I recently read a rather damning quote attributed to a man I have a lot of respect and admiration for. I've always found this deep thinker's thoughts to be intelligent, measured, inspiring and profound; yet on this occasion, I couldn't believe how wrong he was!
Commenting on youth, he said the following;
"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers."
Now, I find when you respect someone's opinion, even if you disagree with them, it's still wise to give their argument some consideration, even if only to strengthen your own against it.
So reading this rant about how inept and disappointing youth are, I found myself thinking;
Is my Generation, 'Generation Y' ready to step up to the plate and take over the world?
Well... Once I tell you who I'm quoting, you'll understand why we most certainly are!
I'm thinking about it, because this month in New South Wales, the first batch of Generation Z'ers are graduating from high school. At the same time, that loveable bunch known as the baby boomers are thinking it's time to 'tap out', buy a caravan and go do... well... whatever the hell it is that old people do with their time.
So the question is; who will lead and mentor the Zs? Who will fill the vacuum left by the retiring baby boomers? It will have to be the Xs and the Ys. But are we ready?
You wouldn't think so if you ask the baby boomers. As a proud, card carrying member of Gen Y I've spent the last decade hearing how useless I am. I've heard I'm lazy, arrogant, soft, materialistic, and narcissistic. I've been told "me and my Gen Y mates" are pretty much going to destroy human civilisation as we know it.
Well... Tough luck because with Generation Z now here, there is no longer any choice, it's time for the old farts to give Generations X and Y the keys and let us drive. They should sit down and grab a cup of tea because it's time for us to run the show.
I will concede it's going to be hard going to rise to the occasion and take over the world. In fact, it's going to be even harder with all the resistance we're facing. But hey, we kids love a challenge! The reason it's going to be hard is because if you're under thirty and don't work at Google, Facebook, or one of the other dot com companies where the CEO is a person too young to shave, then chances are you have a baby boomer boss...and sorry...but it's almost certain that he or she hates you. They're going to try stay in their job as long as they can just to keep you out!
You like me are probably frustrated by their lack of faith and find yourself asking; why don't they trust us? Why do they hate us? And why don't they want to transfer power to our generation?
Short answer, just like the quote above; they hate us because baby boomers think we're lazy, irresponsible and that we lack respect, loyalty and commitment.
If only they knew the truth. Just like they were misread by their seniors, all of our strengths boomers misconstrue for our weaknesses. We're the misunderstood Generation and I'll tell you why;
The boomers call us lazy because they don't see us toiling away at our desk from nine to five every day just like they did. They're right, we're not clock watchers, but also we're not lazy.
Unlike our parents, we don't know what a 45 hour week is. Actually, the boomers were the lazy ones. They came to work and went home...Now, thanks to globalisation, business transcends all time zones. We gen Y'ers often work up to twenty-hour days even though we're nowhere near the office! We don't need to be seen like they were, we just shut up and do it.
I for one am never in the office. Thanks largely to my love/hate relationship with Samsung, creators of the most incredible invention ever to known - The Galaxy Smart Phone. I can now work anywhere - my office is where I am. I say love hate because it's a great tool for missing peak hour, but rubbish when it comes to not having an excuse for getting something done!
I'm sure our bosses think we are pretentious little 's**ts' (if you're not gen Y, you probably do also)...But what you guys don't realise is when we talk back, we're doing it out of admiration. Questioning the every move of our superiors (while granted it is annoying if you're the boss) is the gen Y way of showing respect!
Back when boomers were our age, talking back to their bosses simply wasn't done. This is why baby boomers mistake our challenging their authority as an act of insolence. All we want is to learn from their experience to know how they came to that decision. Baby boomers always seem to forget that we are thankful for their direction 99% of the time. It's just the other 1% when we have a better way of fixing the problem.
And considering they need their 10-year-old grandchild to fix their computers and DVD players of a weekend they'd be wise to realise that when we do disagree on that 1%, it's probably because there's a new, better way to do things.
Putting this aside, the most insulting thing that baby boomers get wrong about Gen Y is the fact they think we lack loyalty. This is beyond hurtful seeing as many of us consider loyalty as the north point of our moral compass.
Gen Y is loyal to our families, our friends and our partners - Granted, we're not so loyal in the workplace, however it isn't so much that we are NOT loyal... It is just that we are NOT as naïve as they were.
In this day and age, employers think of loyalty as a one way street (or maybe they always have and gen Y is the first generation to call them on it). We've witnessed, particularly in the last few years, employers sacking thousands of staff. We know that every change of season is sure to bring a new round of redundancies. So we're under no illusions that we are nothing more than a 'number' to the companies that hire us.
So if loyalty is a one way street, it's hardly right for baby boomers chastise us for lacking loyalty and 'job hopping. So what if they've spent their entire careers at one company. I say to them; "I would LOVE nothing more than to work for one company for the rest of my life. But, have you tried to get employed in perpetuity lately? Everything on offer is only six, twelve, eighteen month contracts or freelance - No one wants to lock you in for life or reward you enough that you want to stay...Put no faith in me and I will put no faith in you!"
Baby boomers please understand; we are not lazy, we are not irresponsible, nor are we careless or disrespectful. We're simply the product of our time.
We are the most resourceful, compassionate, considerate and educated generation in the history of man and with age we're only getting smarter. In my home, Australia, 2.3 million people reported they had an undergraduate University degree in the 2011 Census. That figure has jumped 27.2% from 1.8 Million in 2006. It will rise again the same amount or more in the next five years.
Baby boomers you shouldn't fear us taking charge. You should be excited. You've done your time, you've worked hard, you should be looking forward to relaxing. So shut up and sit back like the proud parents you all are and watch with anticipation to see what we can do. Don't worry, the future is in safe hands.
Remember when you were our age? You were nothing more than a bunch of no good, filthy hippies spending your time getting jacked up on drugs and playing Frisbee. The establishment back then didn't want to give you the reigns, they were worried like you are now, that you were going to destroy the world too...
But guess what? You proved them wrong! You came good, don't worry. We will too!
Sure we've had our bumps, our bruises, our stumbles along the way, but we were learning. We will keep making mistakes, but so did you (WMD'S anybody?). We're ready to take the torch and run the world - So hand it over.
How am I certain of this? So, who was I quoting who was so worried about youth? Well, despite sounding like it was said only yesterday...It was actually an Ancient Greek bloke by the name of Socrates.