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Frustrated with Millennials? Get Over It.

September 25, 2010

It was a vacation we’ll always remember. My wife and I took our two kids–one in college, one in high school–to Cancun. We had always wanted to vacation with clear blue water and white sandy beaches. Now our dream was coming true.

We arrived in Cancun at midnight, and by the time we made it to our hotel at the end of the peninsula, we were ready to get to our reserved adjoining rooms.

As we checked in, something appeared to be wrong. The clerk excused himself and consulted with the hotel manager. The manager then walked over to us and told us that they were overbooked. Before we could panic, he went on to say that they were going to put us up in the presidential suite for our entire nine-night stay at the hotel, at no additional charge.

Stunned, all I could say was “Wow. Thank you!” But I really had no idea.

Our presidential suite, remodeled since our visit (not because we trashed it...)

When the elevator doors opened to our suite, we began to understand. Overlooking the Caribbean Sea on three sides, our suite had three bedrooms–one a master bedroom and bath–a kitchen, dining room, living room, and our own patio with jacuzzi. We felt like we had just hit the lottery. We soon realized that others thought that we actually had.

A couple of days later when our air conditioning stopped working, I walked to the front desk and gave the clerk my name and room number, and told him that our air conditioning was still not fixed. The young clerk looked at his computer screen, paused and then said, “Mr. Hardy…you’re in the presidential suite and the air conditioning is not working? This should not be so.”

And so it went. Once staff found out where we were staying, we were treated differently with more care. And I started to realize that it began to affect how I walked around. I was Mr. Hardy in the presidential suite. It was subtle, but definitely real. I certainly didn’t say that we lucked into the presidential suite. I simply enjoyed our circumstance, and found myself acting as though I had done something to deserve it.

A year and a half ago when I started my blog and got on Twitter, I thought about my experience in Cancun. It seemed at the time that quite a few Millennials had lucked into the penthouse suite. I was amazed at the number of Millennials doing social media consulting and/or speaking at conferences, despite their very limited marketing experience. Some acted arrogantly, proving their immaturity and reinforcing Generation Y stereotypes, which were fueling negative critiques of this emerging generation.

However, as I sat back, watched their presentations, and read their blog posts, most were working hard, diligently playing the fortunate hand that had been dealt to them. They were simply capitalizing on their luck, expertise, and everyone else’s ignorance. They were programmed for it. We were listening and learning. Good for them.

A year and a half later, the articles roll on about how Millennials essentially need to wake up and realize that they aren’t in the penthouse suite and stop acting like it. Oh my goodness. So much complaining. When I was a professor, we complained about Gen X. Now it’s Gen X who are sounding like Boomers. And Boomers? Well, many don’t understand how this new generation approaches life.

Get over it. You’re all sounding like your parents.

80-46-76. In millions, those are the numbers respectively for Boomers (including Generation Jones, like me), Gen X, and Gen Y. As Boomers before them, Millennials will be overwhelming us. So, I’ll chalk up some generational frustrations to the realization that this Gen Y phenomenon will be with us for a lifetime. Gen X has had to deal with Boomers, now they get hit at the other end with Gen Y. Talk about the middle child syndrome.

Personally, Millennials inspire me as they challenge me with their values, their connectedness, and how they view life differently.

My Gen Y kids inspire me on so many levels. My son, manager of the most successful store for a wireless chain, is currently on vacation traveling the country, sometimes setting up shop during the day at coffee houses, seated at a table with a scrabble board and a sign that reads, “Open Scrabble Game.” He’s meeting new friends while he mostly disconnects from technology and social media, choosing instead to read and listen for God to speak to his heart.

So, you see, I’m not panicking. Millennials are growing up and finding balance–just like Boomers and Gen Xers before them–but in their own way.

While some Millennial professionals are rough around the edges, I remind myself that I was too. What I needed were people who connected with me and helped me to mature. So now, that’s my role as a leader and manager of Millennials…as it has been with Gen Xers.

What’s happened to those Millennials who became social media pioneers for organizations hungry for their technology DNA? Some have proven that they deserved the penthouse. They’re moving forward gaining experience, which is making them more marketable, and ironically and ultimately, more mainstream.

Generation Y is growing up and blending in, adding their unique perspectives to the mix. The cycle of life goes on. Soon enough, Millennials will be complaining about Generation Z.


Recommended reading:

Millennial Marketing blog by Carol Phillips

Generation Next, Time Magazine

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2010 10:54 AM

    Your reaction is very typical of a Boomer, because you raised Millennial children (I’m assuming here.) Boomers love their Millennials.

    I don’t think the Xer/Millennial gap is nearly as big as the Boomer/Xer gap was. Boomers wanted Xers to be just like them. Xers just want the Millennials to get their work done already.

    I think your sensitivity to the Millennial bashing (which again, isn’t nearly as a bad as the Xer bashing in the early 90s – every article written about Xers at that time started with the work “slacker”) is because your kids are Millennials and they’re being bashed. When someone says something bad about my kids’ generation, I’m sensitive to it, too.

    • Rick Hardy permalink
      September 27, 2010 12:28 PM

      Fair enough. You’re probably right.

      But I’m also a defender of Gen Xers. My former students and staff members, many of whom are now my friends, are Gen X. I never bought the slacker label. Quite the opposite, actually. Ironically, I may have most problems with Boomers. As a Generation Jones member (last few years of Boomers), I’ve been an observer of one trend after another with Boomers.

      Back on point, I’m just tiring of complaining across the board. I’m not as alarmed as others about differences between generations.

      Thanks for your comment.

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