Tis the season of disparaging Millennials. The oft-discussed and reviled generation has gained a reputation over the last decade as a bunch of narcissistic, lazy, and incompetent underachievers. If you own or manage a company in Trinidad and Tobago, then you have most likely come into contact with a Millennial, seeking a job or a favour. Whether or not your experience with this group has been bad, there is no denying the present zeitgeist of anti-goodwill towards the “Me Me Me” generation, as Time magazine derisively opined in 2013.
But is the negative perception really true or are Millennials just misunderstood?
Who Are Millennials?
There is no consensus by academics and researchers over which factors determine belonging to this particular generation.
Also known as Generation Y, the designation of this cohort has no precise criteria for assigning a span of years as the inclusive boundaries. The majority of professionals set the start birth date as sometime in the early 1980s and end birth date in the late 1990s. Others agree on the early 80s but end the span in the early 2000s. Some even start from the mid-70s and go to the nineties, but these people are in the minority.
Most academics agree that Millennials are, more often than not, the children of folks from the Baby Boomer generation (1940s to 1960s). Hence, they are also called Echo Boomers.
Here’s how Millennials have been cast.
Regardless of the fact that individuals might have different characteristics, there is a general perception of those termed Millennial.
They put in minimal work and expect to be compensated/rewarded.
This is a major complaint that employers have about their employees within a certain age range. However, when some managers and CEOs grumble in this manner: “I don’t understand why they make such a fuss when I ask them to come in on a Sunday without overtime pay. I am their boss. Whatever I say, they must do,” it’s not hard to see where the disconnection between the two parties lies.
Now, this is not an indictment of all employers. Of course, there are the reasonable ones. And even asking employees to go beyond their stipulated duties can be done tactfully and respectfully. That being said, there is a fundamental difference in the way disparate generations view the concept of working for a living.
Older generations worked to live, they had to put food on the table and pay bills. So do millennials, believe it or not. They do have a sense of responsibility, but, they also have a desire to actually live. Meaning, they appreciate what is known as having a work/life balance. More so than previous generations. While this is negatively viewed as unproductive to a certain extent, it does not mean that nothing is being accomplished by these individuals. Which leads to the next assumption…
They are not interested in aiming for the best, they settle for mediocrity.
Oftentimes, older generations will use markers from their own personal journeys as indicators of success. For example, being married by thirty, having multiple children etc. This is not a bad thing. Civilisation depends on humans carrying on certain traditions and society. However, millennials are bucking the trend. Not in a way to disrupt everything as we know it, but certainly in a way that creates a stigma of “underachievement”. Do Millennials deserve to be called underachievers? Perhaps, but it depends on what your definition of “achievement” entails. Millennials are eschewing orthodox methods of attaining financial and personal success and making their own rules about what life should be like. They are the technophile kids, the ones who grew up with VHS tapes but are now changing the future. They also capitalise on what seems to be their natural instinct for entrepreneurship.
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They are uninformed about important issues and don’t know how to communicate with others anymore.
This is perhaps the most egregious insult hurled against this generation. One that is misguided and deliberately intent on casting “young people” as uneducated and impolite. Now, of course there are uneducated and impolite individuals who make their voices heard on the Internet. That is an inevitable fact of life, especially when there are platforms that provide them with an audience, however, that does not mean that young people today are all of the same ilk. In this age of information and technology, ignorance is a choice and communicating with others is easier than ever. Millennials have access to an unprecedented amount of resources and they do utilise the tools at their disposal to acquire and disperse information.
Are Millennials All Alike?
While most information out there focuses on Millennials in the Western world, there are still many similarities between the cultures. And the reasons there are similarities have to do with the advancement of the ability of entertainment and news to be broadcast throughout the world, resulting in a kind of cultural imperialism.
However, all the characteristics that have been outlined here, the positive and the negative, are still postulations and generalizations. How we interact with others should depend upon the individual, not upon what the pervading theories dictated about their generation.
So reserve your judgment until your twenty-five-year-old assistant skips a meeting to take a nap. Or presents a brilliant new idea for a project. You just never know with these Millennials.