I was born in 1975. That means that I am at the tail end of Generation X and near the beginning of the millennial generation. As is the case with most people, I find myself thinking, "I don’t think that!" whenever lists of typical general attitudes are directed at my generation(s). Nevertheless, generation experts can be quite insightful from time to time…if not even funny while they do it.
This piece was written by the ever-funny and mentally spry Jacquielynn Floyd in Thursday’s Dallas Morning News:
"We’re all young sometime, but right now looks to be especially advantageous.
demographic trendmeisters who like to keep us corralled in our correct
generational categories seem rather awestruck by the current crop of
freshly minted adults, the so-called "millennials."
The term has
actually been floating around since these precocious hatchlings were
still in grade school. Social theorists reportedly coined the term in
the early ’90s to identify the generation born since 1981.
now that the millennials are growing up and getting jobs, we are
ceaselessly reminded that they are as different from stodgy old boomers
and Gen-Xers as an iPod is from a socket wrench. We of more mature
vintage must study and understand them; we must adapt to their unique
needs and abilities.
A colleague in our business department has
been studying this phenomenon in a series that started Wednesday. In
it, she cites a "generational expert" who echoes a popular line being
offered by human resources gurus everywhere: Millennials seem selfish
and irresponsible (a generalization that’s surely insulting to them);
and the answer is that we need to understand them better (a solution that’s insulting to us).
a prerogative of age to play the sorrowful kids-are-going-to-hell
violin concerto. What’s different this time around is that we keep
getting told that we have to put up with it.
foundation of the millennial generation is supposed to be their baby
boomer parents (us), who turned them into self-centered praise gluttons
by hovering and coddling and bolstering their self-esteem, by telling
them "Good job, Caleb!" approximately every eight minutes for their
first 20 years on the planet.
As a result, 60 Minutes gravely reported last fall, "Their priorities are simple: They come first."
we have to put up with it, because they’re "tech-savvy." Without their
superhuman instant-messaging and texting prowess, our economy will
grind to a halt – so we have to let them wear flip-flops to the office
and address us as "dude."
There is, no doubt, an element of truth
in all this. Cultures evolve, and people of the same generation tend to
But I’m not buying this blanket
condemnation of everybody born since 1981 as being overindulged,
irresponsible, selfish and undisciplined. The millennial I know best is
my youngest brother, an Army Ranger sergeant who pretty much kicks my
tail in the discipline department. He doesn’t even have a Facebook page.
am I ready to embrace the popular HR-guru learn-to-live-with-it trend,
which counsels us to flatter and forgive selfish babies who can’t work
weekends or get out of bed before 9 or manage their own credit card
Wasn’t everybody a little insecure and
irresponsible at 21 or 22? Don’t you fall on your face once or twice in
the process of learning how to be a grown-up?
To tell you the
truth, I don’t think the problem is so much them (generationally
speaking) as it is us. If we’re surrounded by young adults who expect
the world to adapt to them, it’s because that is what their parents
have taught them.
Why? Fear. American adults of the baby
boomer (loathsome term) era are the first class of human beings in the
history of civilization to be motivated by fear, not of poverty or
oppression or disease, but of being thought uncool.
stalks us, terrifies us, blinds us to reason. Grandpa might have
preferred being dead to being red; we would rather be dead than "lame."
since we equate aging with loss-of-cool (it peaks in young adulthood,
like bone density), we’re losing ground all the time.
to keep on the good side of the young, the cultural arbiters of cool.
Doing their laundry or congratulating them for getting to the office by
lunchtime seem like small prices to pay.
In their defense,
millennials as a group are described as more altruistic and less
racially biased than their predecessors. They’re said to be more
team-oriented (having played organized sports since age 2, I guess).
But, please, let’s quit worrying about whether they like us or not.
Let’s let them grow up.