Generations: Where’s the Love?
Maggie McGary went off on a bit of a rant about Generation Y/Millennials on her (spectacular) blog the other day. She watched Penelope Trunk speak about the younger generation and then read a guest post on Trunk's blog by a 23-year-old who had quit a job after just two weeks, partially because she was able to continue living with her parents (something done much more frequently by this generation than generations before). The gist of Maggie's commentary: Gen Y needs to get over themselves and stop thinking that the world is going to constantly cater to them, and for God's sake don't you realize that living with Mom and Dad makes you a loser?!
I'd like to push back a bit. First, on the living at home thing. Here's my take. Living at home after college used to make you a loser. Now it doesn't. The people who need to get over that are the Gen Xers and Boomers who want the Millennials to experience the world the same way we do. What constitutes "loser" will change over time and the aging generations will choose to either roll with that or resist it. I prefer rolling with it. And I'd also add that the world is different now than when we were getting out of college. Student debt is bigger than it used to be and I think in most areas housing might be relatively more expensive than it used to be. I don't have the numbers on this, but it's worth considering before being too judgmental about where Millennials live.
Second, I have a different read on that guest blog post. I thought her points about realizing early on that it wasn't a good fit there and being smart enough to leave are points worth considering. We just don't have enough data in that blog post to know if she was being impetuous or insightful. Recognizing it wasn't the right "fit" might have been because they made her make copies, but it might have been because the culture was not as promised. She might have been giving up too quickly, but she might have been doing everyone a favor by not wasting time and energy trying to make it work.
Third, Maggie suggested that there are "droves" of Gen Xers waiting to take and do jobs if Millennials would rather stay at home with Mom and Dad, and from a demographic view, that's not true. There are millions and millions of Gen Xers–don't get me wrong. But relatively we are a much smaller generation than either the Boomers or Millennials. I agree that I don't think all the Boomers are going to retire en masse as many have been worrying, but there are senior positions opening for Gen X now, so I'm not sure we will be available in droves to fill lower level positions. I think the combination of generational attitudes plus the "hourglass" demographics is going to force some rather significant structural change in organizations.
Oh, and by the way, Strauss and Howe, my favorite theorists on generations, point out that typically every generation has "issues" with the generation immediately below them. Just look at the conversation Eric Lanke had with a Boomer colleague about Generation X's leadership (and the comments too).