Millennials: What Did You Expect Would Happen???

Anna Leinberger Posted by Anna Leinberger, Editorial Manager, Acqusitions, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Anna is a writer and editor for Berrett-Koehler in Oakland, CA. More on killer book proposals and writing can be found on her BK Blog.


Millennials: What Did You Expect Would Happen???

I was born in 1985- right dead center of the millennial* generation. Millennials are a conversation that has been a hot topic for longer than most things that get labeled as such stick around- and the conversation is not going to go away. So here is my theory about millennials: We were raised by a generation that rebelled dramatically and forcefully against cultural boundaries, and from feminism to civil rights to Miss Manners, completely reshaped the cultural landscape of the United States. They then raised us, their children, within a completely new framework for parenting. Ergo my question- what, exactly, did you expect?

Work in America is changing- the people, the culture, the structures, the conventions. This is nothing new- technology and the evolution of cultural values constantly causes humanity to develop. (Renaissance>Enlightenment>Industrial Revolution….) Millennials were raised by a generation that rebelled en masse against its culture. They intentionally raised their children with a completely new set of values. These values defined education in the 80’s and 90’s- collaborative work, a greater emphasis on critical thinking (question everything!), a premium placed on student leadership, innovation, and initiative. We are only now entering the workforce with these values- we are bringing this conditioning with us.

Every year more people retire and more Gen Yers enter the work force. The way the work force operates is a function of those who operate it. People in charge are accustomed to doing things one way, and the incoming professionals have been raised to do the opposite. We were not even raised to be against per se, but just to be a way that is opposite. For example, we are branded "entitled" which is a much more nuanced conversation than it is made out to be. We have been specifically taught (and I am talking graded, even) to speak up. Ergo, when we see an opening for an improvement, we speak up. We are then seen as inexperienced and criticizing our superiors illegitimately - which apparently just "isn't done." What we experience in the workforce is the polar opposite of what we have been taught to do, and be good at, for our entire lives. This contributes to the general dissatisfaction many millennials report, and also leads to the label of “entitled.”

Sure, we have all been told that we will eventually get our dream job. Many of us are not finding it and are not pleased about that. Here is the thing though- we were also taught that if something is not working for us, it is our responsibility to work to make the situation what we want. We are trying to turn our unsatisfactory jobs into our dream jobs. When we try to make what we see as positive change we are told we are overstepping our bounds, that we are entitled, and we are then reprimanded. This of course leads to even deeper frustration.

Here is where I think Berrett-Koehler Publishers comes in- I think BK is secretly full of millennial values. I immediately connected with the ideas in BK business books because they advocate doing things in a way that resonates with all the anti- rigid, hierarchical 1950s values I have been taught. Millennial's values came from that social movement, so they are not just coming from us- the people that taught them to us have been advocating for them for a long time now. They have been coming from BK authors for two decades, and I can personally attest to their success.

I would rather work to empower Millennials. There is a certain amount of learning from those with experience that needs to be balanced with attempts to make positive change- but isn't that what everyone wants? The new generation is supposed to learn from the past to make the future even brighter, and that is exactly what I see millennials doing.

*I would like to acknowledge that this is addressing the mass media image of the millennial, which is largely limited to a class of upper middle class etc privileged people- ultimately a very small cross section of society.

BK Books For Millennials Trying to Make Positive Change in Their Workplace

9781609948962 LSpeaking Up

Speaking Up was written to help the ordinary employee present to leadership- such presentations can make or break a career. A good read for the Milennial who absolutely MUST convince the top brass that he/she knows what's up!

9781605092843 LGetting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge

"You are not in charge and you want to make a difference: that is the dilemma." For someone who's still on the bottom rungs of the ladder, and is passionate about making a difference in their organization, this is the perfect book!

9781576755952 LAuthentic Conversations

In this book, Jamie and Maren Showkeir write about the destructiveness of work relationships that fall into a parent-child dynamic. Healthy workplaces have authentic conversations where everyone is treated equally, as an adult. The perfect read for a milennial who is tired of being treated differently because of their age.