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The Rising Tide of Millennials

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There was a very interesting article in the New York Times the other day, which was a profile of the company .MIC, which is a news organization designed to create web content specifically for Millennials and by Millennials.  The article offers .MIC as a case study of how the various quirks and personality traits which appear to be endemic to the Millennial Mindset play out when given (almost) free reign in a corporate environment.  

As painted by the New York Times, the results are, shall we say, colorful.  One can almost imagine the Times’ target demographic laughing along at the stories of these silly kids having their own generation’s foibles cause them problems as they try their best to run a company. There is an undercurrent in the article, not so much of casting blame, but rather of a wise parent saying, “I told you so.”  The tacit assumption seems to be that Millennials simply do not have what it takes to succeed in the corporate world, and this truth is only brought into sharp relief when they are left to try and manage themselves.

If this supposition is in fact the truth then to say the American workforce is about to have a serious problem would be an understatement.  Millennials are now the single largest demographic within the American Workforce.  Surpassing Generation X and the Baby Boomers, and this trend is only going to increase as Gen Xers continue to age.  If Millennials are ill-suited to the American workforce, as is never explicitly stated but only ever implied in the article, then the American workforce is in trouble because it has no choice but to work with Millennials for the foreseeable future.  

Millennials, whatever their character foibles, are going to be working at and running businesses in ever increasing numbers, and the workforce really has no choice but to adjust.  Think about it this way: the workforce is just the sum total of all the people working.  If more Millennials are working than anyone else, they will automatically begin to shape and change the culture and mores of the workforce.  

This doesn’t mean there’s going to be a ping-pong table in every office anytime soon.  In fact, my hunch would be that if you asked most Millennials, they would be more than happy to tell you flat out that they don’t care about whether there’s a ping-pong table in the office or not.  Rather, the cultural shift will be one of Mindset.  How Millennials think about work, and consequently the office is different than previous generations, and these ideas are going to become more and more prevalent in the mainstream as time goes on.

While they might sound a little bit like the Borg, I can assure you that the situation is not nearly so dire.  Have no fear, the American Workforce is not being washed away by a tide of superficial and self-centered waistrals.  What is really happening, is that a new generation, with its own culture and ideas is beginning to take center stage, and while this transition is inevitable, there is plenty that can be done to make it easier for everyone involved.

The first step is acknowledging that Millennials are people.  They’re not their tweets, they’re not their Facebook statuses, and they’re not their photos on Instagram.  They are each and every one, a person, not a collection of digital data, and in order to work with a person communication is key.  People of earlier generations need to learn how best to communicate with Millennials, just as Millennials need to learn to communicate with people of earlier generations.  Two way communication is the only way for any kind of disruption in the workplace to not result in serious conflict.  The goal is to keep things rolling as smoothly as possible, because it is in everyone’s best interests that work should continue, and for that to happen everyone needs to be able to communicate effectively.  


Photo Credit: David Rzegocki