As I mentioned in my last post, I am about to publish my book, We're All Okay - A Millennial's Treatise. I'm very excited for everyone to see it, and I thought it would be fun to share a snippet of it to start the conversation. I've included the introduction of the below. I'd love to hear thoughts and feedback!
If you are among the thousands of business owners and senior leaders who have thrown your hands up in frustration trying to understand Millennials, you only have yourselves to blame.
Yes, it’s harsh, but it’s true. There has been a lot written about Millennials – a quick Google search for the term in their News section yielded 3,340,000 results in half a second. Much has been said about Millennials, as well. In conferences and workshops across the nation, this cohort that is both feared and coveted in the workplace has been the hot topic. The subject has been done to death.
With one exception. Why aren’t Millennials doing any of the talking? At the time of this writing, just one of Amazon’s top ten books on the generation were written by a member of it, but only as a co-author with a Traditionalist. Often these books do more to reinforce the preconceived notions that some people hold rather than challenging them, with titles that frighten (When Millennials Take Over) or disdain (What’s Wrong With Millennials?). This is where the responsibility of learning begins – in order to truly understand something, you need to be willing to have your preconceived notions dismantled, but it is often easier to read a pearl-clutching perspective of how terrible we are rather than trying to see the world from our perspective.
Mind you, this is not to discount the content and intentions of these authors or works, but if they were able to help us unlock this so-called mystery, they would have already done it. Maybe instead of talking about Generation Y we start talking to them. That is exactly my intention with this book.
I think the person who put it best is Shane Smith, founder of Vice Magazine, a decidedly non-traditional media outlet for journalism that is both groundbreaking (they were the ones who documented Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea) and wildly interesting to young readers. When asked how he did it, he was blunt: “These kids have been marketed to since they were babies. They’ve developed the most sophisticated bullshit detectors in history…hand over your company to the interns, because there’s no way you can reverse-engineer it.”
Many people choose to get their impressions about Generation Y from the media. The popular HBO program Girls comes to mind. It follows four women in their twenties in New York, and catalogs their experiences with relationships and in social situations. The women are not role models, nor do I believe they were meant to be. They don’t seem to have many well-balanced relationships with friends or lovers, and their casual use of a collection of various drugs is not unheard of, but I’d argue it’s also not the norm. While I don’t think the show was meant to be a diorama of Millennial life – in many ways it was autobiographical for the show’s creator, Lena Dunham - members of the generations before us have taken it as such, and if that is how you’ve gotten your view of what my generation is like, I’m not surprised if you can’t stand us. I myself can’t stand the ladies on the show, and I’m not alone as a Millennial who is open about not being represented by the people on the program. The conversation has gotten out of control.
I was speaking to a business owner recently who said that she didn’t even bother to hire any young workers anymore. They didn’t have a good work ethic, and they would only stick around as long as it took for them to find a better paycheck. How unfortunate for her, I replied, because with the right approach not only could you find and retain great young workers at your company, but a motivated Millennial will bring unparalleled passion to the job, and internalize your company’s work in a way that other generations have not matched.
I tend to get angry when I read what older generations have to say about us. Yes, we are different. Very different, I’ll even say. But why is it that the differences that we note in those that are older than us are traits we need to learn and accept to get along in the workplace, and everything that makes my generation unique, challenging and enigmatic is wrong? I can’t blame anyone specifically for this, because people have been shocked by younger folks for centuries. As Lord Ashley stated in the British House of Commons in 1843, “The morals of the children are tenfold worse than formerly.”
The time to remove the veil from this subject is now, as Millennials now comprise about half of the workforce, and by 2030 will be 75% of it. Companies have spent countless dollars in an attempt to attract and engage this generation, with mixed results. In addition to simply bringing understanding to the topic, I will also make suggestions on how to increase engagement and retention of this group without having to break the bank or reinvent the wheel.
As the founder of a Workplace Generations business resource group, I’ve had a numerous of conversations with people with the intention of changing hearts and minds. Some of the things I’ve brought up during these talks are surprising. Others are not very shocking at all, if it had been considered with context. For example – why would we be loyal to one company for our entire careers when that worked out quite poorly for our parents? We’ll talk about that further in Chapter Three. Small revelations like these will not only help to illuminate a mysterious subject, but hopefully demonstrate how to think critically about the information we are given about a group of people, rather than simply accepting someone else’s experience as truth.
Through research, analysis and a bit of anecdotal storytelling, I hope to bring clarity to a subject that has been touted as a great enigma, but probably should never have been in the first place.
 Beltrone, G. (2013, March 24). Vice CEO Punches Back at Critics of North Korea Trip. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from http://www.adweek.com/news/television/vice-ceo-punches-back-critics-north-korea-trip-148111
 Goldberg, L. (2012, January 13). TCA: Lena Dunham Says HBO's 'Girls' Isn't 'Sex and the City' Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/tca-hbo-girls-lena-dunham-judd-apatow-281483
 Kasperkevic, J. (2012, April 20). Why Millennials Are Nothing Like The 'Girls' On HBO's Show. Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://www.businessinsider.com/i-am-not-a-lena-dunham-millennial-2012-4
 Condition And Education Of The Poor. (n.d.). Retrieved October 26, 2015, from http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1843/feb/28/condition-and-education-of-the-poor
 Mitchell, A. (2013, August 16). The Rise of the Millennial Workforce | WIRED. Retrieved April 30, 2015.