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I didn’t know there were any introverted Millennials. Really, I didn’t. I didn’t think about your generation one way or another until last year.
Stay with me a minute while I tell you what I thought of you all in the past.
Assumptions about Millennials
From my lofty Baby Boomer/Gen X status, you all looked and sounded the same to me. Young, already jaded, lazy, troubled, smart but lacking a solid work ethic.
I have a friend who dislikes you. She’s hired a few of you, you see, and found them to be whiny, and entitled, and demanding. Not willing to work hard for advancement but rather expecting on the sole basis of who they are. She’s sent me articles about how all of you are the downfall of civilization; too spoiled and too entitled to work entry-level jobs and articles about how the “everybody wins” parenting style has raised a generation that’s not equipped to deal with the real world. Her manager is a Millennial, and she’s shaking up the entire department, using her power unwisely, and challenges them on a daily basis about the work they’ve been doing well for years.
So I was a little biased based on second-hand info and didn’t bother to find out more about your generation for myself. And truely, helicopter parenting and “everybody wins” really has been a huge disaster in terms of the way the newer generations handle the world.
Sure, I heard the news that a lot of you had to move home because you can’t afford the cost of living and couldn’t find jobs. I felt sympathy for you because your unemployment rates are almost double that of Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers.
Realistically, I never had much exposure to your age group as a whole. The few Millennial engineers we have in my computer lab building are all quiet, not demanding, and very good at their jobs. There were no distinguishing characteristics between any of the generations in this particular work environment.
Events that reaffirmed my assumptions
A few years ago, the huge corporation I work for started buying small startups developed and run by … yeah, your generation. Your generation with your bright new ideas and innovations and shiny visions of the future of computing.
Around the same time, that huge corporation started squeezing out its older employee base for a younger, fresher set of employees. Yeah, again you guys, Millennials … I’m looking at you. I saw dozens of people I’ve worked with over the last 15 years laid off and their project scrapped. I added this injustice to my bias against you.
Then as corporate was decimating us because of cost cutbacks, we started seeing the company building literal playpens for all of you; spending millions of dollars to design whole buildings just for millennial
Bright colors, games, big screen TVs, open office plans, specialized workout areas, all-natural snacks, and drinks and sometimes even lunches provided. All designed for optimum fuck-offery, no strike that, I’m sorry … Baby Boom bias there. All designed for optimum collaboration in an energetic and synergistic environment. Cool … I wrote that without gagging … corporate speak makes me ill.
So, you see, my impressions of you weren’t all that great. Not at all. Sadly, I wrote you off as spoiled and juvenile.
A change of thought from a simple conversation
All my perceptions changed because of a seemingly coincidental visit.
The part of the building that I sat in was empty except for a few random people. A massive layoff swept through, and there is no one left in this particular wing. Which to me, as an introvert, is a blessing.
I heard voices in the solitude, and suddenly five of you appeared. They’d never been to this part of the campus and wanted to explore. They hadn’t been too far out of the playpen area that the company was built for them. They stopped by when they saw me and asked why I was the sole person they’d discovered in this building.
We had a half hour talk, and that changed my perspective forever. The Five are all introverts looking for a quiet place to work. By exploring the campus, they were hoping they could find somewhere away from the bright colors, the open office plan, the TVs, the video games and the noise because they hated working under those conditions.
It’s hard enough to be an introvert in the corporate world but being an introvert in the Millennial corporate world, is literal hell.
We talked about their software projects; we talked about my computer hardware lab and projects. They spoke about their challenges in the working world and the bias that they’re up against from older workers. I honestly told them why that bias is there, at least at this company. They got it and said that the high tech “playpen” offices didn’t help the perception. I let them know that the cubes and offices around me are vacant and they’re welcome to come work in the quiet any time.'Please don't let the giant corporate machine snuff out the dreams of your small startup. A plea to Millennials to hang onto your creativity in the face of a buyout.'Click To Tweet
An Apology From a wiser Gen X’er
So to all you Millennials, introvert and extrovert, my deepest apologies. I’m sorry that I painted you all the same hue and dismissed you.
I’m sorry that I resented all the “perks” that this company is giving you to work for them. I apologize that the company is treating you like children and though there are probably some that like the atmosphere, there are more of you that don’t.
I’m sorry that a few entitled spoiled brats are wrecking it for the rest of you. We’ve had those in every generation, but yours is affected more directly and deeply because of the tight job situation and high housing costs. We could ignore ours; you can’t.
Advice for living in an extroverted corporate world
Hang tough introverted brothers and sisters! At some point, the tables will turn, and your office environments will become less bright and loud. In the meantime, find ways to recharge and be kind to yourselves. Find the quiet places in between and keep true to yourselves!
You all as a whole will start seeing a change as more and more of you start rejecting the playpen atmosphere and start demanding treatment like the adults you are. I have no idea why corporate America is treating you like children. The kindest idea I can come up with is that the older generations are trying to keep your playful, creative spark alive instead of crushing it out like the generations before did to us.
Please don’t let the giant corporate machine snuff out the dreams of your small startup. They bought your company because they needed you but don’t let them crush you in the end.
After a lively conversation with The Five. I realize that we (your older and supposedly wiser generations) need you. We need your dreams about resource sharing, commitments to changing life as it is now, and your energy and enthusiasm. The corporate world needs the ideas you have that challenge the way we work and play. We need your youth to inject some fire back into the big corporate machines, and we need your perspectives to rehumanize big business into caring for people again instead of the bottom line.
Hope for the future
You are our best hope for the future. It’s your turn now to start carrying the torch. Hopefully, my generation and the baby boomers wise up and let you.
Thanks to The Five for exploring your surroundings and finding me. I hope you do come back because I have so much more to learn.
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