Millennials need to get real about work world
Cheryl Hall, Dallas Morning News, 20 February 2008

"Millennials. Can't live with 'em. Can't live without 'em. That's what many employers tell me about the youngest generation in the workplace."

45-year-old principal of a 130-person leading-edge marketing company – "They wipe out on life as often as they wipe out on work itself. They get an apartment and a kitty, and they can't cope. Work becomes an ancillary casualty. They're good kids with talent who want to succeed. That's what makes me nuts."

The table below refactors the comments made by Cathie Looney and reported by Cheryl Hall.

Cathie Looney
    certified reality therapist (William Glasser Institute of Reality)
    generational expert
    intergenerational group therapy
    a baby boomer in age but not in spirit

Baby Boomers
1946 to 1964
Gen Xers
1965 to 1980
1981 to present
  • Raised with a clear understanding of hierarchy and respect
  • Women who put careers on the backburner to have children brought a strong work ethic and intensity into parenting.
  • Self-reliant
  • Great entrepreneurs
  • You can give them a project, and they'll get it done.
  • Wanted to reclaim the inner city
  • Love groups and great team players
  • High achievers
  • Confident
  • Highly educated
  • Well-traveled
  • Goal-oriented
  • Technologically superior
  • Connected 24/7
  • These kids are go, go, go.
  • Band together to fight injustice
  • Masters of "continuous partial attention"
  • Imminently teachable
  • The world revolved around us as children.
  • We're the spoiled brats.
  • We had a decade-long temper tandrum beginning in the mid '60s.
  • In the '80s, it was acquire, aquire, acquire.
  • In the '90s, many of us who'd postponed parenting for careers had children.
  • We're the "I, I, I, me, me, me" generation.
  • We want to think of ourselves as altruistic, but we always make sure that we take a picture of ourselves standing in front of the house that we helped rebuild."
  • "We think that our child's success in school is emblematic of our success as a parent. A Harvard decal on the back of your Hummer is a stellar performance review."
  • These are the latchkey kids who had to bring themselves up as mothers went off to break the glass ceiling.
  • Over half of this generation come from divorced families and over half from two working parents.
  • Don't trust others as much.
  • Don't like working in teams.
  • More of an angry generation. They see themselves as wedged between entitled boomers and millennials.
  • Can't live with 'em. Can't live without 'em.
  • They've been told they were special since the day they were born.
  • They never had their own alarm clock – Mama got them up.
  • Lack the real-world grounding it takes to deal with responsibility, accountability, and setbacks.
  • You have to be very careful in how you talk to them because they take everything as criticism.
  • Limited appreciation of hierarchy and authority. Don't see their parents as authority figures, see them as partners. More likely to question authority.
  • Often don't listen to all of the instructions. They skip ahead and miss a couple of pieces of critical information.
  • Quickly attach and become passionate about what they're doing, but they just as easily detach.
  • Usually proficient at virtual/online relationships, but aren't as adept at face-to-face relationship building.
  • Their idea of one-on-one is text-messaging.
  • Don't mind living with their parents
  • "These kids are fabulous, but they need to cut the umbilical cord."
"They've been overparented, overindulged and overprotected. They haven't experienced that much failure, frustration, pain. We were so obsessed with protecting and promoting their self-esteem that they crumble like cookies when they discover the world doesn't revolve around them. They get into the real world and they're shocked."

Parents – both boomers and Gen Xers – thought they could give their kids self-esteem, forgetting that each one of us earns our own self-esteem. The marketplace catered to them: Nickelodeon, "Sports Illustrated for Kids", Pottery Barn for Kids, Gap Kids. For goodness' sake, Las Vegas even went family.

"Healthy, resilient people learn life skills from failure and frustration. These are kids who have a bunch of participation awards. They think they should be rewarded for showing up at work. You have to say, 'No, no darlin'. You're paid to show up. [oh, really?] But you have to do a good job to get a raise.' "

Erica Adams, 23 – "We can come off as flighty, but that's really our quick attention span. We need to multitask to stay constantly engaged."

"If you want to get the best out of the millennials, you have to invest in them. You have to give them a mentor to teach them how to navigate the adult world. You have to tell them in black and white what your expectations are for them and what the consequences will be if they don't meet those expectations."

"Older generations should say, 'Here's what I want you to do and why,' and then let them get creative with the how."

"Reality therapy is about taking responsibility for your own actions. You can't change other generations. They are what they are. All you have control of is how you deal with them."

John Ansbach
    expert in generational dynamics
    helps employers meld the generations
    makes $5-10K to speak on the challenging interplay between generations in the work place
    Gen X and Y working side by side is a challenge

Gen Y was told:
    you are special
    there are no losers
    self-esteem is more important than performance

Ansbach tells employers, "You really don't want to be the first person to say, 'Bad dog! No biscuit!'"

Employers need to speak multiple generational languages (Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y) to get the best results.

Businesses cannot afford to have non-emotionally-invested employees.