… After writing this piece, I found somebody else sharing my opinion, though she writes better. Melanie Borges – My dream job is a 9 to 5. Or an even better commentary – Erik Devaney’s When did passion become mandatory?
TLDR: Human context is important, individuality is key – Michael Goldfarb style.
Ever see something so damned terrifying you just wanted to hide under the bed? Here it is, behold the insanity of it all: “The Demographic Shift; Millennials are taking the workforce by storm. Are you ready?”. If this looks right to you, leave me your IP address in a comment, I’ll ban you straight away. Dude, it’s not news, it’s something to fear. If this is a look inside some of the human resources trainers’ minds, I’ve just lost faith in the whole inclusion and training process.
Let’s disassemble the words and unveil the meaning. The first thing that jumps up and begs to be shot down is the title, because come on.. The basic definition of “millennials” shows them to be people born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. As time passes, what happens to the work force? It ages. It replaces its components. Older folks retire or get retired, so who picks up the slack? Younger people, the ones at least 16 years old – ergo, millennials. Of course there’s a shift. Of course the workforce gets a larger share of them as time passes, what else could they use? Unless they lower the minimum work age or start reanimating corpses, there’s only millennials to use. Gee, obvious article is obvious, Captain. Now this was only the teaser, the shiver raising your hair up the back of your head. Or other parts, more or less hidden. The next stuff will really blow you away.
You see, hiding behind a group definition is a very bad idea in every way – it offers protection from change while embracing the culture of failure. What does it mean? For one, there’s no universal solution to fit everybody, there is no “millennial” or “generation X” or whatever else custom neologism you feel like using, there’s only people. Some characteristics are universal, others aren’t. Likewise, reducing me to just a member of “generation X” means I’m just as useful as Donald Trump, and I’m not – he’s got more money than me. The thing exists, though. There are no universal values to unite generations, that’s dumber than a doorknob and you know it. The defining elements of a particular psychographic population are more than just birthdays – you’ll see attitudes, beliefs and so on. The problem with this thing is the fact you can’t use strict definitions because of the exceptions and that’s why, my friends, you’re better off picking out the winning lottery numbers than you are of correctly defining a person by knowing only the year they were born. It’s bullshit.
There is one scary thought, though, lingering inside my brain: Why on earth are we so keen on identifying with ants? I get it, the world is a scary place, but still.. Why are people still pushing for “millennial” or “generation X/Y/Z” job benefits and list up “valued”, “respected”, “mobility”, “on demand economy”, “flexible schedules”, “telecommuting” and crap like that? Has nobody learned the lessons of the past? You can’t assume economy works like astrology, because astrology doesn’t work. What you’re using is a placebo to treat cancer, it may be good for some people on the short term but it’ll never be good for anybody long term. If everybody is “valued” and “respected” because they are entitled to it, because everybody’s forced to do it, resentment builds. You won’t give 100% long term if at least one of your fellow coworkers gives 20% most of the time and yet, gets the same paycheck as you. Think about it, I’ve seen that one fail too much those few years I’ve been a manager. The system works out an equilibrium, where you never get 100% unless everybody gives 100%. And sometimes not even then.
Other things are listed there, as well. Mobility, job flexibility, work from your home, crap like that – unless they’re saving you a lot of time you’d otherwise spend commuting, it won’t work. Why do you think Uber’s drivers demand to be classified as employees? Why do you think this fabled “on-demand economy” only makes contractors unhappy? Because there’s no life/work balance at all – but not because there has to be, it’s because you don’t have any control of your daily planning. You can’t make your kid’s ballet performance mandatory without opting out of some money-making opportunities. You can’t reward yourself with a couple of beers after 5 p.m. if you might be getting a call from a customer. All you have is work and all you’re given is uncertainty. Can you afford to pass an opportunity to make money if you aren’t certain you’ll get another one? Exactly. It only works if you’re the one calling the shots, not Uber or some other clone of that company. You can work from the comfort of your home, too, it will only make every distraction a challenge to overcome – I mean, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right? Never mind the pain or anxiety.. Can you even picture telecommuting when you have a kid running laps around your desk? I can’t and I’m used to working in chaos. Of course there’s at least 10 professions where telecommuting works, and works well – but unless the individual working in that profession is doing it because it suits him/her, you’ve got chaos. Most people need stability in their lives, they need a good separation between work and the rest of the day, mainly because they don’t have the tools or knowledge to self-organize. Or they don’t want the responsibility. Most of us aren’t all that independent.
If you think I’m cynical because I’m “gen. X” and not because I’ve been kicked around a lot, you’re an idiot. If you think I’m competitive because I’m born before 1981, you’re an idiot – I’m not competitive, I’m downright hedonistic. If you think I’m an idiot, you’re right, I am. I’m not a leader, I’m not ambitious, I don’t like most people and I don’t like to be around the people I don’t like. I’m not an entrepreneur, I have no wish to be – but I do recognize its viability. In short, I reject that identity – my identity was build by experience and it’s constantly evolving, it’s madness to think even if the attributes we assume millennials have are universal, they’ll still be the same in a decade or so. That’s why it’s stupid – we’re not some rock you’ll find at the bottom of a lake, unchanged for a century, we’re ever-changing individuals with different experiences and different identities. Then again, we’re also sort of dumb so who know? Might turn out true regardless of my opinion on the matter.