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Defending GenY: Why Millennial-Bashers are Wrong

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Some of the most repeated knocks on GenY by the Millennial-bashing experts in media-land are that they’re selfie-posting, social-media-crazed underachievers.

While there’s no solid defense for taking excessive selfies, spreading hateful rhetoric about a generation you don’t understand is about as useful and savvy as selling used toilet paper. (Click here to Tweet this thought.)

Here are three solid reasons why GenY haters are truly, frighteningly, off their rockers:

1. They live in a different reality

If you’re not part of GenY, you didn’t grow up with the highest student debt in history in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Maybe that’s why so many Millennials are living in their parents’ basements, unemployed or underemployed.

Let’s get another thing straight. We didn’t directly contribute to any of the following: the Enron scandal, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial market collapse and housing crisis, the 2010 BP oil spill, the Bernie Madoff scandal, Hurricane Sandy or last year’s government shutdown.

Is it possible any of these factors or the combination of them has led to today’s economic realities? Or is it a result of too many Tweets and Facebook updates?

If you graduated from college and found full-time employment with health insurance and any sort of retirement benefit soon after, you don’t know what it’s like to be a Millennial today. And if your college degree was a determining factor in gaining said employment, you don’t know what it’s like to be a Millennial today.

Before you concoct your next diatribe about how bad GenY is for business, try acknowledging that the reality you knew as a young worker isn’t in the same realm as the joyous, carefree utopia we’re living in today, where making minimum wage full-time can’t get you over the poverty line and entire cities go bankrupt.

2. They fail to recognize GenY’s positive traits

In an article published in Time magazine titled, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” the author cites a study from the National Institutes of Health that found 58 percent more college students scored higher on a narcissism test in 2009 than they did in 1982. Who cares?

GenY cares a lot — about corporate responsibility. A survey by the non-profit Net Impact found that 45 percent of respondents would take a pay cut “for a job that makes a social or environmental impact.” Isn’t caring about what you do to earn a paycheck and wanting to help society more important than the results of a narcissism test?

And let’s clear up the whole work-life balance issue with GenY. The desire for balancing our home and professional lives doesn’t stem from wanting to not work. It’s so we can spend time with the people we love more than our bosses and coworkers.

Maybe this has something to do with previous generations placing so much emphasis on work that marriage was just a precursor to divorce in too many households. Maybe members of GenY want to come home from work at a reasonable hour and have time off to preserve their marriages and foster healthy families. What’s wrong with that?

Furthermore, studies indicate little difference between generational values. A survey by psychologist Jean Twenge of high school seniors taken during 1976 (Baby Boomers), 1991 (Gen Xers), and 2006 (GenYers) tells a compelling story. The results show every generation placed the highest value on intrinsic factors, including interesting work and learning opportunities, and medium emphasis on helping others and society.

That’s an objective survey — one that measures the same values across three different generations, all at the same stage in life.

3. GenY will represent 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025

This one’s simple. If you’re a member of the elite group of Millennial-bashing authors, you’re fighting a losing battle. In just over a decade, we’ll be the bosses at almost every organization, for better or worse.

Surely you know that people don’t work with people they don’t like. Or don’t you know anything about the real world?

If you’ve already published your masterpiece making biased, hasty generalizations about the GenYers you so loathe, best of luck to you in a few years. And if you haven’t written that piece yet, do everyone a favor and don’t… ever.

Seth Carr is a Millennial advocate and author of the soon-to-be published book Post-College Knowledge: How to Not Suck at Your First Real Job. Follow Seth on Twitter.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

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  • Karen Espenant

    When reading GenY statistics , I wonder about the sampling pool, especially when they say that ” GenY will represent 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025″. Are these characteristics global in nature, or is the sample pool decidedly US, or Western? What’s the data detail?

    • Guest

      The data is that 75% will indeed be working, but at Wal-Mart or other minimum wage crap that’s the ceiling for them because they most likely majored in “self-designed interdisciplinary studies.” The other quarter will be on welfare or in jail.

