Teamwork needed among generations

In my previous post, I sought to unpack a few key habits of the Millennials in your life – those fun-loving, technology-addicted folks born between 1980 and 2000. I made some bold claims in that piece, saying that organizations across our community, regardless of mission or type, would rise and fall on their ability to communicate meaningfully to Millennials.

Millennials think differently than previous generations in a number of ways; I highlighted a handful of these ways a few weeks ago. But this week, I want to journey to the dark side of the Millennial mind, and offer you three honest confessions about the way Millennials live.

First, you’ll remember I mentioned that Millennials are image-based people, as opposed to text-based people. They – we, for I am one – snap to judgments about an organization’s message and effectiveness on the basis of one or two ads and its logo. Of course, the dark side to this image-centeredness is that our opinions can change uncomfortably quickly.

For example, a few years ago I saw a live production of ”Dead Man Walking,” a play about the death penalty. In a matter of a few hours, I almost entirely changed my opinion on the death penalty, simply on the basis of that play. Similarly, Millennial opinion about any number of significant issues can be changed with one really good ad. Whereas most Boomers read a book or a handful of articles, Millennials make the same decision after a documentary.

Second, Millennials think they are just the coolest thing since sliced bread. No other generation has such a tendency toward self-aggrandizing egocentrism. Some may blame social media – which give Millennials endless opportunities to engage in image management and ceaseless bragging – but social media are the egg, not the chicken.

We came by this ”we’re-the-center-of-the-universe” attitude honestly. We got it from you: our parents, grandparents, teachers, and coaches. You have told us since we were little that we can be anything we want to be. You have given us a trophy for simply participating on a team sport, even if we never once won a game. Now that we’re grown up, we’re just acting on what you taught us: We think we’re excellent, whether or not we really are.

The third beast lurking in the darkness of Millennials living here is connected to the second: Adulthood has been hard, and we weren’t quite ready for it. Virtues like perseverance, resilience, and patience are incredibly hard to attain because our parents so often short-circuited the process of learning from hard things. So we enter the workforce to discover that working full-time is hard, because our jobs aren’t nearly as fulfilling as we thought they would be.

Before coming back to the Valley, I spent six years in organizations that valued Millennials that fostered their leadership skills and helped them build on their strengths. Upon returning the Valley, I have been shocked at the overwhelming distrust our area has for younger folk. There is an attitude of, ”Wait your turn, because I had to.” You’ll have to excuse us Millennials if this is shocking, because to us, it seems like just a moment ago you handed us a trophy for what you now dislike about us. That’s why Millennials are leaving the Valley in droves – we can go lead elsewhere, in places that really appreciate us.

Yet, the way forward is not for Boomers to insist that Millennials start dressing and acting like Boomers; nor is it for Millennials to dig in their heels and condescend to older generations. Instead, the way forward is for organizations across the Valley to build teams in which Millennials and Boomers are put on equal footing, each generation using the strengths of the other to make their organization more effective.

Any organization that wants to move forward has to become one where Millennials opinions and habits are valued, but Millennials need to take a chill pill and be humble for a second. Working together-not apart – is the secret to making our Valley strong.

Tennant lives in Warren. You can email him at