Millennials, Let’s Move Past the Jargon by Lauren Allen

Lauren Allen

An article on the Forbes website from January 2012 used the following quote from Jennifer Chatman, management professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business,

“Jargon masks real meaning.”

I hope that you will allow me some small liberties with this phrase. Jargon relates to words or phrases that are used within certain professions or groups that are often difficult to understand outside of those contexts. Ms. Chatman’s argument was that “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

Here is where I will begin to take liberties with this phrase. Millennials. I said it out loud, which seems akin to speaking the name Voldemort aloud. The term millennial has become such a “buzzword” and catchall for all-the-bad-things over the last decade. This apt-named generation has been blamed for everything from the housing shortage to cereal sales dropping to the decline of the sale of beer; all with plenty of research to back the blame.

Full disclosure, I am a millennial, of the older set that came of age during the recession of 2008. Admittedly, I do resonate with a lot of what is said about my generation. I would rather my doctor’s office text me reminders and email me about bills that I owe. For one, I keep my calendar on my phone and I can add to it automatically from a text, also mail can get lost and it is a waste of paper product. To me, I am being efficient and thoughtful – not lazy. Yet, at the same time I have weekly phone calls scheduled with friends that live in a different state than my own as my relationships are important to me.

I believe that jargon can be helpful in helping a group understand their common purpose but too often it shifts to being a substitute for thinking hard – just as Ms. Chatman said. The term millennial is useful in giving a framework to other people about a very large swath of the population yet it has devolved into an excuse for people to not think and to not deal with the issues at hand but to shift blame. It is often easier to, for example, blame millennials for the housing shortage yet not take into account that existing homeowners are rate-locked which has everything to do with the market and mortgage rates. And the market has all generations participating, not just millennials.  

Millennials haven’t made the big sweeping changes that the world is facing, but we are reaping the rewards and the drawbacks of decisions made years before we came of age or were even alive. The concept of the internet was first introduced in the early 1960s by J.C.R. Licklider. Yet, as millennials we are the first generation to begin to fully participate with the internet -almost 30 years afterwards.

I, for one, would prefer that people would come up with solutions that involve everyone (we now have 5 generations in the workplace-at once!) instead of using inflammatory jargon that is thrown about so carelessly deflecting blame. As a millennial what I am asking, is that you would be willing to come alongside me and help show me the way…understanding that if and when I take your advice it will most likely look very different in my own life. Mostly,  because I am a different person but also because much has changed and will continue to change within our world. Yet, I know that sound advice will always be sound and I respect those that have paved the way before me and as well as alongside me.

Are You On Cruise Control?

Good morning on this wet Friday morning. I don’t know if you have had a cold lately, but it wasn’t much fun for me this week. I’m still coughing some, but feeling way better!Wadley-Hotel3-1024x571

When I was a boy, my Uncle Edward owned the general store in the very Mayberry-like town of Wadley, Alabama. It was a huge store with wooden floors where you could buy groceries, guns, fishing tackle, clothes, tools and most importantly – comic books and toys! He also had a rack of bumper stickers and one always stuck out to me. It said, “Now that I know all the answers, They changed all the questions!” Do you ever feel that way nowadays? Our world is so dynamic now and the challenge that we face as leaders is avoiding the temptation to simply go on cruise control working off our years of experience instead of being intentional about continually learning and adapting to the new reality.

It is so easy to simply rely on past experience and to keep applying the same methods we have always used in our leadership. The problem is that things have changed and are changing – rapidly. The people we are leading are changing. The greatest change seems to be in regards to he different generations that are now working together and the way the different generations think and approach work are very, very different. If you are trying to lead the way you always have in the past, it is a good bet that you are alienating a portion of those you lead.

Being a leader you don’t have the luxury of using cruise control. We have to be acutely aware of the changes that are happening and to be intentional about learning how to better lead in this new context.

Have a great weekend!

BG