Laura 'Bedrock' Bedrossian is one of Peppercom's brightest
and hardest-working employees. Recently named a runner-up in PR Week's
prestigious and hotly contested 'Young PR Professional of the Year'
competition, Bedrock has graciously agreed to author today's guest blog.
The millennial generation has been under fire for some time,
especially in the past year or so. I frequently see articles and reports
popping up with ridiculous “reasons” for why my generation “is the way it is.”
I was alerted to an article in The Wall
Street Journal titled: “Delayed
Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain” (special thanks to Steve Cody
and Ann Barlow for sending it my way). This article was no different in terms
of the tone.
The piece begins by pointing out that many parents of the
millennial generation are worried that their respective children don’t have a
career, aren’t married and/or aren’t financial independent—to name a few issues.
According to the article, this is all OK because recent
research suggests that the brain develops at a pace that makes people better
equipped to make major life decisions in their late 20s rather than earlier in their
Great? From this millennial’s perspective, absolutely not.
First, this seems like another excuse to explain and project
a behavior of a small group upon an entire generation. This can’t be too
drastic of a development in the brain, otherwise I would think groups should
probably start lobbying to raise the legal age of adulthood. Why position it as
the reason for why millennials “act the way they do”?
Second, for those who do exhibit any irresponsible behavior,
hopefully the millennials parents’ minds are not at ease because this research is
just an easy way to justify poor choices. And guess what, Mom and Dad, those
poor choices are coming from you too—it’s called enabling.
On a base level, this research is very interesting and makes
a tremendous amount of sense, especially in terms of how the average age people
are marrying has risen by six years. However, (and, full disclosure: I am not a
scientist) it sounds like this is how the brain has been developing since the
dawn of man?
So, we’re better equipped to make bigger decisions in our
late-20s? Why is it that all of the previous generations have been capable of
functioning without having full-scale investigations launched to figure out why
they aren’t “successful”?
This article and ones like it stereotype millennials to seem
like we are all dysfunctional humans unfit for this world. I’m not sure where
all of these examples are coming from; I know plenty of younger people with
“underdeveloped brains” who have not been financially dependent on their
parents for some time (myself included).
Of course, when I hear some of the examples people have
about their freeloading kids, I have the same natural reaction and tone of the
authors of said articles—I am incensed. But I think there is a larger issue at
Let’s discuss the group of millennials giving the entire
generation the bad name. It is safe to say that parents from an early age want
to make sure their child has the best life possible—which includes college. But
what are parents really telling their kids? Are they letting their kids know
that while college is important, it is still equally as important to pay for
said education and also be a functional member of society? Education can become
very expensive, very quickly. Why can’t a kid take a gap year and start saving
to pay for school? Why can’t they take part-time classes while working to help
make school more affordable? Also there is nothing wrong with delaying or not
even attending college. I was always told there is nothing wrong with hard
honest work, and to be honest, it’s made me who I am today.
Clearly, some parents choose to coddle their kids by
allowing them to stay financially dependent for them to focus on their studies.
At that point, is the millennial to be fully blamed? Those who act entitled had
to learn that they are entitled from someone.
We are a smart and resourceful generation. We seem
drastically different because we are dealing with a very different world—a
world and economy that our predecessors created for us. We work hard. For those of us who do not,
guess what, there are people who are lazy in every generation.
To circle back on the article, I myself am in my late-20s
and I made very big decisions in my life starting at age 18 up until now. My
brain may not have been fully developed yet, but I still made those decisions
and used research and advice from those who have been in similar situations and
made the best choices. I am still standing and have been on my own two feet for
some time and I certainly did it on my own. I speak on behalf of all millennials
as I say “pick on someone your own age!”
I know, Laura. For every dumb decision I’ve made or anything that goes wrong, I’m going to blame that slow brain development, or else the bias against left-handed people in a right-handed world. 🙂 And thanks for helping make me feel like a Millennial, no matter what a survey tries to say!
I agree with you, Laura. But, keep in mind that, of all the strategy consultants I’ve met to date, Ken possesses the greatest sense of entitlement. Darryl’s a close second.
Thanks, Ken. While I can see your point, I do have to respectfully disagree. I see the attitude you are referencing in a minority of the Millennial generation, certainly not the majority. It’s also an attitude that lies within every generation. Maybe that is a product of the company I surround myself with or the fact that I am technically a Millennial myself, but even in past experiences and at Peppercom, the majority of people I work and interact with in my generation do not have this “entitled” attitude. I also wonder if for many this is a “when I was your age . . .” situation, where some in the older generations just have difficulty connecting and understanding the younger folks and automatically cast a stereotype.
Thought-provoking post, Laura. While it can be a slippery slope to over-generalize, the reality is that the many in this generation have attitudes that are considerably different than Boomers, and especially GenXers. And why wouldn’t they? They grew up in a very different world, and were affected not only by technology, but the fact that they were raised by Boomers. I, for one, think that the majority of them are a great generation, who have much to give our workplaces and our communities. Boomers and GenXer managers and leaders would be well-advised to stop lamenting how “entitled” members of this gen appear, and instead, study them more, and develop better strategies to lead, motivate and inspire them. Companies which have done so have reaped the benefits, as pointed out in a WSJ article a few weeks back.
Thanks, Sam! I guess you did alright with your decisions thus far, but imagine if your brain was fully developed! You can use that as the excuse for any pitfalls. Also, your Pew score is another example of why we shouldn’t try to have blanket characteristics for entire generations. As far as I’m concerned, you’ll always be a Millennial!
