Stop Mocking Millennials – Their Day is (Almost) Here

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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57 Responses

  1. jason says:

    I’ve taught college for the last eighteen years, and I always roll my eyes when someone offers a generalization about Millennials (Or some other version of “kids these days”), especially when those generalizations are negative, as they often are.

    As a whole, I don’t think they’re all that different from previous generations (in terms of potential and capability); as you note, they just have a different social environment.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to jason says:

      As best I can tell, the whole anti-Millennial thing is the exact same complaining every generation has aimed at the younger ones.

      It’s just “kids these days”, updated to whatever crazy thing the old folks hate most about kids these days.

      It was aimed at Boomers, it was aimed at Gen X, and now it’s aimed at Millenials, and I just cannot understand the mindset of people who screech “But this time, it’s different! For the first time since Plato bitched about it, kids these days really are awful! Every other generation, for 100 generations, it was totally off base. But not this time.”Report

  2. Damon says:


    I really am ambivilent about this video. Why should I care who some random youngsters think about this chain, other than whether or not it would make a good investment in my retirement portfolio? The real gripe I have is all the “feel” being expressed. Crappiest passive statement evers….”I feel like” god that annoys me almost as much as “clip” for magazine.Report

  3. Doctor Jay says:

    I am a boomer. However, whenever I read a list of “things millennials are killing” my reaction is “good for you, kids! I never liked those things!”Report

  4. fillyjonk says:

    Generation-X college professor here. Two thoughts:

    1. They said some of this exact same crap about Gen X, it was just quieter because there were fewer of us and the Internet was in its infancy. We were the punching-bag generation (remember “Slackers”?) for a while. Now some people are painting us as the cultural saviors, which to me sounds like “You’re gonna be the ones who give up getting Social Security, Medicare, or a decent pension in order to keep the economy from tanking.”

    2. I have Millennial students (some of our younger non-trads – some veterans, some people who’ve been out in the workforce) and Gen Z (or whatever the next younger generation is) students. You can’t really generalize. Some of my students are super together and they give me hope. Others….well, the most charitable thing I can say is “they have some more growing up to do.” I have had students who have expressed what I consider a shocking level of expectation of what I will do for them (I have had a couple who implied they wanted a personal text message the day before an exam and….nope, they don’t pay me enough for that. Get a calendar).

    Then again: I’ve been reminded time and again, “People who become professors were themselves atypical students” and while I don’t FEEL all that “together,” I was probably more together in college than many of my peers.

    And the whole “millennials are killing….” meme: Well, of course. Have you looked at what wages are lately? Have you looked at how hard it is to get a full time job? Of course they’re not eating at Applebee’s or going on cruises….

    (Frankly, I hope the millennials figure out some way to kill the gig economy/”enforced side-hustle” where everyone has to work three jobs in order to make ends meet)Report

    • atomickristin in reply to fillyjonk says:

      Yep that’s the first thing that popped into my head, was the Gen X bashing a few…gulp…decades ago. I remember some old fart on Survivor calling everyone younger than him who was lazy “Generation X” even though none of them were actually IN Generation X, as he eventually was forced to acknowledge. It’s just a dumb thing people do and I suspect it’s been going on since time began.

      My sons are Milennials and they have it rough. I’m worried about them. They have been perpetually jerked around by every job they’ve worked at since they were 16 – not enough hours, being expected to be “on call” 24-7 for no pay, and being promised promotions that never seemed to actually materialize in order to get free work out of them (“you come in every weekend for the next 6 months for free training, then you’ll get this position”) My older son is accruing all this debt for an entry level job that will very likely also jerk him around only he will lack the ability to quit since he has to pay his student loans. They aren’t perfect – my older son is a bit lazy, my younger son is a bit cranky/entitled at times – but I’ve worked with tons of people way worse than they are over the years who still had positions of some security as long as they showed up to work every day. They are both very demoralized by their experiences and seem hopeless about their futures.Report

      • Oh yes, I have been furious several times this semester about how my students’ bosses have jerked them around and claimed “oh yeah, we’ll work around your class schedule” but they DON’T.

