I suppose it’s rather trendy for people my age (I’m right on the cusp of Gen X and Baby Boomers, if you’re being generous) to complain about the millennials, or GenY. In fact, I even promoted a book about that once. They’re narcissistic, they’re not loyal, they can’t grow up, they won’t leave home blah blah blah.
Frankly, that hasn’t been my experience. Since I can’t afford super “seasoned” workers I’ve worked mainly with this generation since I started my business. Many of my clients are in their thirties and I’ve had a few in their late twenties. Given the choice, I actually would rather work with millennials.
I’m not saying that I’ve done extensive studies, or that my comments here are anything but empirical observation. OR that I don’t have some really fun people I work with who are in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s or even 70’s. I even had a 92-year old client who was a total blast.
HOWEVER, if you let me stretch the age range just a tiny bit further into the mid-thirties, I would say IN GENERAL these are my favorite people to work with. Here’s why:
1. This generation knows you should work to live. They have a sense of balance in their lives and they aren’t afraid to go take a bike ride at lunch time. At the same time, most of them have been incredibly hard-working, ambitious folks. They just know somehow that work has to be balanced out with leisure. The harder they work, the harder they play. Contrast this with my 20’s and 30’s when I worked 7:30am to 6pm every day, many nights and just about every weekend. We were taught that you sacrificed your personal life in order to get ahead. GenY doesn’t believe that, and I’ve adopted that attitude.
2. There’s hardly any woman against woman conniving. In my corporate life, I encountered many women who went for the jugular where other women were concerned. It was really disheartening. I was once told by a female boss that it was “hard on her ego that I was making so much money,” after which she chose to make my life a living hell. A 2009 New York Times article entitled “Backlash: Women Bullying Women at Work” outlines this well, although they miss the point that it’s mainly older women, I haven’t found it in the younger generations of women. I have had clients that employ women managers in their 40’s and 50’s who try their best to discredit me as a consultant, no matter how hard I try. I think as older women, we were pitted against each other for male attention growing up. We brought that into the work environment and unfortunately, it’s still there for some of us.
3. Millennials have a KILLER sense of humor. And they get my strange humor which endears them to me. I think humor in the workplace is the best way to relieve stress but it wasn’t always encouraged or appreciated 20 or even 10 years ago. Thank god for CEO’s like Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines who taught us all that playing at work is the best therapy for any kind of problem. (If you haven’t read his book Nuts! you really should.) Personally, I love cracking up young co-workers since at first they kind of freak out. I’m sure it’s as though their mother started saying outrageous things or something. Or maybe they just think I’m drunk half the time.
4. Here’s another reason to love these pups. (I can call them that because I allow them to call me a geezer.) They do a lot of volunteering. What’s that about a narcissistic generation? A report from Achieve found that a whopping 73% of millennials volunteered for a non-profit in 2012. According to Forbes, less than 30% of baby boomers (who likely have more time AND more money) volunteer and the number is dropping. I think books like those by Tim Elmore and others are missing the mark. Perhaps we are the ones that should be learning about leadership and altruism from the younger people who are so obviously (hey, numbers don’t lie!) worried about helping others less fortunate.
5. The last main thing I’ve noticed is that the workers age early ’20’s to mid-30’s or so are much more collaborative, and less worried about who gets the credit. I worked in an environment where we all wanted to get the gold star for achievement. That meant getting mad if someone “stole” our idea, and making sure that the higher ups always knew your part in the success. (Conversely, you ran for cover if something failed as well.) My experience with GenY is that it’s all about continuous learning, and they don’t care who they learn it from.
Listen, before I get calls from a bunch of pissed off 40-somethings, this is just a generalization for sure. I’ve met some really spoiled, self-centered 25-year olds and some incredibly generous and funny 55-year olds. But I’m not alone in my thinking. If you want a great read check out Manager 3.0, A Millennial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management. It’s an excellent recap of why these guys are taking over the reins in business, and why that’s a very, very good thing!
PS: I had a lot of other good points but they seemed trivial. Personally, here are five bonus reasons why I’d rather work with a GenY.
6. I can always wear jeans no matter how important the meeting.
7. They like ’80’s music.
8. Babies crying and dogs barking are acceptable background noises.
9. They try to get me to stop swearing so much.
10. It’s really nice outside/a powder day/great band playing/etc are all great reasons to skip work.