Im a Boomer, no longer surprised when figures of authority are younger than me. The president of the United States is just barely a Boomer, if Justin Trudeau becomes Prime Minister, we will finally be out of power. Generation X is finally poised to make its long-delayed grab for the brass ring. That may be, but the generation that interests me is the one that follows Gen X – the Millennials.
In the accepted scheme of things, the Boomers were born from 1945 to 1965, Gen X from 1965 to 1985 and the Millennials from 1985 to 2005. The baby boom started with the end of the war and ended with the invention of The Pill, Generation X ended around the time personal computers became widely available and the Millennial cohort ended when social media became prominent. I have no idea what the kids born in the past 8 years are going to be like, but they all have interesting names.
Generation X has gotten a bad rap – slackers, uninvolved, basement dwellers, failure to launch, all these things. While not entirely fair, there is a kernel of truth in these claims. The generation that followed the Boomers existed in their shadow, and didn’t have much to be ambitious about. The free love had all been loved, the good ideas had all been had, the golden opportunities were no longer available.
The millennials, though, the ones I know, are industrious, polite, ambitious, graceful and, best of all, they like our music (Gen X listened to Punk, then Hip Hop, then Rap, then Dance, then House, then more stuff that doesn’t interest me). My 22 year old nephew, though, a clever college student in Political Science, loves Led Zeppelin, and Jethro Tull. He knows who Frank Zappa is.
This isn’t just old-fartism at work, I happen to think the music made between 1965 and 1975 was superior to most of the work that has been done since then. So many musicians had so much to say that they had all the good ideas and riffed all the good riffs; later music was pastiche, amped up. And the artists my nephew likes from his milieu produce music a lot like I remember from mine.
I have been involved in hiring and managing millennials lately. The thing that stands out is that they have expectations beyond the job; not unreasonable ones, but remarkably proactive. They will work extremely hard, at outlandish hours, but will expect to a quid pro quo that includes, not praise, but acknowledgement, and some delayed benefit.
Millennials take the idea of life/work balance as seriously as they do the idea of hard work. This means that work is more of an extension of life than is the case with the more compartmentalized Boomers. They will work late, but take mid-day off for yoga, or a rally. You will learn about their family, their health and their lives, more maybe than you want to know. Boomers are famous for working hard then partying hard. Millennials manage to work and party moderately, and do them both at the same time.
Another thing – millennials appear to have missed the teamwork virus that has infected the workplace for years. You know, teamwork, where it takes twice as many people twice as long to get half as much done? Boomers like to be in charge, assign tasks and get things done. There is no I in TEAM, and that’s why teams are usually a flustercluck.
So, if I had my druthers, the Boomers who are finally relinquishing the reins of power would skip a generation and look for their successors among the millennials, not the 40 year olds. And I suspect, based on the record, that is exactly what is going to happen.