        It makes MY job harder, too.Report

        • atomickristin in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Yes my son ended up quitting work entirely in favor of school because he had several jobs in a row (one of which he’d worked at for 6 years!) would not bend an inch to work around his school schedule. Not even willing to let him start a shift an hour or two later…he wasn’t asking much. So then that’s more debt that will have to be paid off eventually, poor kid. I recall that when I was in school, the jobs I had were at the least willing to make some accommodations for students but that doesn’t seem to be the way it works any more.Report

          • Until a few years ago here, the bosses were a lot better about it. I am not sure what’s changed, if they are having a hard time getting good employees (I suspected in one case, a student’s boss was trying to get him to drop out or fail out so he wouldn’t graduate and leave – fundamentally, be stuck in the job) or if they’ve just realized they CAN get away with it, or if financial aid has changed to the point where students can’t get as much or get it as easily, but….this semester was kind of a nightmare given how many students had work-related issues. I arranged for a LOT of make-up exam times, more than I should have had to.Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to atomickristin says:

            I think there’s a very wide variance, different bosses, different industries, different states/locations. Overall there are fewer and fewer unemployed workers so there’s at least some pressure to be flexible… but that’s an extremely broad average.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

      “Why don’t these Gen-Xers show enough company loyalty to train their overseas replacements?”Report

  5. Burt Likko says:

    Yes, but anyone who complains that French fries taste like potatoes, whether Millennial, X’er, or Boomer, exposes themselves to ridicule.

    Small children and the very elderly can get away with that sort of thing. Not adults.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Burt Likko says:

      She’s contrasting them to McDonald’s fries, which IIRC (haven’t had them for years) are oil-saturated enough that they don’t really taste like potatoes. The taste of a plain boiled or baked potato is very different from the taste of a McDonald’s french fry, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to complain that a certain style of french fry tastes too much like the former.Report

      • “It isn’t crispy enough” I can take as criticism of a French fry. Also will accept “It’s too crispy.” So too with hitting the balance point on salt or whatever sauce one prefers on fries. But the food tasting too much like its principal ingredient?

        “This pizza sauce tastes too much like a tomato.”

        “This guacamole is so avocado-y! Ugh.”

        “My omelet, it’s got such a strong egg flavor.”Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        The taste of a plain boiled or baked potato is very different from the taste of a McDonald’s french fry,


        It’s not just oil, and not even the added salt…the outside ‘fried’ part of potatos fundamentally taste different than inside cooked part, which tastes the same regardless of how cooked. The insides don’t have any contact with the oil and salt, so they have literally an identical chemical reaction as just being heated up by air, aka, baked. So will taste the same.

        This is why those ‘put on a sheet and bake in the oven’ frozen fries don’t taste anything like french fries. Nor do those really thick ones that certain restaurants serve because it’s all kids will eat. They are too thick, and the inside ‘normal cooked potato taste’ overrides any outside ‘fried potato’ taste.

        French fries, in fact all frying, is all about volume to surface ratio. The outside tastes one way, the inside tastes another, and things will taste entirely different with slightly changed proportions.

        And what Chik-Fil-A makes is slightly higher in that ratio than other fast food places, so tastes more like what we call ‘baked potatoes’ taste (Although it’s really just ‘potato insides heated in the absence of anything’ taste.), vs. the ‘fried potato’ taste. Although not as much as the restaurants that insist on serving what are salted sliced essentially-baked potatos as ‘french fries’.Report

    • That individual was also the one who introduced themselves as having “grew up in Europe” so I was prepared for them to have a…lets call it unique, perspective. Report

  6. Mike Dwyer says:

    The topic of Millenials comes up about once per week at my company. We’re having a tough time retaining them, or getting them to work there in the first place. Why? Because they are well-educated and my company believes very strongly in promoting from within. So, even if we offer them a supervisor position (entry-level management) we routinely hear them say they have a BA from X University School of Business and they should start in middle-management. They don’t seem to agree that you need experience outside of the classroom to round out your resume. So…it certainly IS frustrating.

