There are few places I go that I don’t hear comments about the attitudes of Millennials. It is also the most common question I hear from clients these days. It is so common in fact that it prompted an interview with the senior editor of Chief Learning Office magazine a few weeks ago. The article was just published last week. The editor asked me about what makes each generation different, if Baby Boomers felt the same way when they were young or have times changed, what Millennials want, how the generations respond to technology and more.
So let me give you a sneak peek into the interview.
Here’s a hard cold fact and yet a very simple but critical premise: the attitudes of each generation are different, not good or bad. (Yes, individuals in each generation have good and bad attitudes but collectively they just see the world a bit differently than their predecessors and successors.)
Without a doubt each older generation has viewed its younger successor as brash and uppity. Younger generations always look upward and see gray and staunchy.
But despite this loud roar of near-apocalyptic differences in attitudes between generations cited by the media, research is on the fence whether these differences are based on one generation’s perspective defined by events or concerns expressed by all generations at similar states in life and career.
Regardless of the cause, the notion that one generation’s attitude is good or bad is just bad business. Yes, there are individuals in each generation that have good and bad attitudes about work. But bad attitudes don’t infect an entire generation of tens of millions of people. In fact, I’m often embarrassed by the negative and disparaging attitudes of many of my peers (baby boomers) toward work and excited by the holistic and fresh outlook that millennials offer.
There is no question that historical events such as Pearl Harbor, landing on the Moon, the death of key leaders and great recessions imprint indelible messages in the minds of young people. These messages shape the lives of these young adults as they enter adulthood. They influence how they see the world and how the world sees them. But they don’t create an entire generation with a single universal attitude. We’re talking about millions of humans, not robots. Society and the marketplace that responds to these life-changing events likely have a greater impact on the life and times of each generation than the events themselves. For example, the Internet surely had a more pervasive and permanent effect on how a generation of young people will live and work as adults than the terrorist attack on 9/11.
Download a free chapter about What You Need to Know About the Millennial Generation from Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization.