I cannot tell you a number of articles I’ve read that paint Millennials as lazy, entitled, demanding, distracted and “killing” everything.
In the last 6 months, I’ve been to three conferences about digital marketing and higher education where Millennials were the butt of all the jokes. The most recent conference, I sat through I was infuriated because the speaker had caught my attention will all the wonderful information she was sharing with the audience about working together as different generations, genders, work environments, etc–when she started making jokes about millennials, my face must have immediately turned sour.
After the speaker was done, four of us Millennials sat around the table talking about how annoyed and frustrated we were that we, as millennials, are rarely ever talked about in a positive light. About 15 minutes into our conversation, two middle-aged women who had been sitting at our table for the entirety of the speaker’s address and our conversation, interrupted us.
“We don’t mean to interrupt, but we’ve been listening to your conversation and we just want to say that we appreciate your point of view. We were actually just talking about how we would’ve rather listened to your entire conversation than the rest of the keynote speakers address,” one of the women said.
I was immediately caught off guard. Wait, someone is acknowledging what we’re feeling?! We ended up having a great conversation for another 10 minutes. We left promising for all of us to sit together for the last keynote address of the day. But one of the women said something that has stuck with me. She said, “So what are you going to do about it?”
I responded by telling her that it was hard to verbalize how we feel because it would most likely come across as complaining or being defensive. But after reading another article this morning about how millennials are “killing” something, I’ve just had enough.
What, if anything, is wrong with millennials?
Now, I know there are plenty of those around that do appreciate millennials, this blog post isn’t to put you on the spot. For those in the back that have a hard time understanding what I’m talking about, here it goes.
I’d like to think that I’m a part of the rule and not the exception. I grew up without a television, where my “escape” was my imagination of playing outside with the neighborhood boys or reading multitudes of books in my spare time. I was active in my church from a young age and clearly remember where I was when 9/11 happened. My world, at one point, was black and white, but as I’ve grown older I realize it’s much more gray than anything. I went to college right as the recession took place, but learned to manage my money from a young age. We moved around a lot when I was young and lived nowhere close to family, so our church families became our family. Our family vacations were always about experiencing life together, whether it was visiting friends and family in Colorado, or flying to Washington, D.C. to understand the history of our country.
I’d like to think I turned out pretty good (huge shout out to my parents!). I’m 27; single; been in the work force since I was 16; graduated from college in 4.5 years, while studying abroad for one of those years and with no debt; currently working on my master’s degree, have a car payment and student loans (from my master’s); I’m invested in my church–I could go on, but you probably have an idea about how I live my life.
Oh and one more thing–I’m all about creating solutions.
I’ll be the first to admit, that I’m pretty pessimistic when it comes to the reality of life–others would like to call me more of a realist, but tomato, tomato.
I know it does no good, to be frustrated about the generational gaps in our work environments, churches, and homes. We all can admit, it’s incredibly complicated, weird, awkward and annoying. But there’s actually a lot of good that can come from the complicated, weirdness and annoyance. One thing I have seen over and over again is the fearlessness of millennials wanting to tackle those issues. Maybe it’s just in my circle and what I’ve experienced, but I’ve always had the opportunity and desire to make things better–to actually act and make things better instead of talking about it. Did you know that Millennials are one of the generations that out voted older generations this last election? Or that we’re bringing back the vinyl industry? Or that we’re the ones keeping libraries alive?
Mark my words, millennials are going to change the world and it’s about time everyone else is okay with that. The thing is, we’re not going to change the world by ourselves.
About six months ago, our senior pastor gave a compelling sermon to give millennials the table. The table that is how to help grow our church. “Let’s just give millennials the whole flippin’ table!” he exclaimed. While I admire his passion for including us, there was a number of us that sat down with him to express the need for a multi-generational table. We were quick to acknowledge the benefit of having people from all ages and experiences to help lead the church–we were the first admit it wouldn’t be very successful if it was just a bunch of 20-30-year-olds running everything.
I recently wrote a paper for my Conflict and Resolution class on generational conflict in the workplace. You can read it here. One of the things I learned from my research, was that Baby Boomers and Millennials actually have the most in common, yet we’re the ones, I would say don’t get along the most–in the workplace, in the church, at home. In a journal article titled, Boomers and Millennials Have Much in Common, Wesner & Miller (2008) found that Baby Boomers and Millennials were similar in their respective times. Both Baby Boomers and Millennials were more educated than their predecessors when they entered the workforce. They both questioned authority and were not afraid to blaze their own paths. Both embraced technology and both were more willing to change jobs, wanting meaningful work and the ability to create a better environment.
My professor wrote, “Wow, this was a fantastic paper…I could not ask for more; this was an excellent paper. It helped me understand myself a little better in my generational workplace.” I proudly tweeted, “Well my work is done.” I’m patting myself on the back because of the work that went into the paper AND because of the work I did, it helped someone see something.
That’s all we want to do, you see.
I will not be labeled as a Millennial that just complains about the issues. I will do my research, I will have conversations, I will strive to understand. I think a lot of young people my age are in the same boat as me, but we want to be taken seriously. We’re tired of shouting into a black hole of how to treat us, take care of us and value us in the workplace, church, etc. In a few years, Generation Z–those born after 2000, will be entering the workplace. They’re already in our churches, studying at institutions, and ready to change the world. If we don’t take the time to figure out how Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials can all live together, there’s no way we’re going to be successful when we add another generation.
I want our worlds, churches, and work environments to be successful–I think everyone wants that, but we can’t ignore that our life experiences shape our perceptions, which will always cause conflict because we all experience life differently. It doesn’t mean that any of us are wrong, it’s just different. If we continue to belittle and fan the flame of our differences, we will never have the opportunity to be united. And let’s remember united doesn’t mean uniform.
My point is that I’m tired of yelling. I’m simply tired (and tired for more reasons than just my age, because we can throw my gender and race in there too). My goal is to live a Christ-led life. I promise to speak to grace, instead of frustration and anger. I promise to listen more and ask questions when I don’t understand. I promise to be open to forgive and reconcile. But I cannot do these things alone. I (along with everyone else), need you to promise to do the same. It is then, we are working on something, together, to change the world.