    I also recently read an article by (I think) Penelope Trunk who talked about because so many Baby Boomers are going to retire and then so many Millenials are going to take their places that Generation X is going to sort of get squeezed out. It makes sense though. Baby Boomers were considered extraordinarily spoiled by many who studied them. Millenials have the same reputation. But sometimes entitled kids get what they want because they demand it. One of the classic traits of Generation X is that we were latchkey kids and we are very, very good at suffering in silence. Silence can also lead to getting run over.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Probably the best explanation of the Generation X workforce I have read:

      • fillyjonk in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I feel that hard, especially the “nonsense initiatives” part. (I am in academia, where there is way too much “flavor of the month” of stuff, or, more correctly, “flavor of the year” – I’ve learned just to hold on and not freak too much about “retention” or “assessment” or “online education for all” or whatever the new thing is, because it’ll be dropped in favor of the NEW new thing and if I can just keep on keepin’ on, I can probably teach the way that works for me and for my students until I hit retirement age.)Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Preach! I’m seeing more and more fatigue among my peers. 70% of our management is eligible to retire in the next couple of years (tail-end of the Baby Boomers). Unfortunately it seems like they have collectively decided to go out swinging and so they are all getting pretty grouchy and unpleasant to work for. It’s making for an environment where most of us are just keeping our heads down and waiting.Report

    • Depending on which data you use I’m either the youngest Genx or the oldest Millennnial. By the Pew we used here I’m the former. But I was such a non-traditional career path (military, bulk of college done online) and throw in growing up in WV not sure how well I got either.

      But as a supervisor and manager, I saw it too. Experience just can’t be taught, and really can’t be explained. Leadership even more so. I think that speaks as much to current academic environment as the generation.

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:


        I have a close friend and coworker who is in your boat. He was born in 1980 so he is right on the line, but I consider him a Generation Xer in his attitude towards work. He puts in a solid 8 every day with no complaints, but avoids bullshit projects and at 5pm he is a ghost (seriously, he has a whole system for sneaking out of the building so our director can’t catch him and assign him more silly projects).

        In general, I spend a lot of time worrying about our workforce. It’s changing in a way that I don’t like. I’m seriously considering a master’s in Organizational Behavior just to try to understand it, but the slacker in me says at this point it’s better to just ride it out. I retire in 12 years and I can (hopefully) do something more fun with my second act.

        As for experience vs. classroom… maybe the problem is that we have to make the ‘experience’ phase more agreeable in order to attract Millenials, but at the same time, they have to believe they have something to learn.Report

        • I’m working up a piece on trades vs college right now and that gets to the heart of that argument; there’s a philosophical, almost spiritual really, debate as to what is worth your labour and time. I don’t know that the “I work hard to provide” side will ever understand the “I work for me to get mine” or the “My work is more important than just the money” folks. Making things agreeable and attractive and convincing there is something to learn often gets filtered that way.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

            I’ve been watching the trade discussion closely as well, since I have at least one kid that is not college material. She’s almost 20 and I keep nudging her towards the trades or green jobs but she just looks at me with disgust and keeps dreaming of actually completing her digital art degree and getting a cool job at a magazine (sigh). It’s staggering how many good paying jobs are out there that are going unfilled. If I thought I could make a career jump, I would strongly consider it myself.Report

            • Had my plumber out to do a spot fix the other day, here’s a guy at 27 making great money on his acquired skills and he just laughs when you discuss it saying “we have two basic rules, show up on time, don’t so drugs, and most can’t do that” and get this…his company which is fairly large and well respect, is turned away when they try to do job fairs because the schools want to encourage kids to college and is afraid if they see the earning potential they wont pursue school. That’s anecdotal not hard data but I bet it isn’t the first or last time that’s happened.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

                Similar story here. I have a 25 year-old female employee who is incredibly bright, eager to learn and has SO MUCH potential. On top of that, being female and black in a white-male dominated company, she can write her ticket. SO MUCH potential but she is also so impatient. I have to talk her down off the ledge about once per month because she thinks she can do more somewhere else. She has no idea she is in the top 10% of our employees because she works hard and shows up, but trying to convince her to learn on the job, move up at a measured pace…forget it.Report

              • That is the experience thing. You cant teach it and there is no substitute for it.Report

          • Maybe we need all three kinds? I don’t know. I tend to be most in the “I work for more than money” camp but I also have a strong sense of “I need to be financially independent and stay out of debt”Report

        • Zac Black in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Mike Dwyer: @Andrew Donaldson

          I have a close friend and coworker who is in your boat. He was born in 1980 so he is right on the line, but I consider him a Generation Xer in his attitude towards work. He puts in a solid 8 every day with no complaints, but avoids bullshit projects and at 5pm he is a ghost (seriously, he has a whole system for sneaking out of the building so our director can’t catch him and assign him more silly projects).

