Maybe The Millennials Have It Right

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I'm often told by headhunters that Baby Boomers are harder workers and more dedicated than Millennials, which frustrates them because corporations often have notions that Baby Boomers can't take the pressure and stress.  I was talking to my brother over Thanksgiving. He like many our age can only find work as a contractor (with periods of unemployment when you are let go with no notice), however, the permanent workers in his company are mostly Millennials.


His observation is that most of them care little about deadlines or whether the firm is successful.  Most spend their days in a cubicle with headphones on listening to music rather than associate with other co workers.  Moreover, any spare minute is usually dedicated to hunting for a new job not trying to gleam insight about the their present company or department.  Since he is a contractor they tend to confine in him and their attitude is I really don't give a s@@t about this place.  My own experiences have been similar when Millennials have spoken to me.


My brother believes the Millennials based upon their observation of the workplace have it right and after thought I would agree with him.


Many Baby Boomers, me included, were the product of parents that enjoyed and greatly benefited from social mobility.  In the 60s, 70s and even into the 80s a college degree, hard work, loyalty and dedication meant a really good career with an eventual profitable retirement.  Of course that's all changed now.  We now have come to live in a world of endless corporate downsizing, very limited promotions, and the expectations to stay employed we need to change employers every 2-3 years.  A young person entering the workforce today is told they should expect to work for 12-15 employers over their lifetime.


Millennials have seen a very different experience than we Baby Boomers did when we were younger.  They've seen older adults laid off never again able to recreate what they once have.  They see a college degree no longer has much cache, in fact it gets you a job that 20 years ago required only a high school degree.  They see their wages staying flat with no promotional opportunities while the C level walks away with never ending double digit increases.  Most of their time is spent in a constant state of job hunting, embellishing their resume, and going through the nerve grating experience of "networking", which they soon come to realize is more hype than substance as far as results.


Naturally they've become cynical and detached.  Since they have no plans to be with their current employer two years down the road what do they care if the enterprise files for bankruptcy in three years.  They know that seniority is no longer a valued asset but a liability.  They assume that when they hit their 50s like the adults around them they will be canned, spending their remanding days desperately looking for a job that can pay the bills. 


Moreover, they have to consider that the gig economy, stringing together multiple part time jobs and working temporary/contract will be their ultimate future.  Can you really blame them for doing the minimum at best, having not a care about their company's financial performance and ready to leave at the drop of a dime if the company down the street will pay slightly more?


