Here at Encast, we write a lot about Millennials. Specifically, we have written quite a few pieces exploring the common stereotypes about Millennials – that they are lazy, entitled, and self-obsessed – only to find there was little evidence to support these arguments.
Yet, despite the fact that numerous studies have shown Millennials are willing to work hard and are driven to make the world a better place, rants about Millennials continue to garner likes and shares across the internet.
Recently, we read a fantastic article that shed a little light onto one of the reasons these stereotypes persist. “Why Gen X Is So Pissed at Millennials” by John McDermott is an interesting look at how Gen Xers are overlooked in the workplace.
It makes us sad to hear that some Gen Xers feel forgotten. To be honest, after reading McDermott’s article, we understand where they are coming from. With Baby Boomers working later in life and Millennials storming the gates behind them, Gen Xers find themselves stuck in the middle.
If you are a bitter Gen Xer, you may not want to hire Millennials. But the fact is you don’t really have much choice.
According to a study from the Pew Research Center, Millennials have made up the largest share of the American workforce since 2015. By 2020, Millennials are expected to make up 75% of the workforce in the United States.
As a Gen Xer, this may feel threatening. But the truth is, every generation has difficulties – and possibilities – distinct from other generations that can help us understand one another.
Each Generation Has Their Own Struggles and Opportunities
Born between the 1940s and the mid-1960s, Baby Boomers achieved wealth and economic security far beyond that of the Silent Generation that came before them. But that doesn’t mean Boomers do not face problems in the job market today.
- Still Need to Work: The youngest Baby Boomers are in their 50s and the oldest are over 70. Yet, they still make up a significant portion of the workforce. 60% of Baby Boomers suffered investment losses due to the economy. As a result over 40% have delayed their retirement and a full 25% say they will never retire.
- Technology: Baby Boomers lived most of their lives without computers or smart phones. As technology became unavoidable, Boomers have learned to adapt. Despite the stereotypes, many Boomers are quite adept when it comes to technology. But they lack the intuitive understanding of it that younger generations have, Millennials especially.
Also known as the MTV generation or the latchkey generation, Gen X is a significantly smaller generation than both the Baby Boomers and the Millennials.
- Economic Downturn: Gen Xers were the first generation where it was clear that the preceding generation was better off economically. Although household incomes overall rose between 1947 to 2005, this was mainly due to the increased presence of women in the workforce. In 2007, the men of Gen X were making less than their fathers had made in 1974.
- Age Discrimination: As McDermott pointed out in his article, Gen Xers face very real age discrimination on the job market and in the office. They had anticipated that they would be in the prime of their careers at this point. But the senior positions they had hoped for are still filled with Baby Boomers who are unable or unwilling to retire. Meanwhile, Millennials are filling the workplace.
We’ve all heard the complaints about Millennials. The argument that they have had everything handed to them is particularly pervasive lately. But they are facing some very real struggles.
- Most Economically Challenged Generation in History: Declining wages, crippling student loan debt, and staggering unemployment rates made it impossible for Millennials to be handed practically anything. Although the United States economy has made a significant recovery since the Great Recession in the late 2000s, Millennials are least likely to have benefitted from the upturn.
- Misconceptions: The misconceptions and stereotypes about Millennials can have very real impact on their lives. Some potential employers worry that Millennials are entitled and expect too much from their employers.
What to Do
In the world of business today, there’s no way to escape having a multigenerational workplace. It is your job to build a corporate culture that makes your company a good place for everyone. A company offering good jobs and attractive benefits, where employees feel valued for their contributions not their birth year.
The fact is there will always be resentment between generations, even as Gen Z starts to make their way into the workforce. But despite generational differences, your employees must be able to work together as a cohesive team and it is your job to foster that.
As Mike North, assistant professor at the NYU Stern School of business told John McDermott, “Too often generations appear to blame one another for the respective plights.”
The truth is, every generation has it easier in some ways and harder in others. The sooner we can all accept that, the sooner we can work together and let our differences guide us to building great things.