Are We Profiling?

Building SkillsA very dear younger friend of mine, who was born in 1984, telephoned on the verge of a snit fit. He’d attended yet another presentation detailing the difficulties of working with Millenials. This young executive holds a challenging job with major responsibilities in a large company. He recently put in 40 hours in two days, voluntarily and without extra compensation, to resolve a major problem not of his own making.  And yet he listened as the presenter and the attendees bemoaned the poor work ethic and generally unprofessional attitudes of Millenials.

“Hello??? I’m sitting right here!” was what he wanted to say. Later, some of his contributions to the discussion groups were dismissed with “Well, you’re young,” and “You’re still new here.”millenial

Beyond being miffed at being disrespected, he worried, “How are we going to attract the best new talent if this is the culture of our company?” And this set me to thinking….

How often do we, in our college setting, complain about the perceived attitudes of “Millenials,” or “Young People Today,” or “Today’s Students”? Could it be that we are not only painting with too broad a brush, but actually using a paint roller? When did it become OK to prejudge the behaviors and values of an entire group of people?

Surely we wouldn’t dream of saying things like, “Well, you know those women are just no good in math and science.” Or “____milgen_____________s (insert any racial or ethnic or socioeconomic group here) just don’t value education.” We’d be disciplined and perhaps dismissed, as our unenlightened, biased mindset would deserve.

So why is it OK to profile Millenials? If a time machine could transport us Boomers back to the 60s and 70s for a hard look at our younger selves, we might reconsider our harsher judgments. Besides, those “Young People” running the likes of Google and Facebook seem to be getting on just fine.