By Robert Jones
The Village Business Institute
So there’s been some pretty big news for many people of late. No, it has nothing to do with a Vikings victory, the Chicago Cubs actually winning a playoff series, the various political debates, or the fact that it was Back to The Future Day … although this is close. The big event was the release of the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer. I realize that for many people this might seem like a trivial part of life; but not for me.
When I was almost four years old, my parents took me to see the original Star Wars movie in the theater. As my parents tell the story, about half way through the movie, they realized that they had lost me, eventually finding me sitting in the isle of the theater completely mesmerized by what was happening on the screen. Now as my friends and family begin to make plans to take their kids to see this movie, I am seeing the circular aspect of generations. And the return of “Star Wars” isn’t the only thing that looks familiar about the current generation.
Over the past few months, I have been conducting a number of trainings on the topic of generations in the workplace. I remember at one of these sessions I was struck by the idea that the perspective of the different generations are not as different as we might think. For example, there is the assumption that the millennial generation is lazy and does not care about anything except themselves. However, in a recent survey of college freshman by the Higher Education Research Institute showed that millennials have the highest level of community involvement since 1966.
There are some similarities between the socially active Baby Boomers of the 1960 and the millennials of today. First, the baby boomer grew up in a time of global fear and upheaval as the Cold War was waged between the United State and the Soviet Union. This brought about a fear of people from Eastern Europe whether they were actually from the United States or not. The Cold War changed how we looked at our neighbors, and there was a constant fear of attack. These baby boomers also grew up in a time of both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. During the time of the baby boomers, there was also a heightened sense of racial inequality. This was in fact during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
Does this sound familiar? The millennials are also living in a constant state of fear of attack and questioning the motives of neighbors because of the War on Terror. This generation has witnessed Operation Desert Storm/Shield as well as the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there are people who believe were those wars were unjustified, just as some the baby boomers felt that way about the war in Vietnam. This generation is still dealing with the struggles of racial inequality. So the question is why has this generation been labeled as lazy?
The only solution I can come up with is the idea that the millennials are not as visible as the baby boomers. For example, the baby boomers chose to conduct sit-ins and picket. They choose to organize speeches and protest to in an effort to let their opinions be heard. The millennials instead are leading the protest on social media and by attempting to inform the masses. The baby boomers and the millennials both struggled with the accuracy of the information.
The baby boomer and the millennials believe in challenging the government and issues they feel are wrong with society. The baby boomers focus on changing leadership and believing this to be the solution to the world’s problems. What is curious is that the baby boomers are now the leaders, which I think leads to the misperceptions between the baby boomers and the millennials. The baby boomers believe that the millennials should be more like them – visible protesters for change, or, in the workplace, they should be working 60 hours a week. Millennials are more active in change from behind the scenes. As for work, millennials are more interested in creating balance, and they do not want to work more than 40 hours a week so they can have a life outside work. Both groups directly challenged the establishment through protest and by getting out and voting. According to an article in the Huffington Post, the millennial vote played a big role in electing Barack Obama to the White House. The ratio of millennial votes for Obama compared to McCain was 2:1. This generation has learned that it can have influence society much the same way the baby boomers did in the 1960’s.
As I consider the differences and the similarities between the baby boomers and the millennials, I realize there is another similarity that started this stream of thought. My sister, who is part of the millennial generation, will now have the same opportunity to take their son (who is only slightly older than the little boy who got lost in the theater nearly 40 years ago) to see a new Star Wars movie in the theater. So in 1978, the baby boomer generations introduced generation X to a galaxy far, far away. The millennials can do the same for this new, yet-unnamed generation. I am curious as to what this experience will do to open the minds and imagination of my nephew’s generation. And I wonder how different – or not so different – they’ll be from their parents.
About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and recently began working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership. Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.