          I was born in ’86 but I’m basically this guy, albeit at a different sort of job.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      “Generation X is going to sort of get squeezed out. ”

      Color this gen-xer utterly unsurprised.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I don’t know what it’s like at your company in particular, but at many companies, “We want to hire from within,” is coupled with, “We periodically have rounds of layoffs.”

      Layoffs are not always avoidable, and there are clear upsides from promoting from within, but the two together can make starting at the bottom and working your way up look far less appealing. This is the kind of understanding people may not consciously hold in their minds, but instead have picked up through cultural osmosis as the nature of careers have changed.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:


        My company is one of the biggest employers in the city and (fingers crossed) we NEVER do layoffs in the Louisville area. Promoting from within is also a huge part of our company culture, all the way back to its founding. So we’re pretty serious about it. We DO need those Baby Boomers to retire though. Them hanging around for an extra $100 month in pension is killing the morale among the younger employees. As I alluded to upstream, the Gen Xers are ready to take the reins but finding it frustrating that they don’t seem ready to give it up.Report

        • The very large companies I worked for all took the same way out — offer enough bump in the retirement benefit if you leave right now and some fraction will take it. Wasn’t always just the pension. A lot of 63-year-olds could be bought off with an offer to stay in the group health insurance plan at the same monthly payment as regular employees until Medicare kicked in. The worst thing about it as a tactic is that to be legal, it has to be offered to everyone in the target age group. Too often the handful of oldsters that you want to keep on for another year — odd expertise that’s harder to replace, for example — are the ones who leave.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Michael Cain says:


            You are correct that it seems to be the stinkers that stick around. Average retirement age for our company is around 55 for management. I would love some of them to stay if they wanted to mentor and teach. The problem is, they want to go out swinging. The director of my group probably has close to $1 million in stock but he still has his hands in everything, instead of shifting into cruise control. I’m starting to wonder if they just don’t trust us Slackers to run things.Report

  7. turn on, tune in, drop out.Report

  8. Em Carpenter says:

    I think that personal circumstances dictate in many ways what our philosophy toward work is, more so than our generational label. I am also a “Xennial” (gen x/millenial crossover event!) with the added trait of having grown up impoverished. I work to not be impoverished ever again.
    With that as my motivation, I went to college with the express purpose of finishing as fast as I could and then going to law school. I majored in what would be easiest for me, English, with no intention of using that degree except as a prerequisite to my JD.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Em Carpenter says:

      This is an interesting thought. I also grew up impoverished, and I think it is part of why I have never been unemployed during the last 19 + years since I got my employment visa (and I started a job THE DAY my three months of waiting were up, lemme tell ya).

      But rather than deciding to make as much money as I could, I decided that income was fleeting and I was more interested in being interested in what I did, as long as I made enough to support myself in the lifestyle to which etc.

      So I don’t make much at all, and I am currently in a job where I’m in theory “underemployed” just because I love it (and find it meaningful) so much that it’s hard to give up. (Got a free master’s, while working, attempts have been made by my own org and a couple other libraries to prod me to move up to the master’s level positions).

      I know Jaybird’s having an attitude more like yours is part of my decision matrix – but I’ve always been careful to make sure I make enough for *me* and to save for retirement or emergency, regardless of what he was or wasn’t making …. of course I have the “return to Canada on retirement” backup social safety net option too… but still, there’s a difference that isn’t explicable to me.

      I think in my case it’s that when I was a kid, we were poor but *relatively* happy (there was an infinitude of bad stuff going on sub rosa, and weeks we lived on soup and crackers, or only ate b/c people brought us food… but there was a lot of joy, too)… when I was an adolescent, my parents had a decent income (mostly because my mom worked so hard), no understanding or emotional capacity for finances, it was something my dad was abusive about, and we had all these wild financial swings. Brand new hockey pads for one of us one week, not enough food the next, sorts of things. And everyone was much more unhappy, also, mostly not because of money but because the family situation was just so much more dire by then.

