Things I’ve seen millennials doing right this week

Disclaimer: I have previously blogged on the topic of millennials and expressed my support for generational evolution.

After reading a column in General Surgery News in which the work ethic of the “youngsters” was again denigrated, my friend Justin Dimick commented on Twitter:
“Why does no one blog when they “catch” a millennial doing something right?”

His point is a valid one- while all of us seem to make plenty of comments about “these kids today…”, we seldom talk about the great things we see them doing. Rather than being moved by curiosity about people who were raised in a very different time and place than those of us born before 1970, we ascribe laziness and bad intent to them. Never mind that laziness and bad intent can be found anywhere if that’s what you are seeking.

So, what have I seen millennials doing right in the last couple of weeks?

  • I’ve seen them doing many, many things (some of which appear to be small things, relatively speaking) with great love.
  • I’ve seen them challenging themselves in ways that make them a bit uncomfortable, be that trying something new in the professional arena or declaring, “I am a runner!” when that’s an identity they’ve never considered before.
  • I’ve seen them being incredibly curious and creative. Y’all know this is how progress is made at a societal level, right?
  • I’ve seen them giving generously of time and/ or money to causes they are passionate about.
  • I’ve seen them teach and learn in ways that are regarding and collaborative.

Yes, I know that none of those are a terribly specific example of things I’ve seen Millennials doing right recently, but the general themes help to highlight the point that I want to make…the 20 and early 30 somethings are the future of our planet, the future of our profession, and in many ways our own future.  They are, just like those of us for whom 40 is well in the rearview mirror, people.  They- and we- are all basically good, and we all have the occasional “off”day because we are human. We- and they- want to help make the world around us better.

I suppose some want to take a single incident and use it to generalize about a group in a negative way, and that is certainly their prerogative.  As for me, I’ll keep looking for the light, looking for the good things that our millennial colleagues, and the rest of us, are out there doing.  That’s my prerogative- that, and closing the 2015 blog posts with music from my senior year of college.  Ah, the 80s…good times.



The Care & Feeding of your Millennials

The addition of the Millennials to our workplace and learning places has been interesting from my perspective, primarily because I am solidly part of Generation X- down to having read and loved Douglas Coupland’s novel that gave us our generational identity.  We were fundamentally different from the Boomers who preceded us, described by movies like Richard Linklater’s “Slackers”- which contains one of my favorite quotes that summarizes why we were perceived as such a challenge:

“It’s like you just pasted together these bits and pieces from your  ‘authoritative sources.’ I don’t know. I’m beginning to suspect there’s nothing really in there.”

We were children of divorce, children who came home to our parents being at work, children who questioned everything because we had no reason not to.  We work well in groups but don’t rely on anyone but ourselves.  We work hard but we do it on our terms.  We innovate but we may not want to define things as they are defined for us- in other words, we don’t think outside of the box.  There is no box.

As Gen X, though, we haven’t been able to be terribly disruptive to existing paradigms, particularly in the workplace.  There simply aren’t enough of us- 51 million, versus 75 million members of the Boomers and more than 75 million Millennials.  Now the Millennials are our medical students and residents, and their generation has many characteristics that challenge both my generation and the Boomers.  Interesting times.

To get a better understanding of who Millennials tend to be as a group (I write that sentence knowing that a defining characteristic is their individualism), this quiz is worth taking.  I’ll admit that I was quite millennial (score of 78), which I largely attribute to my electronic communication habits. As millennials become more incorporated into our workplaces, we’re going to see lots of transitions in the work environment– many of which are likely long overdue since they focus on productivity and talent.

I’ll be honest- I’m not here to complain about millennials.  I spend too much time with them to even consider that, and I value what they bring to the table for us.  I find that they are thoughtful idealists who have enough realism to understand it’s not all rainbows, sunshine, and bunnies.  They don’t place great value on traditional “pedigrees” for leadership, focusing more on talent.  They expect transparency from organizations and leadership- and tend to strongly value leaders who are engaged and honest.  Many like being “coached” or mentored on a routine basis, expecting feedback in realtime rather than at a quarterly or annual review. One of my very favorite millennials leaves every one of our meetings reminding me, “If you hear of things I’m struggling with or people are concerned about, I want to know right away.  Please don’t wait.”

Are millennials really that different from those of us going before them?  Yes, and no.  Yes, because their style expectations are so different in terms of how we do business.  Not good, not bad, just different.  And no, because they really just want to do work that matters in a place they feel good about doing that work.  That’s a quality I can both respect and value- and the details of how we get there ultimately become superfluous.