A Shout Out to Introvert Millennials and an Apology for the Rest of You.
Actually, I didn’t know there were any introverted Millennials. Really, I didn’t. I didn’t think much of you one way or another until last year.
From my lofty Baby Boomer/Gen X status you all looked and sounded the same to me.
Stay with me a minute while I tell you what I thought of you before yesterday.
I have a friend who despises you. She’s hired a few of you, you see, and found them to be whiny and demanding. She’s sent me articles about how all of you are the downfall of civilization; too spoiled and too entitled to work the entry level jobs she has to hire for. Her director is a Millennial and he’s shaking up the entire department and how they work and challenges her on a daily basis about the work she’s doing.
So, excuse me if I was biased based on second hand info.
Sure, I heard news that a lot of you had to move home because you can’t afford the cost of living and couldn’t find jobs. I felt sympathy for you because your unemployment rates are almost double Gen X and Baby Boomers.
But realistically I never had much exposure to your age group as a whole. The few Millennial engineers we have in my computer lab building are all quiet, not demanding, and very good at their jobs.
Then a few years ago, the huge corporation I work for started buying small startups developed and run by … yeah, your generation. With your bright new ideas and innovations and shiny visions of the future of computing.
Last year, the huge corporation started squeezing out its older employee base for a younger, fresher set of employees. Yeah, again you guys, Millennials … I’m looking at you. I saw dozens of people I’ve worked with over the last 15 years laid off and their project scrapped. So I added this injustice to my bias against you.
Then as we were being decimated because of cost cutbacks, we started seeing the company building literal playpens for all of you. Spending millions of dollars to design whole buildings just for you. Bright colors, games, big screen TVs, open office plans, special workout areas, all natural snacks and drinks provided. All designed for optimum fuck-offery, no strike that, I’m sorry … Baby Boom bias there. All designed for optimum collaboration in an energetic and synergistic environment. Cool … I wrote that without gagging … corporate speak makes me ill.
So, you see, my impressions of you weren’t all that great. Not at all. Sadly, I wrote you off as spoiled and juvenile.
That all changed yesterday. The part of the building that I’m located in is abandoned except for a few random people. This is because a giant layoff swept through and there is no one left in this particular wing. Which to me, a huge introvert, is a blessing.
So yesterday, I heard voices in the solitude and suddenly five of you appeared. They’d never been to this part of the campus and wanted to explore. They hadn’t been too far out of the playpen area that was built for them. They stopped by when they saw me and asked why I was the lone person they’d discovered in this building.
We had a half hour talk and that changed my perspective forever.
The Five are all introverts looking for a quiet place to work. By exploring the campus, they were hoping they could find a place away from the bright colors, the open office plan, the TVs, the video games and the noise because they hated working under those conditions.
It’s hard enough to be an introvert in the corporate world but in the Millennial corporate world, it is literal hell.
We talked about their software projects, we talked about my computer hardware lab and projects. We talked about their challenges in the working world and the bias that they’re up against from older workers. I honestly told them why that bias is there, at least at this company. They got it and said that the high tech “playpen” offices didn’t help the perception.
I told them that the cubes and offices around me are vacant and they’re welcome to come work in the quiet any time. I think they’re going to take me up on it, we have a lot to learn from each other.
So to all you Millennials, introvert and extrovert, my deepest apologies. I’m sorry that I painted you all the same hue and dismissed you.
I’m sorry that I resented all the “perks” that this company is giving you to work for them. I apologize that the company is treating you like children and though there are probably some that like the atmosphere, there are more of you that don’t.
I’m sorry that a few entitled spoiled brats are wrecking it for the rest of you. We’ve had those in every generation, but yours is affected more directly and deeply because of the tight job situation and high housing costs. We could ignore ours, you can’t.
Hang tough introverted brothers and sisters! At some point, the tables will turn and your office environments will become less bright and loud. In the meantime, find ways to recharge and be good to yourselves. Find the quiet places in between and keep true to yourselves!
You all as a whole will start seeing a change as more and more of you start rejecting the playpen atmosphere and start demanding to be treated like the adults you are. Why corporations are treating you like children is lost to me. I have no idea why we’re treating you like children. The kindest idea I can come up with is that the older generations are trying to keep your creative spark alive instead of crushing it out like the generations before did to us.
Please don’t let the giant corporate machine snuff out the dreams that your small startup lived by. They bought you because they needed you but don’t let them crush you in the end.
After a lively conversation with The Five. I realize that we (your older and supposedly wiser generations) need you. We need your ideas about resource sharing, your ideals and commitments to changing life as it is now, and your energy and enthusiasm. We need the ideas you have that challenge the way we work and play. We need your youth to inject some fire back into the big corporate machines and we need your perspectives to rehumanize big business into caring for people again instead of the bottom line.
You are our best hope for the future. It’s your turn now to start carrying the torch, hopefully my generation wises up and lets you.
Thanks to The Five for exploring your surroundings and finding me. I hope you do come back because I have so much more to learn.