12 Reasons Gen X-ers Shouldn't Be Afraid Of Millennials
For years now, think pieces have been worrying about Millennials. Are we all a bunch of entitled, lazy narcissists? Are we going to ruin humanity?! As a certified older Millennial, I am here to declare, once and for all: Generation X should not be afraid of Millennials. Baby Boomers shouldn’t be either. Because Millennials simply aren’t scary, and they don’t signal the end of civilization as we know it. For all the criticism and handwringing about Gen Y that we’ve seen in the media, at the end of the day, Millennials are just people, and, although they may embody certain broad cultural shifts (as every generation does), they’re really not that different from everybody else. (Also, there are 75.4 million Millennials in the United States. Can we agree that making blanket statements about a group of people roughly equivalent in size to the combined populations of Texas, New York, Florida, and Ohio is crazy pants?)
Every new generation that enters adulthood seems to generate a special kind of anxiety in older generations. This generational angst seems to arise both from fear and a little disdain: Fear of the unknown, fear of change, and the low-level impatience that grows naturally when one groups sees the other as immature. I’m sure we’ll be getting a whole new batch of think pieces when Gen Z comes of age.
Keep reading for 12 reasons why Gen X-ers and Millennials should have no problem getting along:
1. “Millennial” describes all sorts of different people.
Generational markers always seem arbitrary to me. When op-eds start making lump statements about Millennial behavior, as if we’re all the same, by virtue of being born in the same 20-year period, I take it with a very large grain of salt, and Gen X-ers should, too. After all, I would assume that not all members of Generation X are defined by the same characteristics, either. As someone born in the early ‘80s, it seems bizarre to me that I’m lumped together in the same category as someone born in 1997, and I’d bet that a Gen X-er born in 1979 would feel the same way about being put under the same banner as someone born in 1965. Millennials also happen to be the most racially diverse generation in the history of the country — it’s safe to assume that we don’t all have the same experiences and perspectives.
2. Millennials have become a huge part of the work force, and behold: The world hasn’t ended.
In 2015, Millennials outstripped Generation X as the largest generation in the workforce for the first time. Workplaces continued to function and the world continued to turn. That’s because all that hype about Millennials being self-absorbed narcissists with nonexistent work ethics is (gasp) not true. On that note…
3. The myth that Millennials are lazy, entitled, flighty workers is false.
In 2013, Joel Stein famously dubbed Millennials the “Me, Me, Me Generation,” kicking off a slew of think pieces about Millennials that declared us lazy, entitled workers that tend to hop from job to job. Millennials may work differently than Gen X (more on that, below), but the idea that they lack work ethics is simply mistaken. Research shows that Millennials are willing to work long hours, and are more likely to be “on the clock” all the time than older workers.
4. Contrary to popular belief, Millennials aren’t job hoppers.
Millennials are often portrayed as being too flighty to stick with a single job, but that’s a false stereotype. As The Guardian reports, Millennials switch jobs at the same rate that Gen X-ers switched jobs in the 1980s, suggesting that movement between jobs isn’t a Millennial thing, so much as a “young people thing.”
5. Every new generation faces backlash from the older ones.
All of the negative press directed at Millennials might make you think that the Millennial generation is unusually narcissistic, lazy, and so on, but as Elspeth Reeve at The Wire points out, this happens every time a new generation enters adulthood. Referencing Time’s famous cover declaring Millennials the “Me, Me, Me Generation,” Reeve uncovers magazines dating back to 1907 that similarly declare the latest crop of 20 year olds to be the Absolute Worst. In fact, Generation X got the same treatment from Time in 1990 as Millennials did in 2013. The magazine declared of Gen X, “They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder… They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial… They postpone marriage because they dread divorce.” Sound familiar?
6. Millennials are changing the workplace for the better—and that benefits Gen X-ers, too.
Millennials are willing to work hard, but, in exchange, they want to work in supportive, engaging work environments. “Millennials are much less willing to endure unpleasant conditions on the job,” reports a survey by the Bentley University Center for Women in Business. “[O]nly 30 percent of the [survey’s] respondents [were] somewhat or very willing to work in an unpleasant work environment to achieve career success.”
Some companies are adopting new programs and work structures to fit Millennials’ desires for more flexible work schedules, options to work remotely, and opportunities to be creative. Those are changes that make the work place better for everyone, regardless of generation.
7. Millennials are more philanthropic than you think.
Millennials may often be accused of self-absorption (a charge that, again, seems to be targeted at young people in general), but research shows that they actually care quite a bit about helping others. In 2010, the Pew Research Center found that “helping others in need” ranked third on Millennials’ list of priorities (after being a good parent and having a good marriage). Furthermore, in 2014, 84 percent of Gen Y made charitable donations, and 70 percent volunteered. Millennials’ top targets for philanthropy were children’s charities, followed by religious organizations and health-related charities.
8. Millennials are not all that different from previous generations.
In a recent article for the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo explains that, although Millennials are different on a broad scale from Generation X and the Baby Boomers, these differences are not as profound as many people seem to think. As an example, he cites research from the Pew Research Center that shows the Millennials are more likely to not be affiliated with religion than previous generations. That’s true, but the numbers show that the difference is only slight: 29 percent of Millennials are religiously unaffiliated, compared to 21 percent of Gen X-ers.
“[I]f you look at what their underlying needs and aspirations are, there’s no difference at all between this new generation of workers and my generation and my father’s generation,” Lazslo Bock, head of HR at Google, told Manjoo. “Every single human being wants the same thing in the workplace — we want to be treated with respect, we want to have a sense of meaning and agency and impact, and we want our boss to just leave us alone so we can get our work done.”
9. We can all bond over Reality Bites and Singles.
The actual distance between Gen X and Millennials really isn’t that far, and though there have been huge shifts in technology and communication in the last 25 years, in other ways, Millennials and Gen X-ers have shared similar experiences and consumed the same cultural markers. As an older Millennial (aka a Millennial born in the early ‘80s), I grew up watching a lot of the media that was intended for and that was about Generation X, from John Hughes movies, to Singles, to Reality Bites. So if we ever run out of conversation topics, we can always talk about why Troy Dyer is actually the worst.
10. Millennials are more tolerant and more prepared for sex than previous generations.
Millennials are both less judgmental about sex than older generations, and more prepared for it. As the Washington Post points out, Millennials are more accepting of other people’s sexual choices, with 62 percent saying that pre-marital sex is OK, and 56 saying that they have no problem with same-sex relationships. In their own sex lives, Millennials tend to have fewer partners than Gen X-ers or Baby Boomers, they’re less likely to have sex in early adolescence, and they’re more likely to use contraception.
11. Millennials are looking for political cooperation.
U.S. politics are contentious as the moment, to say the least, and the upcoming presidential election looks like it’s going to be an ugly one. So it’s probably a good thing that a 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that Millennials were the age group least likely to report “partisan antipathy,” meaning that they are the least likely to get vitriolic about either political party. The survey also found that Gen Y is the generation with the highest percentage of people saying that they’re in favor of their politicians compromising “with people they disagree with.”
12. Gen X and Gen Y need to band together, so that we can all complain about Generation Z when they enter the workforce.
Just kidding. Gen Z is going to be great. And when, inevitably, we old fogies find ourselves complaining about the new kids on the block, let’s try to remember all those times that Baby Boomers accused Generation X of being slackers, and Millennials of being obsessed with “me, me, me,” and cut Gen Z-ers some slack.
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