I hear a lot of talk about the entitled millennial generation. Being on the edge of the age range of this generation, I have worked with many millennials.
For a while, I bought into the notion that the millennials were entitled, lazy and disconnected from reality. I saw first-hand some of these attributes. Certainly not all individuals in this particular generation fit the stereotype but many did.
But I’ve also learned that this view misses something great. I’ve found that often the attitude that we witness is not always born out of laziness. It is often due to an unwillingness to accept mediocrity.
I worked with a few millennials who exhibited these traits but once they were able to move into work that they felt mattered, they were anything but entitled, lazy or disconnected from reality.
It seems like this generation is more fed up with the notion that they just have to go along because others say so. They need to know why. Why do we have to do X? Why is this task necessary? Why do we have to work in a meaningless job? Why do we have to bite our tongue when we have an idea that could improve things?
It seems as though the difference between the two versions of the same group all comes down to meaning. When there is meaning, they seem to work as hard, or harder than any other generation. When they don’t see meaning, they seem to flake out.
We might say they just don’t commit to anything. But what if they are simply unwilling to commit to the wrong thing.
We admire those that oppose mediocrity and always look for a better way.
So if you are a millennial, my advice would be to be willing to work hard while you search for meaning. Don’t expect meaning to show up first all the time. Don’t start a new position and immediately look for the meaning. Be willing to show up and work as you search for the meaning behind it. Continue your unwillingness to accept mediocrity but realize that it is through the mundane that greatness starts to shine. Don’t miss something great because it wasn’t instantly great.
For those who aren’t in the millennial generation realize that your view of that generation might just be a difference of perspective. Instead of rushing in, they need to make sure what they are doing really matters. If they sense a lack of meaning they won’t provide a blind alignment to the goal.
This is a great example in systems thinking of not seeing the full picture, the full system. Instead, we might just be missing some aspect and instead fixate on elements of the system, not the full system.
But as we peel away the layers and find more and more about the systems involved, we start to see a slightly different picture, one that can help us better work with this generation. And millennials can start to see their shortcomings so they can work through them to break away from the negative traits so common on those born during those years that define millennials.