  • Lauren Milligan

    Wow – you’ve really turned things around for me. Not really, but I’m happy to see fewer typos than I expected. I recently fired a millennial because (here comes a direct quote), “I don’t check work email on my birthday”. That about sums up this generation for me. This little brat (I no longer remember her name but it probably contained an unnecessary ‘y’ in there somewhere) was quickly replaced by a Gen-Xer; both her presence and absence barely made a ripple.

    • RichardsDaddy

      I’m sorry you had that experience, and canning her was definitely the right move. However, she’s not representative of everyone my age (I was born in ’81, so I assume that makes me part of GenY). Most of my peers are younger than I or the same age, and they bust their tails right alongside the Boomers and GenX folks. We even have a VP over a massive business unit who *might* be 35 or 36.

      • Lauren Milligan

        Intellectually, I know that she doesn’t represent an entire generation, but was the sum of a perfect analogy. She texted a high-profile client and of course, used abbreviations (looking forward 2 working w/ u), spoke all of her sentences as a question (I’ll send the file right away?) and couldn’t spell worth a damn. Yet somehow, she had an excellent GPA and great recommendations, which leads me to believe that the standards for the younger generation are no longer as stringent as they were for us. Yours is the first generation whose parents plastered their cars with honor roll bumper stickers (who gives a shit?!) and got trophies for just showing up. (Yes, it’s an old person’s argument but it’s true!) However, I have to acknowledge that as aggravating as that all is, it’s the older tier of my generation that parented your generation this way, so shame on all the coddling breeders. Oh – and this girl was the only applicant her age who didn’t have embarrassing photos on FB. I can’t even believe that still has to be a conversation! I would love to bring in some young blood to my company, but they end up firing themselves before they can prove their worth.

        • Lauren Milligan

          And with that, I must now get back to work. No more time to rant; these resumes will not write themselves! I wish you, RichardsDaddy, the best success in your career.

  • www.ltanswers.com

    But I don’t feel this generation gap is new or exciting.

    Their has always been animosity between the coming and going of each new generation.

    Just look at the history of each transference from one to the next.

  • Danny Rubin

    People like to bash Millennials, but anyone — at any age — can wipe all the stereotypes away with a strong work ethic and the ability to follow through on commitments. That’s how you move from being a generational statistic to an invaluable team member, even at 22.

  • http://twitter.com/George_Haines George Haines

    When 50-year-olds look at 20-year-olds they always seem the same things. It doesn’t matter what year it is, young people are different and have different values. Check back in with Gen Y when they are in their 50’s and I bet you’ll see that those values are different. I bet you’ll also hear them complain about the attitudes of the kids 30 years younger than them. Consequences don’t matter as much to younger people (for a thousand reasons) and that’s not all bad.

  • Pyrrho Nist

    Spreading rhetoric about a generation you think you understand … just because you’re part of that generation … is about as useful and savvy as selling used toilet paper

  • BradWatersMSW

    Generation-bashing isn’t new to Millennials, we’ve all gone through it when coming of age. Today’s youth will be tomorrow’s leaders, cleaning up the messes we’ve made and, naturally, creating some of their own. I wrote a similar piece about Millennials for Psychology Today and included a collection of Millenial-bashing articles from the past 2 years. Here’s the link in case you’re interested in seeing how this controversy has evolved in recent media: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/design-your-path/201309/whats-the-benefit-criticizing-millennials

  • http://www.socialhotelguy.com/ James Bennett CHA

    Gen x here, we got bashed for almost exactly the same thing, except the selfies and really, that’s the most annoying! Having said that, I enjoyed the article!

  • David Fredricks

    Honestly, I am done with the Millennial debate. The whole generation discussion has our nation’s attention on the wrong topic. Our country became great from generation after generation working hard, smart, and being resourceful. Our forefathers were grateful and selfless. From the Quakers of Massachusetts to the prospectors of California. The American people saw a land
    of opportunity, and were humble and gracious for the chance to
    make life better for them and their families.

