Mike, a 19-year-old has been in the Navy for nearly a year. In that short period of time, one thing has become glaringly clear: people in the Navy do a lot of dumb things, there are a lot of dumb rules, and Mike is feeling like he’s ready to explode. When he asks why the Navy does dumb things, like fill out endless log books to record mundane events, he’s told that “this is the way we do things, don’t ask, just do them.”
One hot Saturday afternoon, Mike and his friends Jeff and Roger venture out to the base swimming pool. The petty officer on duty there has stepped away and sitting on the desk is that ever-present green log book. A plastic sign warns them to sign in before entering the locker room. Mike and his friends sign in as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. Approximately 30 minutes later the petty officer on duty asks which one of them is Mickey. All three get a butt-chewing and are kicked out of the pool. The petty officer shakes her head and whispers under her breath, “These young sailors have no respect, can’t take orders, question authority, and the Navy is going to hell in a handbasket.”
Yep, those millennials are at it again.
Or are they?
Actually, Mike is me. The year is 1984 and the buzz around the Navy and workplaces in general centers around this new and frightening group of young people known as Generation X. We’re accused of being entitled, spoiled, wanting instant gratification, and generally disdaining hard work and effort. Books are written on how to deal with us and more than a few “experts” are putting together strategies on how to protect the workforce and the future of the United States against our upstart generation.
And yet we managed to grow up and do just fine. As did our long-haired hippy radical Baby Boomer parents and our moonshining and wild-partying grandparents, and their parents and grandparents before them.
I recently worked with a young (early 20s) group of retail managers and supervisors. They were inquisitive and motivated to do well. They didn’t fit any stereotype put out by millennial “experts” nor did they treat a geezer like me with disrespect. They asked good questions, lots of them in fact. They will need coaching and guiding and honest feedback, but they’ll do well, as will most of this over-hyped generation.
But left without guidance, why would you expect they would turn out any different than some of the lazy, unmotivated Baby Boomers, and gently graying and balding GenX’rs you work with? Without someone taking the time to guide and mentor them, they won’t succeed.
This week, when you’re tempted to stereotype one of 81 million young people of the millennial generation, ask yourself what YOU’RE doing to guide them? Don’t outsource this to a consultant. YOU take care of it.
After all, you’re where you are, regardless of your age or generation, because someone did or didn’t do that same thing for you.