TexasLynn Added Dec 1, 2017 - 2:18pm
I entered the corporate work-force in the late eighties and stuck around for 20 years... before moving on to work for small business.  The difference in culture (loyalty, morality, socially) has been night and day (at least for me).
Big corporations by their nature are at best amoral, and more generally immoral.  This translates in their business practices, how they view and treat their customers, and how they view and treat their employees. 
Companies like Google develop face saving mottos like "Don't be evil" which quickly becomes an exercise in Orwellian double speak; moving quickly to placate totalitarian governments, censor content, hide money/profits, and create corporate echo chambers.
If Millennials have no loyalty to corporations it is largely due to corporations having no loyalty to anyone (save the fat cats at the top; and not even that).
Two axioms come to mind...
"It's a two-way street."
"You reap what you sow."
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 2, 2017 - 7:44am
An astute observation, George.
Dino Manalis Added Dec 2, 2017 - 8:09am
Like the rest of us, millennials need a stronger economy with numerous opportunities to move upward.  Millennials need work experience and the ability to work with others as a team to get the job done!
Leroy Added Dec 2, 2017 - 8:16am
What amazes me is how fast the baby boomers have picked up on the millennial style.  You see them with headphones on too today.  They come in late, take long lunches, and make up for it by leaving early.   They enjoy the 13 selection coffee bar and popcorn Fridays as much as anyone.
In the past, when you arrived home from a business trip, if you could get back to the workplace before quitting time, you returned to work.  We came in early and worked late for good measure.  You didn't want to be seen leaving early no matter how early you arrived at work.  You could travel for weeks or even months at a time. 
Millennials refuse to be road warriors.  The policy was changed such that you weren't expected to travel more than two weeks at a time.  It's a good thing.  We were never compensated for all the hard work.  It wasn't good for our families.  The millennials have it right. 
Before I left, we had a major expansion going on in Mexico.  The plan was to train the locals in the US and let them do the bulk of the work on site.  The training would come out of a different budget.  My colleague and I had to foresight to include travel time and hedged our bet.  We saw it coming.  Most did not.  We estimated it would take six months of onsite work.  Not surprisingly, the company decided after the fact to cancel the training in the US to save money, so the locals won't have the knowledge.   The millennials who did not anticipate this situation will be burned twice.  Hiring contractors is money out the door, which, of course, costs money that is not in their budget.  Their salary is a sunk cost.  Guess who gets to work on site?  Even though their salary is a sunk cost, it will count against them as being overbudget come evaluation time.  Let's hope the job market is good.
Those baby boomers who remain are working on retirement.  That is the only thing that keeps them there.  There's not much loyalty left. 
There are some very hard working millennials out there.  From what I see, they are often passed over when it comes to advancement in favor of those that whine about advancing.  The baby boomer management is being replaced by millennials.   It seems that it is the least skilled ones who insist on being a boss.  And, the company obliges.  Most don't seem to want to do the detailed work.  They want to manage others to do the work.  It's fine to want to manage others, but when you have a company of bosses, it doesn't work.  I recall a cartoon that someone drew up.  It showed a progression of rowers.  The first scene showed one guy with a megaphone encouraging the rest of the rowers.  Then there were two with megaphones.  In the end, there was one rower.  The rest had megaphones shouting at the one rower.  That is what we have become.
The pendulum always swings.  Today, there is the concept that we all manage contractors.  When the work slows down, you do the detailed work yourself.  Many will be shocked when they are expected to produce.  They will find that all the knowledge is with the contractors, namely the baby boomers.   That is when you look for a new employer.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 2, 2017 - 10:50am
Great article George. Leroy is right, loyalty begets loyalty. If I'm going to worry every day that my job might disappear, I will constantly be looking for a new job, updating my resume. Many companies, rather than saving money for a downturn in their market and paying their talent, pay their C suite people huge salaries and when the market takes a downturn, their only option is to let talent go. I find none of this behavior admirable, nor is it a good business strategy. Corporations might be led by talented people, but even that is questionable, and if you don't think so, look at what Jeff Immelt did to GE and yet he stayed long past the time when his talent was used up, if he even had that much to begin with.
George N Romey Added Dec 2, 2017 - 11:01am
Good comments all. The last contract I worked on I worked under a young woman that had been led to believe she could be super mom and super executive. Every night around 6PM the asshole millennial CFO would order immediate changes to reports as he left for the night. That meant the Finance Department working to after 9PM. I just battened down and got to work. Said boss would call her husband, an argument would ensue about her neglecting her daughters. Then the boss would start to cry blaming me rather than the asshole CFO for the late evening.
This young woman was hired by the CFO on her what could only be her looks because she knew didly about finance.
wsucram15 Added Dec 2, 2017 - 11:09am
This is a good article and very true.  I told you about the tv station I was interviewed for twice?  They own most of the small broadcasting in the US (Sinclair). The people interviewing me were children and had no where near the skill set I did.  I didnt even know why they called me for an interview at first, but it was decided they had to give open interviews to "more experienced" applicants.  The interviewer actually told me that when I asked her why she even called me since she and her assistant giggled through the entire interview.
The HR girl apologized and didnt looked too thrilled though. 