    The paradigm shift happened in the 40’s. The “Greatest Generation” returned home from war and started making babies. The “boomers”. The only generation to
    control US policy throughout America’s “modern history”. The
    first and so far only generation to throw their children and children’s
    children to the wolves. This group made the conscious decision to choose
    themselves and their objectives over everything else and the future of our
    nation.

    Millennial’s now carry the debt of their grandparents. They face fierce competition in an open global market. Through the years of prosperity and wealth stemming from our “Greatest Generation” each generation one after the other
    has become fatter and lazier.

    More fingers today point out saying “What is American going to do for me”.
    Not what am I going to do for America. What ever happened to finding a way?
    Fighting through adversity. Taking any opportunity and running with it. Not
    complaining. Talking about sending sheep to the slaughter… The fight has not even started for them.

    I will end with these words. It’s not about being a Millennial or GenX or whatever. It’s about being a survivor. It’s about rising to the occasion and lifting your neighbor.
    My hope is when the battle starts, all of our generations will unite together
    and “Rise Up” above everything else.

    Millennials are the current generation facing the wolves. They will only be replaced by the next…

    • Guest

      Throw them to the wolves? Tell them to get a fucking technical degree and quit whining that no reputable company wants to hire someone who majored in genderqueer postmodernism and skateboarded/selfied his/her way through college! Otherwise even their fellow Millennials, like me, will GLADLY reopen the Roman Coliseum where their precious Facebook headquarters is, and throw them to the lions so that they’re not sucking off welfare!

      What’s the matter, Junior is butthurt that he doesn’t get a participation trophy from Boeing for building a model airplane with Legos? “But Mommy said she liked it” is NOT a valid achievement. They need to either get some relevant skills and get a job, or STFU about “waaaah, Grandpa fought in the war but his generation is so mean”! Nobody owes anyone a living. Nobody even owes anyone a breadcrumb to eat. The sooner Millennials learn that hard lesson and quit drinking the Obama “you can quit your job if you don’t like your job” battery-acid Koolaid, the better off we’ll be. Either that or they can go drink battery acid and save us taxpayers a shit ton of money THEY DON’T DESERVE TO HAVE.

  • marouanerossi

    When reading GenY statistics , I wonder about the sampling pool,
    especially when they say that ” GenY will represent 75 percent of the
    global workforce by 2025″. Are these characteristics global in nature,
    or is the sample pool decidedly US, or Western? What’s the data detail?

    Signals To Profit

    • Guest

      It probably refers to Chinese teenagers working at technology companies. American teenagers are going to be unemployed skateboarders or crack dealers, and remain blissfully ignorant of their crimes stealing from the taxpayers to feed their pot habit. Probably a small number of Americans born after 1980 will be working anywhere but McDonald’s. But hey, I guess you’ve gotta count the $7/hour fry cook with an English major he can’t pay off?

  • Diogenez

    ” In just over a decade, we’ll be the bosses at almost every organization, for better or worse.”

    Cool your jets! In a decade’s time, Gen-Xs will still have about twenty years work left in them and the younger ones will still be in their prime.

    You people might – possibly – be the bosses of service organisations, media, wedding planning, tatooing, PR and the like. You’ll still be of little use outside of those soft areas.

    • Guest

      I agree. They may end up assistant managers at Wendy’s and such, but there’s no fucking way these little turds are ever going to manage a Fortune 500 company. Let ‘em suck on that while they’re sucking their thumbs and watching Pokemon. Take away their incentive to suck (the welfare teat) and you relegate them mercifully to extinction.

      • Diogenez

        Here’s a real world example, from a current Employment Tribunal in Ireland, reported in The Irish Independent:

        “A website copy editor, branded jealous by her boss, claims she was unfairly dismissed following a series of late-night communications, including a sexually-suggestive text and Facebook messages.