      So all my desires to shape my financial life revolve around savings:debt ratio, not around income per se. And on some level insisting on keeping things as simple and non-f-up-able as possible. My dad was always chasing some get-rich-quick scheme (his own grandiose ones, not MLM) or land deal, and they only panned out frequently enough to keep him hooked. I suppose there is an element there, too, pushing me away from income and toward stability.

      OTOH my sister took almost the same path you did! And she’s only three years younger than I am… (double undergrad major in things that would look good to law schools but come easily to her, studied her rear end off and aced the LSAT, worked so much she came out of undergrad *ahead* on finances, went straight into contract law, now she makes more than an order of magnitude more than I do …)

      So now that I’ve thought through all the above, I actually find the different choices you and I have made pretty hard to explain. In that all the circumstance-based explanations I offered up for them would seemingly apply just as much to my sister as they do to me, but they didn’t. ‘Cause here I am and here she is, with an order of magnitude difference in our incomes, more or less because of purposeful decisions we each consciously made.

      I mean, the obvious difference is that she had me, and I didn’t have an older sibling to shield me, but… that doesn’t seem that simple. If anything she had *less* poverty and more wild financial swings than I did, but her financial risk tolerance is a lot higher…

      Are you the oldest or an only, Em? Or are you also further along in the birth order?Report

      • gabriel conroy in reply to Maribou says:


        So all my desires to shape my financial life revolve around savings:debt ratio, not around income per se. And on some level insisting on keeping things as simple and non-f-up-able as possible.

        That’s (mostly) my own approach, too.

        Another thing (and I’m not sure from what you wrote if this applies to you or if it’s how you and I are different) is that I somehow have it deeply ingrained in me that every day I have a job is a hedge against some future time when I might not have one and that as long as I’m working at some kind of job, I’m okay, but I’m afraid off unemployment. By saying that, I in no way intend to disparage the unemployed. But I have that thought deeply ingrained.

        For much of my adult life–pretty much from the time my father died until I moved in with my girlfriend (now wife)–I was even afraid of being homeless. Looking back I know (and even at the time I kind of knew) being homeless was unlikely for a person with my advantages. A lot of things would have to happen in short succession for me to wind up homeless. Each of those things was possible, but it was unlikely they’d happen all at once. Even so, the fear was on some level very real.

        I don’t know if it matters, but I’m the youngest of six. My five siblings, however, are much older than I am.Report

        • I am very similar about the “fear of unemployment” thing. It had actually started to relax a bit once I made the rank of Professor (around 2012 or so) but recent news about our budget failures (2016 undid me in a lot of ways – I saw a colleague with longer seniority than I had, but who had never sought her terminal degree nor gone for tenure let go, and I weathered a pay cut and furlough days). And the news of small colleges closing, every one of them makes me nervous.

          I don’t know where that comes from. We were among the “poorer” families in the town when I was growing up, but “poorer” was still solidly middle-class. Then again, it was the 1970s and I heard lots of stuff like “turn off that light when you leave the room, we aren’t made of money” and that may have wormed itself into my psyche

          And honestly, I WOULD be okay, probably: I have some investments towards retirement I could tap into while I looked for a new job. I just don’t want to have to.Report

  9. Slade the Leveller says:

    Drew Magary said it best:

    Technically, I think it’s anyone who was born at the turn of the century or come of age through it. Personally speaking, a millennial is anyone younger than me who gets on my f*cking nerves.


  10. pillsy says:

    I know this is sort of tangential, but…

    …who the fuck cares whether a bunch of twentysomethings like a chicken sandwich?

    Maybe if we stopped being so goddamned interested in what other people like or dislike and whether their aesthetic preferences are rooted in reasons we approve of, we would waste a lot less time, money, and emotional effort as a culture? And this goes double if you complain about millennial kids being “snowflakes”, because what could be more preposterously thin-skinned than getting bent out of shape over someone else’s junk food preferences?Report

  11. Rufus F. says:

    There’s something overly simplistic and dehumanizing about demographics anyway. When people speak of groups in vast generalizations and you poke at their argument a little bit, you usually find they’re talking about these three guys they know at the corner bar.

    Having said that, I would disagree with the idea that there are greater trials in the future than the ones we’re already staring down the barrel of. I feel for people younger than myself because, as David Bowie put it, all the nightmares came today, and it looks as though they’re here to stay.Report