A few weeks ago I got into a conversation with a friend about, of all things, costumes. My two girls are constantly getting dressed up in funny costumes. They love it! And why shouldn’t they?! Wouldn’t you like trading in your slacks and buttoned-down shirts for a wardrobe where your only choices are Cookie Monster, a fairy Princess, or a Gorilla? Maybe I’m the weird one, but sign me up!
Anyway, this costume chat led us down the path where almost every conversation today ends: Google. It only took three steps, too:
- ME: “If you could only wear one costume the rest of your life, which one would it be?”
- FRIEND: “Storm Trooper.” (Spoken with emphatic, resounding certainty.)
- ME: “How would you find one? They don’t make those in stores, do they?”
- FRIEND: “I’d make one.”
- ME: “How would you make one?”
- FRIEND: “I don’t know. YouTube? Let’s Google it.”
So we did. We did what EVERYONE does in today’s world – we Googled an answer. And not surprisingly we found videos, how-to-guides, and a (new-to-me) society of Storm Trooper aficionados who will train you and provide certification so you can go to charities across the country and spread joy to kids dressed as an official Storm Trooper. I. am. Not. Kidding. (If you don’t believe me, Google it.)
After we pulled ourselves out of our Google rabbit hole, I made a comment I’ve pondered ever since having children. These kids nowadays have NO idea how good they have it. It’s a harmless comment, and I don’t mean any ill-will towards those younger than me. But what I mean is that this group of people – including my own children – will never have to ask a question…and not find an immediate answer. They have the Internet. At the finger tips. Constantly. They will ALWAYS have an answer seconds away. As a kid, I used to have to sift through a 97lb Encyclopedia Britannica to find an answer which was 5 years old. I also used to walk to school, uphill, both ways, in snow, but that’s a whole different story.
My point is that people today – all of us – don’t have to be stuck in a position of not knowing. If you don’t know something, that’s actually a choice you make. Think about that for a second. It’s a choice. We don’t ever have to say, “I wonder how that works?” It’s an amazing gift, although there are pros and cons to having answers at our fingertips at all times. Maybe there is value in not knowing – or having to try a lot harder to find an answer.
Now I know you’re saying “Ok, Matt. I get it. I’ve thought the same thing. But what does this have to do with Millennials being impatient? And the answer is everything. As a keynote speaker I get the great pleasure to speak with companies, organizations, and people all across the country about this funny divide between the generations. We get to laugh at ourselves and the things which make our own generation quirky. And we get to have some genuine conversation about how we got to this space and why people act they way they act. And yet, inevitably after I finish a presentation – and by ‘inevitably’ I literally mean ‘100% of the time’ – I will get stopped by someone who will tell me how difficult it is to work with a Gen Z or Millennial co-worker. Gen Z is impatient, they’ll say. They want to be CEO after 6 weeks on the job. They want to change every process and technology. They don’t understand why a project takes 6 months to complete. Sometimes they get frustrated enough they leave the company and go find someplace else to work – because after all, these young kids aren’t loyal to anything. Whenever they don’t “get their way” they just pick up and leave. They don’t appreciate the importance of “playing the long game.”
There are pockets of truth in those statements. But by and large, if you’re one of the people who holds any of the beliefs I mentioned above, I have a stunning announcement for you. You would be exactly the same if you were in their position. In fact, you might be more similar to them than you think. The members of today’s youngest generations are simply a function of their environment – just as you’re a function of yours. They’ve grown up with Google searches at their fingertips from Day 1. They’ve been saddled with crippling higher education costs more than any other generation before them. Playing the “long game” at work may not be an option once college payments start kicking in. And by way of the Internet, they can more easily recognize opportunities at other companies than ever before. They don’t have to wonder what their options are anymore! They have been taught to move quickly and seek fast answers and resolutions in almost everything in life, and the same applies to their careers and work.
So instead of lambasting them for being impatient, recognize that they are simply making a choice. They are making a choice about their career, their future, and their livelihood. If they didn’t, then they’d be making a separate set of choices – to be complacent, to feel less-valued by an employer than they might at a different one. I don’t think anyone should fault them for choosing the former.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my daughters need Cookie Monster for their tea party and I know just the guy to play the part!