Dear Millennial, you are aging.
No, I’m not talking about this GREY HAIR THING. Stop a minute, put down the phone, fingers off please, now listen to me. YOU ARE AGING. By most definitions you joined us on this planet as early as 1982. That means the oldest amongst you are approaching their mid-thirties. Many are easily within 10 years of the age of 40. Mark Zuckerberg, the icon of your generation, will be thirty-two in 2016. Sorry. I know you were busy texting and trying to get corporations to understand how to hire and retain you, and you didn’t see it coming, but it’s true. You are aging. In fact, you are not even “the new generation” anymore. Corporate Human Resources departments are already trying to figure out how to recruit and retain the next generation. Not you. I’m talking about “Generation Z”.
Got that? Take a deep breath. It will be okay. I’d like to offer some advice for what to expect, and how to move forward as the universe pulls away from you as its center.
First, although many of you hate the term “millennial”, by now you should be used to it.
I know, “Gen Y”—being just an iteration in a series—was not as cool as it was for your predecessors. They got “Generation X“. You got “Generation Y”. They got to affiliate themselves with the “X Files” and “X Box“, and even, “OS X“. They gave you the “Y”, and then they changed it to the “M” word. “Millennial”. Jeez. For you gals and guys, someone might confuse your generational nom de plume with “Perrennial”, or “Centennial”, but not much else, and neither of those mean much. A flower that comes up every year? Okay. But certainly “Millennial” isn’t as bad as being called a “Boomer” or even: “Baby Boomer“! What does that bring to mind? So PUH-LEASE, it could be worse; stop whining about what people call you and get over it.
Next, be prepared for the marginalization of the systems that you have created and used, whatever they are, and no matter how well they work. “Change for the sake of change” is the byword here; that’s what generations do. Can you remember these favorite Boomer tools that are now nearly non-existent?
A similar fate may fall upon the favorite tools of you and your cohorts. Be prepared!
Keep your ears open for the “big proclamations” about change that come from the media and corporate CEO offices. These will affect you. There are precedents. Look backwards. Forty years ago futurologists told the Boomers, “Paper is obsolete. We are going to the paperless office. Nobody will print anything!”. They said this every year for years. “This is the year we see the paperless office!” It was a joke. No Boomer believed it. But here’s why you should be wary: “The Paperless Office” wasn’t about getting rid of paper, it was about getting rid of Boomers! The Boomers became complaisant. And what happened? Filing cabinets disappeared. Giant shredders materialized in hallways. In the midst of this melee, jobs were outsourced. And the final blow, Boomers were bushwacked by “the Cloud”.
Today the futurologists say—as if telling Millennials what they want to hear—”Email is obsolete, email is going away. People don’t need email. The ‘M’s’ communicate with texting. (‘Snapchat’, ‘Facebook’, ‘Tinder’, ‘Slack’—fill in the name your favorite social media app that the Big Heads don’t use, and don’t understand)”. Who cares about email? You don’t use it. But getting rid of email clears the queue to put your technology on the guillotine. What do you suppose will go next, when the “Z’s” take over?
You “M’s” are big on “the Open Office”—no walls, lots of collaborative open space. Want privacy? Use headphones. And there’s the whole “remote work”, “working offsite” thing, which really means, “working from home”. I wonder what will happen with that? I’m guessing next it will be the “office-less office”. Maybe it’s the texting apps? You tell me. Expect things to be dashed to pieces and cast aside as “old fashioned”—certainly “not as good” as whatever the “Z’s” come up with. Oh, and hang on, you won’t like this next one.
In the workplace, expect the senior people in the company to lavish great praise, and without actually comprehending it, to marvel at the creativity of the new changes that the next generation has brought forth, even if those changs have no practical business use. They’ll fall all over themselves trying to figure out how to get their old lumbering organization to look attractive to this new group of people. To anyone looking at this objectively, the obsequious nature of their actions appears pathetically desperate and says more about the incompetence of their leadership and the inability of their organization to innovate than it does about a new generation in the workplace. You might see really weird things happen, like the whole giant corporation change its branding to something that is just weird. Or the IT department may abruptly switch platforms, forcing the whole workforce to change how they work, because the CIO attended some conference where the “technology of the new generation” was discussed.
You may begin to feel marginalized in the workplace. At first, this might seem like your ideas are just not getting the respect they deserve. You have to work harder, or fight harder, to get your colleagues or managers to do what you know—because you are smart, and from your years of experience—to be the right thing. But when you begin to feel that you are being humored or ignored, take a breath. Pause. Evaluate. When it seems that your creativity and experience are no longer valued, perhaps even mocked, then it’s time to step back and appreciate your excellent Benefits package and consider your options. If the company begins to have “town meetings” about “change management”, and suggests that you all read, the latest faddish management book for companies in transition, then move quickly, because you will probably not be there long enough to retire.
Focus on what is important. In your home life, with your children, hopefully you realize by now that not everyone on the soccer team deserves a trophy. (Probably least of all, the coach.) There are those who are better than others at some things ,and there are those who rise to the situation, and there are those who just do the work and get it done and they’re all valuable. They all make worthwhile contributions, and if they are your children you appreciate and love them no matter what. With that in mind, step out of the way, and move on gracefully, and hopefully to something better. But, like it or not, now it’s someone else’s turn.