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Why the term ‘millennial’ needs to get in the bin, now.


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First there were the Baby Boomers, then Generation X, and now we have….the millennials.

It sounds like it should refer to a slick troupe of pilots in a Star Wars film, or some wizened old veterans, but no, ‘millennial’ has become the latest dirty word to generalise a generation and patronise your peers.

Every day seems to bring a new ‘how to attract/retain/engage your millennial workforce’ article, consistently reminding us how different, how demanding, how disloyal, how mind-boggling we are as employees.

And do you know what? I don’t buy it. Maybe that’s just my Gen Y arrogance talking and my inability to take criticism, but I find it hard to believe that the expectations we have on our employers and indeed ourselves is so different to any other generation at our age. Personal development, job security, respect – are you telling me that my parents and grandparents didn’t want those things?

The bottom line is, we now live in a much busier, techier and complex world, and with that comes a different set of expectations, needs and challenges – for everyone.

I understand that there is always going to be a difficulty between generations understanding each other, but I also don’t think that the current generation entering the workforce is any worse, or any more demanding than their predecessors.

Same same, but different

Every time I hear or read the word ‘millennial’ I bristle – is this what my manager thinks of me? That I’m a high maintenance addition to an otherwise placid team who will happily do as they’re told, no questions asked?

Nonsense; in every organisation I’ve ever worked at, I’ve been surrounded by colleagues of all ages and backgrounds, and you know what, we ALL want our opinions to be listened to, we ALL want an opportunity to progress in our careers, we ALL want honest leadership, and we ALL want meaningful feedback from our managers (funnily enough, my grandad’s bullsh*t detector is just as finely tuned as my own, who knew?)

Surely boiling down these younger employees down to a single definition is only exacerbating the problem?

We’re constantly being told that there’s a big problem with employees trusting management; in particular the communication between older managers and younger, more junior members of a company. Surely boiling down these younger employees down to a single definition is only exacerbating the problem?

Here are just a few of my favourite lines from the metaphorical dung pile of ‘thought pieces’ on ‘millennials’ that I’ve read in the past week alone – the amount of insight here is almost tantamount to that in the horoscope section of Cosmopolitan:

“Millennials are far more accustomed to receiving praise, congratulations and positive reinforcement as opposed to criticism and negative feedback.”
They also weren’t smacked enough as children.

“Millennials don’t trust Chief Executive Officers, politicians, or any other business leaders”
We grew up with Rupert Murdoch, George Bush and Mr Burns – what choice did we have?

“By hiring talented Millennials, you will naturally attract more talented Millennials”
This is a beautifully David Attenborough-esque sentiment, don’t you think?

In summary, this isn’t just jargon, it’s defamation.

Let’s put the term ‘millennials’ in the bin forever. Please.

3 Responses

  1. I have to agree and have been
    I have to agree and have been making these points for some time. Certainly since the economic downturn and the disenfranchisement arising from the over supply of graduates into the market, it has been apparent that many of the generalisations about so-called Millenials would have to be re-invented and re-thought. They are going to encounter challenges more akin to previous generations, particularly as the source of disposable income that has funded an entitlement mentality, dries up, the realities of an employer’s market come home to roost and everyone slips down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs again. But demographics aside, there has been far too much generalisation. As with previous generations, the beauty is in the blend and for employer’s, the secret to constructive culture development is to be clear about your employer brand and the type of people who will thrive there, regardless of where they sit in the spectrum of diversity.

  2. I just love a good,
    I just love a good, provocative article – thanks. Completely agree with some of the utterly crass judgements made on the so called Millennial generation and you have picked on some great ones. I do though believe there are other, genuine, generational differences that are naturally influenced by changes going on around us (for example expectations around use of new technology and alternative comms channels) and it is critical to understand these in order to effectively engage and maximise the potential of everyone.

    1. I think societal views
      I think societal views towards work have matured and these changes are generalised to a particular age-group – that’s the problem. I remember speaking to a ‘baby boomer’ who said that when she was a new parent she’d have loved a more welcoming, family-friendly employer, with the ability to work flexibly and have a compressed work week, but that just wasn’t ‘what happened.’ Now it is happening, and milennials are taking advantage because hey are at the life stage of having children and becoming a larger and larger part of the workforce. So yes they do want flexible working. Do they expect it uniquely? Of course not. Everyone wants flexibility. We are all human.

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