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Rules, Millennials, & Gen Z

Look, I write this blog not as an expert on generations in the workplace but rather as a sociologist, supervisor, college instructor and mom — with nearly fifteen years of experience in government.

First let me say that Millennials and Gen Z are different. I don’t mean to disrespect either by lumping the one in with the other.

I’m also not ignoring the oversimplifications that inevitably come into play when you try to write a post like this.

But I do think it’s important — for society in general, and for government institutions in particular — to share an observation about how these two generations handle rules.
Millennials, born 1977–1994: They want clear and detailed instructions and they want to know exactly what success looks like.
Generation Z, born 1995–2012: They have no patience for detailed rules and prefer the shortest path from Point A to Point B at all times.

For both, handheld technology (e.g. a smartphone that serves to connect and inform) is critical to own, use and be connected to — at all times.

Of course, our social institutions are not organized to communicate with these two generations in the preferred manner.

As such, Millennials often find “adulting” procedures confusing and tedious, whereas Generation Z also finds them tedious, and may miss information as a result.

The Millennial wants to know the steps involved from Point A to Point B, but frequently finds that the people in charge cannot provide them reliably.

Meanwhile, Generation Z prefers to navigate complexity through a series of texts and screenshots.

Like all of us, these generational cohorts find it extraordinarily challenging to navigate the overwhelming amount of information they receive.

Like all of us, they just don’t know what to do with all this data, all the time.

Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen Xers — each of whom had a great deal more independence growing up — Millennials and Gen Z were born and bred on supervision.

Lots and lots of rules, in addition to a sea of information.

Close supervision. A tangled knot of tightly bound rules.

Omnipresent social networks, beckoning to know where you are and who you’re with, at all times.

It’s a spiderweb, totally suffocating.

But we need the youth of America to be engaged. In particular, we need the teens and twenty-somethings to be motivated, educated, and in possession of a clear and workable path forward.

That engagement, of course, is deeply interrelated with the participation of young people in the workings of democracy.

As such, we need to un-complicate things.

We need to help Millennials and Gen Z cut through all the clutter and engage.

Because for both of these generations, there is a very real risk of them taking on maladaptive lifestyles, a path that maybe feels like “forward” but in fact is two steps back.

One glaring example of this is ideological extremism. At least at the beginning, it’s easier than having to deal with all the confusing pressures of life.

In America, losing your freedom is the worst political fate of all.

But it’s the path so many young people are choosing.

Just close your mind and hang out with your tribe.

Even if you end up taking the very narrowest of walks.

Off a pier so short it seems almost nonexistent.

Posted August 18, 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions my own. This blog is hereby released by the author into the public domain. Public domain photo by StockSnap via Pixabay.

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