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As of 2020, millennials make up over a third of the workforce, the largest represented age demographic.
As my generation grew up, we saw a slew of reports and statistics first about our characteristics and problems, our behavior in school, and then our work habits. As we became older, finally articles appeared that were actually written by us, rather than just about us. We saw myths and prejudices debunked, using research from a variety of sources such as PEW research, The Economist, PennState, and even the White House’s economic reports.
Here’s an example:
Myth: Millennials don’t listen to their authority figures and won’t want to obey their bosses.
Fact: From The Economist, “In a poll of 5,000 workers … found that 41% of millennials agreed that ‘employees should do what their manager tells them, even when they can’t see the reason for it,’ compared with 30% of baby-boomers and 30% of members of generation X.”
Now that millennials are entering middle age and have become management, we’ve seen a variety of discussions about how our leadership styles differ from other generations.
Many agree that we tend to reject a more hierarchical, traditional corporate system, where management is perhaps more heavy-handed and with less room for day-to-day flexibility. These desires are part of what gave us the reputation of being entitled and incapable of sticking it out among the sharks climbing for the top. But now that we’re no longer asking for something different, but instead modeling the type of leadership we desired, the picture looks different.
Millennial managers say the most important aspects of leadership are to mentor and inspire. They value transparency and build one-on-one trust with their employees. As subordinates, we desired flexibility, direct contact with the top (flat management structure), and were willing to leave if we didn't feel like we were being treated right. In turn, we try hard to offer that security to others now that we have the ability to form such an environment.
Doesn’t sound so entitled when it’s phrased that way, does it?
In fact, a MetLife report showed that employees led by millennials are 58% more effective than those managed by other generations.
Regardless of the style of leadership you think is most ideal, we can probably agree it’s cause for concern that the same study shows an incredible level of burnout in millennial managers.
Gallup and MetLife reported that manager burnout has increased to 35% in 2021 across the board. But stress among millennials at work is 42%, a higher rate than in any other generation.
At a certain point, relying on polls becomes ironic. It means we have to turn to numbers to understand each other, which is perhaps itself an indication of the lack of mentorship and one-on-one interaction. And do we even know ourselves if we can’t see the commonalities we all shared in our youth? So, please, pause for a moment to put yourself in our shoes.
Imagine the journey millennials have taken. We were the guinea pigs in a changing technological and global landscape, thrown into an education system that loaded us with debt, and as we finally gained some stability, paid off our debts, worked up the ladder, and started a family … suddenly COVID-19 hit.
And who has made up the largest portion of the workforce, and much of management during this time? Millennials. One could argue we’re the worst generation to handle such a crisis, averse as we are to conflict, and already struggling with mental health.
But perhaps with our adaptability, new take on corporate structure and focus on one-on-one mentoring, we are actually the best people to lead our country out of this troubled time. We are the ones who have designed work-from-home solutions and will seriously consider how some people may work better like this permanently. We won’t stick to a pattern just because it’s the way it has been done before. We’re willing to rock the boat even if it means being thrown under the bus. In some ways, we have no choice. The world has changed around us, and the same methods are not even an option anymore, no matter how much we wish to hold on to tradition.
It’s not how older generations would handle it, and sometimes I think others will never be satisfied with us, no matter how much we try to prove ourselves. When it comes down to it, it seems like the largest issue is that we’re not like YOU.
Sometimes it feels like the only remaining commonality between conservatives and liberals is the desire to pass the blame, and bash or exploit younger generations - are we the scapegoat holding older generations together? Are our issues the perfect excuse not to take responsibility for the problems you’ve exacerbated in our country?
All these reports are lacking. Numbers do not get to the heart of the issue. Rather than looking at statistics, and comparing how others measure up to ourselves, why don’t we look to Christ’s model of leadership? Character and leadership should not be defined by the “median” American across history, or by the personal standard of each generation or individual.
Rather than asking if we demonstrate dedication and loyalty the way you have, ask if we do so in a Biblical way. Rather than comparing us to the leaders you had “back in my day, when I could stick it out through anything,” ask if we emulate Christ’s leadership - a focused, hands-on approach, with firm yet kind reprimands, and above all, self-sacrificial guidance.
Our discussions about generational differences will never bear fruit if we use ourselves as a standard. There is nothing new under the sun; the nature of humanity does not change. We are all broken and fall short of the glory of God, and we all have only one answer to our self-absorption and shortcomings - the perfect work and leadership of Jesus Christ.
Next time you feel the need to fall back on statistics or your own experiences to resolve generational differences, I instead encourage you to join me in returning to the wisdom of God.
“A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (Prov 16:19 NKJ).
Caylah Coffeen is a millennial in Huntsville, AL who knows how to think and speaks up for the sake of truth and a future as bright as the stars. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com