be found with the more clipped tone jibes such as the comment about lessons in using a knife and fork. Etiquette in a five star hotel is far different from even the polished table manors of the American dinner table; an international business dinner is also far advanced when you add in the other country’s cultural norms. For instance in Egyptian culture it is customary to leave some food on your plate to show there is plenty in the country; in some parts of German culture it is acceptable and expected for one to belch in appreciation of good food. There are also differences in how one is to use the utensils, how to place food on your fork, how to use a knife according to culture, how to mix foods on knife or fork. Internationalisms aside, even those with the best of table manners may never have seen a gravy boat or do not know the difference between a salad fork, a dinner fork and a dessert fork; it is far more complicated than just how to use the utensils.
Another huge fallacy found here is in regards to the incentives given to the generation “that wants to be rewarded for everything.” The truth of the matter is the incentives being given are nothing more than a slight extension of the company picnic and the assumed large amounts of money given for these things are a fraction of the profits for the large corporations where this is taking place; to say nothing of there is a reason we all got gold stars in kindergarten. Rewards work they entice employees to do better and stay with a company longer; plus, how many jobs are based on commission, how many receive bonuses, there is no difference here.
We call this the so called coddled generation but it is utterly ludicrous to blame the saying of Mr. Rogers or where parents took it for all these perceived problems when the truth is we are all special with our own unique talents, and everyone benefits when everyone gets a chance to exercise them. Telling kids they can be anything they want to be has created thousands of inspirational stories across the last 3 decades, from the rich and famous to ordinary, activist and business owners, to people who have over come incredible odds, who gave, and continue give, us new computer programs, new medicines, new ideas. We chastise these kids for going after what they want, yet it was Donald Trump who gave a quote on a talk show that said, “find what you love and figure out how it can make you money.” This is not only a wealthy, well know, businessman but one of the 50 and over crowd.
We chide these kids for having been rewarded for showing up, yet there is an old saying that 90% of the game is showing up, likely said by someone older than the 50, 60, even 70 plus crowd. The bigger picture, the whole picture is the positives the millennials give to their place of work not only in terms of enhancing the products and services provided by their employer, but those that have to do with the drastic improvement of the workplace over all that brings back the balance and joy to life. And one final thought, if the old adage is to be believed, and 90% of the game is showing up, why is everyone focused so intently, negatively on the other 10%? Could it be perhaps a tinge of jealousy or envy that the older ones wish this is what had been afforded to them?