According to Wikipedia I am a millennial. You probably are, too. If you’re confused, the Millennial Generation is the same thing as Generation Y, they just thought of a cooler name a couple of years too late.
I’ve been getting mixed signals about millennials. Yesterday, I read a write-up in the Wall Street Journal of a new book by Ron Alsop called The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace. The book is about how horrible millennials are to work with.
According to Mr. Alsop, millennials “feel a strong sense of entitlement.” We expect higher pay, flexible work schedules, a promotion within a year, and more vacation and personal time. Mr. Alsop has empirical data to support all of this.
The article goes a little bit Dr. Phil, however, when Mr. Alsop attempts to explain the reasons for this millennial entitlement. We are a generation, apparently, of “trophy” kids. Doting parents, teachers, and coaches are to blame (even Mr. Alsop apparently can’t bring himself to place any blame on millennials).
I’m not sure where the evidence of this causal relationship is, but as I read Mr. Alsop’s reasoning I couldn’t help but wonder whether he was going to offer up some “life strategies” or tell all of us millennials to “get real.”
Needless to say, I was a little bummed out after reading all of this. Luckily, I was invited to hear San Francisco Mayor (and likely 2010 gubernatorial candidate) Gavin Newsom speak during the lunch hour. Mayor Newsom seems to hold millennials in slightly higher regard.
In a short speech and long question and answer section, Mayor Newsom, who seems to really enjoy coming to UC Davis, discussed the importance of the millennial generation, calling us “tolerant,” “open-minded,” and “global thinkers.”
Mayor Newsom went on to discuss his pride in seeing the millennials come into their own in this election cycle, and his hope that our generation will be able to fix major political and social problems in dynamic ways unavailable to past generations.
He makes a good point, and one that Mr. Alsop might consider. I don’t see a sense of entitlement in my peers, but if one exists, maybe it is deserved. Maybe our parents lavished praise on us because, even in our failures, we were approaching new issues in different ways, and mastering new tools. Maybe some of the new challenges we’ve faced, such as higher education costs, require us to expect more.
Maybe this millennial entitlement is really just a paradigm shift that includes positives as well as negatives, and maybe, instead of complaining about perceived entitlement and making unsubstantiated assertions about the causes of said entitlement, we should all chalk it up to progress and move forward.