Great take, and I agree. As technically a Millennial myself (I believe), that was my response–that I can already feel people justifying their bad choices, or their children’s, with this research. But I am glad to know that I’m better equipped to make choices now than I was a few years ago. As you point out, Laura, that doesn’t mean I didn’t make decisions a few years ago…I used the shabby brain I had to make due. By the way, I may be a 1983 Millennial like Paul..but my score on the Pew quiz was a 36…so I think I’m a MINO…
Thanks for reading, Jackie! I think your point is a very good one and you’re a great example of someone who works tremendously hard and are in the situation you are in (getting a little help) because of the economy.
I will say I did work at a restaurant for nearly seven years (through college and a little after) and I was able to put my degree to good use. I was asked to do tasks and given roles that people didn’t normally get asked to do, also offered spots on the management track all because of said degree. I don’t see working in retail or at a restaurant as a “waste of a degree,” I see it as an opportunity to differentiate yourself from others.
The quiz is very interesting! I got a score of a 77. I’m still a Millennial.
Nice post, Laura! I agree with you that many articles about millennials make generalizations on how young people are unfit, etc., and it’s really disappointing.
As a millennial, I can personally say that I can’t wait until the day where I don’t need financial support from my parents. I always worked while going to school and still couldn’t/can’t pay my rent without a little help from mom and dad. I know plenty of people who graduated this past May and either a) can’t get a job or b) are working in food service or retail – which I’m sure is putting their degree to great use.
And yes, some of us millennials are lazy and use the economy as an excuse to give up, but a lot of us don’t give excuses and will keep trying to prove stereotypes about this generation and every other generation wrong. Each generation (and individual person) is different and will continue to be different. That’s life and we should embrace it, and not be so ignorant.
On a final note – I took this ‘fun’ quiz to see how millennial I was and got a score of 91. Sure, I have a tattoo, I watch tv, and I text, but is that really what defines me? For my generation’s sake, I hope not.
Steve, I personally think there is a huge difference between providing a warm and caring childhood experience to one that leads to a sense of entitlement and a poor work ethic. Also, providing an assist is certainly not a bad thing! I’m thinking of those who mooch off their parents who think a dream job will be handed to them or don’t want to do anything because of a lack of direction.
Great point, Goose, that’s what I was also getting at. You’re another example of just how wrong this article and others like it truly are.
I wonder if millennials will view this WSJ article as their “Get out of Jail Free” card? With science backing them up, what’s to stop them from mooching off their parents even more? I say our generation is no different than those that came before us. After college, we should get jobs and become financially independent. Yes, it’s harder today than ever before, but that should just make us even MORE determined to succeed, not less.
So true, Lauren! And even for many out of work millennials who do need to rely on their parents, some are most definitely in this position because of the economy and not because of the general “I don’t know what to do with my life” attitude. I know a few who have had trouble getting work at a local coffee shop just because of how many had applied for the position. This generation is obviously full of hardworking creative people.
Aside from the technology angle raised by Paul, I doubt there’s any fundamental difference separating Millennials from any previous generation. And, speaking from first-hand knowledge, I can confirm that I’ve intentionally tried to provide assists to my kids that weren’t provided to me by my parents. If that’s called enabling, then I’m guilty. But, speaking from the heart, I also wanted to give my kids a better, warmer childhood and adolescence than the one I experienced (which wasn’t too shabby, btw). So, I guess there’s enough guilt for everyone to share.
I agree that the sweeping statements made about our generation are infuriating and often misconstrued. Sure, there are many out of work Millennials these days, but it has much to do with the fact that the economy still isn’t producing the job opportunity demanded. In many cases, it’s forced young people to become entrepreneurial. Just look at Instagram or Paperless Post. There are a number of successful businesses that were created by people under the age of 30 within the past few years. Whether or not their brains were fully evolved doesn’t seem to matter.
Thank you for reading and your comment, Becky! I completely agree with you on how our parents potentially harsher upbringings have resulted in “under-discipling” a generation. I do think tend to think the majority of millennials are still hard workers and have overcome this, but this definitely explains those who are still mooching off their parents.
Interesting points! I agree that our generation is the result of the world around us and also our parents. I think some of our parents generation feel they were treated too harshly by their parents and in turn have coddled their children into oblivion – paying for school that the kids aren’t appreciating, supplying cars, vacations, paying for cell phone bills…and now when people our age still act like kids our parents’ generation seems surprised. !
Thank you, Steve. And, I think “Generation eBabies” would be a very appropriate name.
Great blog, Bedrock, and great observation, Paul. I agree that technology-enabled Millennials are in a league of their own. Personally, I’d call them eBabies.
Thanks, Paul. You bring up an excellent point. I myself was born in 1985 and know exactly what you are talking about. We were born at a unique time where technology was quickly evolving, but we did not have access to some of the tools of today (i.e. iPads, Facebook, Twitter, Androids, etc.) until after high school–mainly because they did not exist yet. People didn’t even really have cell phones when I was in high school.
I think it’s very interesting that you propose altering the years included in this generation and I wouldn’t argue with you on that. Even people a few years younger than us had a drastically different experience, mostly because of technology.
Excellent post. Blanket statements about age groups don’t hold any water. However, I have another point to argue. Having been born in 1983, I don’t consider myself a millennial. I think they should alter the definition of millennials to include only those who have been clearly “enabled” by the digital age from youth. It’s clear that ubiquitous high-tech has played hand in hand with parental enabling that spoils, coddles and foments a sense of entitlement. While these characteristics do exist in all generations, it’s clear that the availability of digital media has had a unique role, and that is something that people who grew up in “my generation” didn’t see. Rather, it’s something more common among those born in the late 80s/early 90s.