The Accounting Mgr position was open like a month or two later (the girl who interviewed me) AND the same position I applied for.
My son works a job and there are 3 people employed there managing 220 properties.  That's ludicrous. But, (lol) he reminds me of me now, when I was working.
Bill Kamps Added Dec 2, 2017 - 3:40pm
People adapt to the situation they are in George.   At one point in time there was a pay off for busting butt for the company.  At one point in time I worked for a company such that when you got promoted you could at the same time go buy a new more fancy car, and a new more fancy house.  Since that economy is gone, companies rarely have the ability to reward workers as they  did once.
That doesnt mean it never made sense to bust butt.  It just rarely does now.  Not never, but rarely.
This has nothing to do with Millennials, it has to do with the times we live in, and how the economy does not allow profits to be made as easily as before.
Does little to complain about it, you might as well be complaining that winter is cold, or summer is hot.
Bill H. Added Dec 3, 2017 - 1:06am
Exactly - Since their employers treat them like shit, constantly hold the fear of losing their job over their head if their "metrics" aren't up to par, creating an atmosphere where taking time off or taking vacation lowers your "metric" scores, and rather than enjoying a teamwork environment, they are forced to compete against their fellow employees and work in the "backstabbing" mode constantly. Not to mention, they are forced to be on a constant job search to try and achieve a position that allows them to live reasonably comfortably.
I know well, because I had to operate and manage a large group of people in both environments during my "productive years" of 1968 to 2012. The lost era of teamwork and dedicated, well-compensated employees seemed to begin fading away around 2002 as I observed, as did the classic management techniques that not only rewarded employees for a job well done, but created teams that rewarded the companies with more of what they were seeking at the time, long term growth and profits.
opher goodwin Added Dec 3, 2017 - 4:09am
The overriding attitude now is that they are being used, exploited and not cared about, so why should they care?
It used to be the case that you got a career and were well rewarded. Loyalty counted for something.
These days loyalty is penalised. You don't have a career. You are disposable. Work conditions have eroded as unions are depowered and workers rights have gone. Where's the incentive to care?
If an organisation doesn't value you then why should you value it?
Bill Kamps Added Dec 3, 2017 - 8:16am
The overriding attitude now is that they are being used, exploited and not cared about, so why should they care?
For 98% of human history this was the case.  The employer, king or whatever cared not a bit for the employee. 
During part of the 20th century before a lot of automation, and while many countries lagged industrialization, labor had the advantage so companies had to treat workers better.   Most didnt do it because they were kind, they did it because they were growing fast, and talented labor was in short supply.  It used to take about 5x as many people to run a car plant as it does today, so companies needed LOTS of people, and couldnt afford to retrain new ones every week. 
Yes unions helped to balance things out with the employer.  However when labor became an international commodity, and with automation, unions lost most of their power. 
Cant turn back the clocks, to when we built cars without robots, to when China didnt know how to make steel, and so on.
George N Romey Added Dec 3, 2017 - 8:24am
Bill H I agree it was around 2002 that attitudes towards employees change. Other Bill, not all companies are this way. Costco, Southwest Airlines and others still honor and prize seniority. Both have consistent top performing margins. Both (and others) operate with a philosophy take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers which will benefit shareholders.
Bill Kamps Added Dec 3, 2017 - 12:43pm
George, true enough.  Not all corporations are the same, just like not all people are the same.  However, we cant legislate good citizenship by companies, just like we cant do it for people either. 
I agree it was around 2002 that attitudes towards employees change
Really George?  you mean the labor riots of the early 20th Century were not about the company's attitude towards workers?   The companies didnt love their workers up until 2002.   The workers unionized to force better treatment before WWII, and then after the war labor was in such high demand that the workers were in a seller's market.  Then as you have observed elsewhere, in the late 1970s this started to change and workers had more competition from overseas and robots, and their situation weakened. 
Unions helped to raise the cost of labor, and this incented the companies to replace labor with machines and move labor overseas.  So did the unions help or hurt the workers?  Well in the short run they helped them, but in the long run they made workers expensive, and helped to perpetuate the Company vs the Worker tension.
Mr. Congeniality Added Dec 3, 2017 - 12:52pm far, outside of a much greater tendency to job-hop, I can't really make any great distinctions between people of a particular age group. I see Baby Boomers zoning out wearing ear buds, not really giving a shit about anything or anybody, and youngsters fresh out of school busting their asses to get something done. And vice-versa, and much in between.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 3, 2017 - 2:23pm
George, Every night around 6PM the asshole millennial CFO would order immediate changes to reports as he left for the night. That meant the Finance Department working to after 9PM. I just battened down and got to work. I had similar things, but I only tolerated it for so long.
Dave Volek Added Dec 6, 2017 - 12:14pm
People make choices. Businesses make choices.
Our family shops at both WallMart and Costco. There is a big difference in the quality of the people that serve you.
You should do your job with a sense of excellence and enthusiasm wherever you go. If your best opportunity is WallMart, conduct yourself with excellence and enthusiasm. Eventually when an opening in Costco appears, you will take that excellence and enthusiasm to the interview. Too bad for Wallmart, but they made a choice in how they were going to treat you.

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