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I need the day off (or sh*t millennials say)

Over this past week I spoke to a couple of HR related groups about recruiting, motivating, and leading Millennials in the workplace. For a number of reasons, this was odd for me. First, I didn’t know I really had an expertise in the area. I know things about technology and social media, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I could talk for an hour and half on what it means to hire and lead this group of people.

Also, I’m not really sure I like the term Millennial anyway. It makes me feel like I’m stereotyping a group of people who, because of their age, seem to share some common characteristics. Things like laziness, unreliability, and narcissism. I don’t believe that. I know lots of Millennials who are none of those things.

So when putting together the presentation for these two talks, I sought out the help of a Millennial. She gathered lots of stats and references to academic works that highlighted the challenges Millennials present to the modern workforce. But, more importantly, I was struck by the amount of unwarranted flak this group of workers gets.

In my experience Millennials are mission-oriented, problem-solving, innovators. I think the challenge is keeping them engaged in projects that are worthwhile. The problem with most work activites is they aren’t “save-the-world” issues. Jane McGonigal, in discussing how gaming is impacting the world around us, says:

Reality doesn’t motivate us as effectively. Reality isn’t engineered to maximize our potential. Reality wasn’t designed from the bottom up to make us happy. And so, there is a growing perception in the gaming community: Reality, compared to games, is broken.

In much the same way, work is broken. Work doesn’t give many of us, Millennial or not, the demanding tests we crave. We want to surpass expectations. We want to fix a problem or solve a puzzle that no one else can. We want to test our ability to respond. In the end, we want to make an impact on the world. And, most times, our work life leaves us wanting.

When it comes down to it, what I learned this week is that Millennial describes an attitude, not an age group.

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