        Elva Carri, from Kilmainham in Dublin, claims she was sacked by digital marketing company More Fresh Thought Ltd, which trades as ebow, after the company’s founder and managing director David Douglas began a relationship with her then housemate.

        Giving evidence at an employment appeal case, Mr Douglas said Ms Carri was dismissed because of the company’s difficult financial position and because she was the “least profitable employee”.

        Ms Carri, whose salary rose to €24,000 the year she was dismissed, began a work placement with the firm in March 2011 before she was offered full employment in December of that year.

        The tribunal heard the two were friends and would frequently exchange messages on social networks.

        However, Mr Douglas said their relationship “turned very sour” when he began dating her housemate Laura Kinsella and said the former employee was “jealous”.

        The tribunal heard that on one occasion Ms Carri angrily texted her boss after he left a Christmas party in 2011 early with Ms Kinsella insisting he should have said goodbye before leaving and that the office Christmas party wasn’t a night “for getting your hole”.

        Ms Carri apologised for the text the next day, the witness said.

        On another occasion, in October 2012, the complainant wrote to her boss saying she was “irked” after he had corrected a typo in a public forum on Facebook. In a reply sent shortly after 2am, Mr Douglas told his employee he was joking and “to get over yourself”.

        He then instructed his girlfriend to tell Ms Carri not to come into work the following day.”

        “The tribunal chairperson said she was surprised the business was doing so well given “the bizarre kinds of comments going between bosses and workers” and said ebow was “treading on dangerous ground” by using social networks for personal and professional discussion.”

        Besides sharing the tribunal’s chairman’s astonishment that such an operation made a profit, I’ve had the unpleasant experience of working with a nut like Carri and they proliferate in this generation.

  • Guest

    I guess you could call me a self-loathing Millennial. I don’t waste time with social media. I don’t even have a “real” email address (I used a fake one that redirects to nowhere for this “guest” comment). The author can blah-blah all he wants about Bush’s wars and why not being on Facebook makes you a Luddite (uh, NSA much?), but the fact remains that this generation is probably the most ill-informed, vapid, and narcissistic wastes of oxygen the human race has ever produced. Mind you, there are a few exceptions to the entire chronological generation. Malala Yousafzai (b. 1997) bravely risked DEATH to fight for the right of young women and girls in the Shari’a-dominated Middle East to be educated. Kim Kardashian (b. 1980), on the other hand, probably wouldn’t recognize a book if it konked her in the head. Mark Zuckerberg (b. 1984 — how’s that for irony) makes billions peeking in people’s underwear drawers (like a good little Tri-Lamb panty-raider would, of course). Jack Dorsey (b. 1976 — technically Gen-X) makes billions promoting 140-character bumper sticker slogans that a roomful of dead monkeys could generate. But Edward Snowden (b. 1983) pulled back the curtain on ALL OF THEM.

    The rest, I presume, are living in mom’s basement playing video games and fapping to the Bronie show. Probably because they’re terminally unemployable due to their penchant to post drunken selfies with their i(diot)Phones, smoke pot and forget to bathe, and major in “what they loved” even if the JOB market has zero demand for experts in the socioeconomic gender paradigms of 1980s teen movies. Here’s a clue, losers: a transcript full of courses that could be mistaken for BuzzFeed articles won’t get you hired anywhere but burger joints and the garbage truck. Actually, I take that back. Even the garbage pickers make a valid contribution to society. Jeopardy experts with participation stickers and X number of “likes”/”tweets”/”tumbles”/”pins” (what have you) handing out smiley stickers at Wal-Mart are mere refuse of the human population. Not all of them are, of course. But I would venture that outliers, of course, are a staggering minority. For every Malala in Pakistan there is a wannabe Kardashian or Lena Dunham making animated .gifs and failing at life.

    Cheers, from a 2015 liberal-arts BA holder who fell for the “your major doesn’t matter” crap and is now prepping for further technical studies in the MCSE and A+ certification. Have fun with your anime and DON’T SUCK OFF MY DIME!