Let’s Cut the Millennial Crap

Well, it happened again.

Earlier this week, in a seemingly unrelated conversation, a stranger found a chance to take a swipe at Millennials, and went for it!  According to this person, Millennials not only “don’t take direction well,” they often “don’t even want to show up to work at all.”

Huh.  I’m a crusty old Gen-Xer myself.  But I’ve worked with, and even hired, a number of Millennials.  And I don’t have any proof that their work ethic or character is any worse than that of (say) my college graduating class.

For some, this Millennial-trashing has become almost reflexive, an easy talking point.  Those Millennial ne’er-do-wells!  How ‘bout those Cubs?  Looks like it might rain!

Of course, this situation is not unique to Millennials.  It happens with every generation.  When I was in my early twenties, there were articles that reduced me and all my friends to a bunch of tattooed nihilists.  Grunge was a scary time, for many reasons.

Whereas we were all (apparently) attached to our flannel, Millennials are now all (apparently) attached to their phones.  Do a Google image search for “Millennials” and you’ll see what I mean.  (This photo is representative.  Those gosh-derned Millennials and their new-fangled gadgets!)

These are lazy generalities, and we lose nuance in the amalgamation.

Let’s consider the practical angles:

If you think you’re marketing to “Millennials,” you have some targeting work to do.  There are any number of segments within the Millennial age range.  Get to know them well, and your brand and business will benefit.

If you think you’re managing “Millennials,” hold on to your fedoras for the shocker: They’re not all identical to each other.  They have different upbringings.  Different interests.  Different goals.  Different values.  If I try to manage ten Millennials like they’re the same person, the inevitable failure is mine, not theirs.

Yes, many (but not all!) Millennials will resist 70-hour work-weeks, in favor of a more well-rounded life.  And many (but not all!) will want to feel like they’re contributing to something larger.

Maybe they’re onto something there.

But come on.  We’re talking about people here, not inscrutable beings that were beamed to us from Planet iPad.

Labeling Millennials – or any other group of humans – with lazy stereotypes is thoughtless, ineffective and occasionally insulting.

Let’s cut that out.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2018 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.