I actually wear this distinction or a “millennial” proudly or rather more neutrally because it is just another attribute about me I can’t change. But some of my friends shake their heads and look away when they have to acknowledge they belong to this generation labeled as “entitled”, “lazy”, “self-absorbed”, “always on their phone”, etc. It is a long list of labels. But why are millennials labeled as such? Why is there so much negative connotation around the term?
Part of me sees there is some truth to the labels based on my own behaviors: I am always on my phone – for a good reason typically, but I am pretty attached to it. I am aggressive and determinant about what I want out of life which coming from a new college grad a few years ago was often misconstrued by senior peers and management as entitlement or lack of respect for authority. I can see where due to generational differences in approach to work, millennials can be perceived as “lazy” because we often times do work at night or from home, we are not worried about appearances of looking busy or productive, but worried about getting things done whenever and however it works for us which doesn’t always fit the desired “optics” of a corporate environment. Let’s face it, mid-level managers can only tell that their employees are working by seeing them physically present and appearing to work. They can’t see the employees in their homes or at odd hours in the day, nor can they control those activities outside the office. That’s where the trust has to come in, but as often happens in companies, management doesn’t trust their employees enough to leave them to their own devices. I am a firm proponent of looking at the deliverables and gauging someone’s performance based on the results not the optics of how their work approach looks like. So here is a tip – have a conversation with your manager or boss and talk about what is important to them and what is important to you. Try to find a solution where both of you can be happy. Certain jobs require physical presence at the office or business location (think receptionist, sales representative, service staff like waiters, bartenders, mechanics, maids, etc.) but most corporate jobs can be done whenever and wherever as long as there is access to a computer, phone and internet. So at the very least it is worth a discussion.
The other part of me takes offense to such labels associated with the millennial generation, and I think some members of the older generations are intimidated by young, aggressive, tech-savvy individuals, who want to change the world, challenge the status quo, disrupt “the way things have always been”. And there is truth to it. What I want to remind those who are deep down threatened with the millennials is how they felt when they were in their twenties and thirties. How brave and adventurous they were, how excited and energized and eager they were to take on the world. We are the same in that regard. No matter what generation we are from, when we are young and have the energy to move mountains if need be, we are ready to challenge the status quo, change things and the way they used to be and take on all the problems that need solving. Tip for older generations – be wise, remember that you have all that knowledge and experience gained over the years of practice and share that knowledge, while also learning the new ways of the younger generations. It is truly a win win scenario. The millennials and now Z’s can benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience transfer, and they can teach older generations a thing or two, from the use of technology and new ways of doing old processes to the new ways of interacting to feel more connected.
So why not work together through generations and build each other up and learn from each other instead of tearing each other down and holding each other back? Someone has to break the cycle of battling between the generations. Why not begin today? Be the one to start the conversation.
Note: Photo Credit to Time Magazine cover, Photograph by Andrew B. Myers for TIME; Styling by Joelle Litt.