Last week I was on the number 20 bus, eavesdropping on one-half of a very interesting Millennial conversation. The speaker, said to her phone, “I guess I could lazy my way through it if I had to. But I’d rather not! The job is not worth doing except for the paycheck And the people I talked with are all so sincere.” Once I recovered from the shock of lazy used as a verb, the rest of the speech was admirable. I can’t help wondering how many people in her generation share her sentiment — and how few organizations understand what’s going on. Working with Millennials requires a change of perspective.
If there is a useless emotion in real life it’s got to be earnestness veneered with sincerity. I was at an HR meet-and-greet in which gallons of both were unleashed into the room. So many people worried aloud about the Millennial work ethic. No one I talked to even suggested that organizations might need to change to attract the best and the brightest.
I sometimes think Boomers are jealous of Millennials who have the option of starting or joining an emtrepreneurial business as opposed to laboring for P&G and IBM which were hot when Boomers were young. Boomers also recognize, at some level, that Millennials see them as needy and absurd. The young manage office politics by ignoring it entirely. If, as a twentysomething, I can force you to articulate exactly what you want done instead of your making me intuit what you want, I’ve won! I have bypassed all the old ways to power such as the grapevine, peer management, managing up, and I don’t have to build relationships with people who don’t meet my standards.
Will the posturing on both sides ever turn productive? Not as long as those in charge refuse to acknowledge and work with any workplace values but their own. This only matters because 42% of Boomers will work until age 75. Since the oldest is now 67, that means years of misery. I don’t doubt the Boomers would move on if they could but financially the majority can’t. It’s interesting to watch.