The millennials are the group of people born between 1980-1995, or some stretch this from 1980-2000, and this category primarily means the group of people born to at least middle class families in the US. The term millennials might be used interchangeably with Generation Y, Gen Y, Igen, Echo Boomers or Internet Generation. By popular vote via the Internet for ABC, many in this group voted for millennials as their favorite term.
Much discussion of who and what the millennials are has entered the mainstream, especially as children born in the 1980s enter the workforce or are already in it. Generalizations about this group are easy to find. A 2007 60 Minutes report had many people bristling with rage. It described this generation of kids as having been coddled by parents, repeatedly told they’re special, been overscheduled, and less “responsible” in terms of getting summer jobs than previous generations. This generation, according to Morley Safer, was given a world of all carrots and no stick, and taught to believe that happy endings can always be reached.
This isn’t exactly accurate. These are the children coming of age in a world of global connectivity, where time spent on the Internet often exceeds time spent watching television. These children are also the witnesses of terrorist attacks on America, high school shootings like the one at Columbine, and they’ve certainly had to ingest the idea that happy endings don’t always occur. But according to critics of millennials, the idea of being special and wonderful, and having your parents defend and advocate for you especially in school settings, has led these kids to expect a work or college environment that is based on praise and keeping people happy. This isn’t necessarily a bad change, especially if it alters the working lives of others and results in kinder and gentler employers.
From a less prejudiced position, people look to the positive aspects this generation may bring to working environments. They tend to enjoy working in collaborative environments, they are extremely tech savvy and creative, and they maintain close ties with family, even as adults. Some millennials, especially the oldest of the group may be frustrated though by the problems they’ve inherited as a generation: the debt of the US, the decline of the middle class (which may be affecting their parents), and the expense of trying to achieve home ownership and self-sustainability. They’ve also inherited far more student loan debt, and more millennials than any other group in the Armed Services have died in Iraq.
At best, it can be said each millennial has grown up, or continues to, in a world of mixed messages. The youngest of this group may be facing rigorous requirements for high school graduation, parents losing jobs and homes in a recessed economy, and expensive college educations for which their parents may not be totally prepared. It may not be wrong that parental involvement as these children become teens or older, is more defensive than in previous generations. Parents of this generation of kids may feel that the hard knock life exists in plenty in these kids’ daily lives, and they don’t need to add to it.
It’s also clear from accounts of millennials that descriptions of them tend to speak of kids with a certain degree of privilege, at least middle to upper class. In these groups, violence, drug use and teen pregnancy have declined. The same can’t be said for children who grew up in poverty, who didn’t have access to the same degree of parental involvement, safety, education, or even Internet services that most millennials have had. A duality between millennials, the children of privilege, and those born at the same time who grew up without these things, may make it challenging in educational institutions, the workforce and elsewhere to determine what changes would be most beneficial to a whole generation.
There are people taking a stab at redefining the workforce to adjust for the millennial generation. Such a workforce would sound pretty good to most workers. Create offices with open spaces so that collaboration can take place between workers, offer special services to workers like massages or gym memberships, create flexible schedules, and teach supervisors to praise instead of censure. When businesses do take the work of making the employee happy seriously, we might all be happy that the millennials demanded such change, and refused to work without it.