“[They] love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
No, that’s not the complaint of a corporate manager about Millennials. That’s a quote attributed to Socrates, talking about the children of his time.
I get a lot of work-related questions about Millennials, or GenX, or GenY, or just about young people in general. The common perspective is that young people have gotten the memo about doing what you love, but not necessarily the memo on working hard. Young people change work more often, I’m told, they have less loyalty to their organizations, and they want to run the company the day after they start their jobs.
I have three suggestions.
My first suggestion is to filter any comments through the lens of yesterday. If someone your age could have said the same thing about someone their age a few hundred or a few thousand years ago, it’s likely you’re pointing to an immutable human condition. Older people always criticize young people for not being as industrious. Young people always tick off older people. And you probably did exactly the same when you were their age.
My second suggestion is to filter through the lens of today. You didn’t have to grow up in a time when mobile technology was ubiquitous, when information assaulted you from all sides, when the rules of work had changed so dramatically. Young people today are often making rational decisions related to their work choices. The average corporation is far less loyal to employees than in the past, with less of a commitment toward long-term employment and benefits.
And the world is far more expensive. Compared to the 1980's, it costs 39% more today to buy a house, 46% more for rent, 129% more for an undergrad private degree, and 213% more for an undergrad public degree. And compared to the 1960’s, it costs 50% more for car insurance, and 800% more for health insurance.
My third suggestion is to filter through the lens of tomorrow. The pace of change is accelerating, and that’s going to mean that young people today will need to rapidly adapt to a range of new work-related challenges and opportunities. They will need to be lifelong learners, so they can continually learn new skills. And they will need to fix a range of issues created by those of us who came before them. Many of us haven’t needed to do that.
So let’s focus on ways we can help younger people to quickly learn the new rules of work. That way, we can help them continually adapt as our world changes around them, so they can solve greater and greater problems. And so that one day, they can complain about young people, too.