I received the following in the body of a junk email that I got at work today. It was a legit mailing, but one that was directed at a different position than mine. Due to the way my title was phrased, I get these a lot. I normally just remove myself and then delete them, but these two phrases jumped out at me:

Half of Millennials (twenty-somethings) would rather have no job than a job they don’t like (PEW)

Millennials are five times more likely to quit if they have a poor relationship with their manager (PEW)

I’d never heard of the term Millennials before. I assumed it was the generation after mine, since I fall into Generation X. After a bit of wikipedia reading, I came to find that this was referring to Generation Y. (I realize that wikipedia isn’t the best resource, but if you’re just looking for a quick overview of your subject matter, it’s a good start.)

I remember reading about the differentiation between Generations X and Y back in the 90’s. A lot of the assessments that were being made of the younger generation, who were typically born after 1980, were far more favorable than those being made about Generation X-ers. I was just on the cusp, as it were, being born in late 1980, but between the two I identified more with Gen X. According to wikipedia:

Generation X experienced the introduction of the personal computer, the start of the video game era, cable television and the Internet. Other events include the AIDS epidemic, the War on Drugs, the Iran hostage crisis, the Persian Gulf War, the Dot-com bubble, grunge, alternative rock and hip hop. They are often called the MTV Generation.

I recall our generation being depicted as jaded, unenthused slackers. It was pretty interesting to see, perhaps in real dollars, why that might be. But from the same wikipedia entry, it found that our generation’s males made far less than our fathers had in real dollars just a generation before. It was easy to see that for all our efforts, earning less would make you pretty jaded.  Our generation came to expect change as a normality, not a rarity. With that mindset, we seemed to have neither highs nor lows, a generation of meh.

What was interesting, was that the research also showed that, in spite of that, we tended to be more educated, harder working and preferred to make systemic change from within rather than look to or remove leaders. We threw off our slacker image and got some shit done.

By comparison, the Generation Y or Millennials, seemed to be touted at their “inception” as the better generation. I recall reading an article in a teen magazine in the 90s about how Generation Y would be more likely to attend church, to volunteer their time and to be more involved with their community. I felt jealous of these kids, who weren’t that much younger than me, that they somehow would be better off than I would, simply by virtue of the time when they were born.

However, the interesting outcome was that the generation is marked by increasing narcissism with a sense of entitlement and less civic engagement. The expectations placed on this generation had almost the opposite effect as the outcome with Generation X.

Perhaps we took our slacker image and saw it as a challenge, and did quite well for doing so. Perhaps with the lack of focus on our generation, with all the hopes being placed on Generation Y, we were free to do as well as we could, working within our own expectations.

What was emailed to me today, the quote about how Millennials would rather have no job than one they don’t like was meant to inspire hiring managers to “make work fun” or somehow entice young blood into thinking the job was more fulfilling than it was. It meant to persuade tough managers into being more likeable or at least to understand the different perception that newer hires would have.

As someone who has been busting their tail for a long time, who holds absolutely no sense of entitlement and who actively works on avoiding narcissism, these quotes were laughable. They depict a coddled generation, one which was just as happy to not work than to take work that wasn’t enjoyable. It made me wonder how these young folks were surviving by not working. Someone must be footing the bill along the way. Who’s to blame really for an outcome like this? Wikipedia cites helicopter parenting and the internet. I doubt it’s really that simple.

I realize I’m making a lot of generalizations, and that there’s far more variance within the generations than between them. However, if you’re in that position where you can turn your nose up at work because mom and dad are just as happy to have you “find yourself,” consider this:

We were the slacker generation, branded to be emotionless, disengaged sponges who would contribute nothing and we earn less than our fathers. We expect change, and have no sense of entitlement regarding what the world “owes” us. In spite of being told what we were, we got out there and produced. Check the numbers, because they look pretty good for us.

Gen Y was expected to be the second coming, an altruistic and community centered group who would change the world. Yet a good number of you’d rather not do any work than face the unpleasant. You live in an instantaneous world, and have all the expectations that accompany it. If your helicopter parents are expecting you to fly someday, earn money, and maybe take care of them as they age, you’d better get off your ass and get to it. Because, as Winona Ryder’s character said in Reality Bites “The world doesn’t owe you any favors.”