Don’t Blame Mr. Rogers

Recently my husband came home from work very excited because he attended an online workshop about the differing perspectives of the last generation, our generation, and the “millennials” – our kids. He was very enthusiastic about what he learned, particularly since we have three children that will be entering the workforce in the next several years (at various stages). Young adults are very different than baby boomers in their motivation and they bring something special to the workplace. It’s important for business leaders to know that young adults had a very balanced view of work and family, focusing on happiness in life over staying in a job just for the money. Family life is quite different for our childrenĀ  and the typical suburban way of life impacts who they are and what they expect. Here’s a few comparisons that my husband and I made:

  • Organized sports where snacks were served at every game, and all parents attended (for better or worse) every game
  • Lots of opportunities for parents to be involved by attending scout camp-outs, coaching, volunteering in the classroom, and hosting organized play-dates
  • Certificates and trophies just for participating – Who remembers what the win/loss records are?
  • Open house at the high school where we followed our child’s schedule and met every teacher. (Did our parents even know what classes we took in high school?)
  • Online communication where we can check grades – and drive our kids’ teachers nuts with inquiries and editorial comments.
  • Because we have to keep better tabs on our teenagers than our parents did, we probably have closer relationships with their friends and their parents
  • School is different – kids work together more and (at least our kids) tend to hang out in enormous, ever shifting groups

We as their parents “indoctrinated” them with views about themselves and the world that make them see things differently. It’s not better or worse; it’s just different. The recent feature on 60 minutes about millennials didn’t bother me when first I saw it. After reading the blog post by Sylvia Martinez, I took another look. Upon further review, Morely Safer really came off as an out-of-touch-old-fogey! Not much focus was made to the fact that these young people are very hard working, self-motivated, particularly collaborative, and very attentive to their families. They have a need to click with their supervisors and work to build trusting relationships with the people in their organizations. Their technical abilities are unsurpassed and are very comfortable with learning new things and applying their knowledge. That’s what business leaders need to know. These young people focus on happiness and trusting relationships in the workplace. If they aren’t happy – they’ll go somewhere where they will be happy. If they can’t trust their boss, they’ll look for a new boss. Gone are the days when people worked for the same company for 20 years regardless of burn-out and dissatisfaction.

They are not “unprepared” to function in the workforce,” as Morley Safer called them. Business leaders are unprepared to work with those whose perspective is different than their own. It’s almost comical that so many 50 year olds have to hire expensive consultants to help them figure out what to do about the young adults – who are actually their children’s generation. We created them. Why are they so hard to understand?