• Institute of Corporate Directors


Updated: May 29, 2020

One late afternoon, we decided to play a “social experiment.” We gathered the employees of ICD & ISA present who were 28 years or younger, the twenty-somethings. Twenty employees, about 10 from each group, gathered in the Training Room. We asked them to react to a purposely intriguing statement by writing up an email response of at least 50 words, but no more than 100 words. The only requirement – that they be as honest as possible.

The statement they were to react to is as follows:

“This generation is a generation of entitled, job switching, directionless cry-babies.”

As they read what was written on the white board, you could feel the energy levels rise in the room. Their eyes widened in disbelief of what they had just read, as they all tried to maintain polite and respectful smiles. It was a statement they had all personally encountered in some shape or form in the past. Mumblings and whispers were heard as some started to nudge and kick one another from under the table. When we dismissed them from the room, 12 out of the 20 who were present responded.

Their responses were nothing short of amazing:

“This generation has learned to choose and make wise decisions for upholding their morals and beliefs, considering their mental and emotional state.”

“Millennials are dealing with the Great Recession by delaying expensive adulthood markers and looking for side hustles. Baby Boomers had a good economic start after World War II but are now facing challenges funding their retirements.”

“We wish to be more financially independent or we seek a better return of our parents’ investment in our years of study. Our actions may not be motivated by selfish interests but by reasons greater than ourselves and should therefore be seen in that light.”

“We complain and cry but it just shows that we care, not just for ourselves but for others who are affected by the same circumstances we’re in (cos we want to see some changes) As a result, we are indirectly providing solutions to some of the most common issues today, which tends to urge the older generation to listen, understand and help us act towards those concerns.”

“Our generation as people who are mindful of their rights, multi-talented, like to think twice or more before being sure and know how to express what they feel.”

“The market has become competitive and we are just trying to stand out or be remembered. A lot of factors affect our decisions which therefore limits our choices. We tend to weigh the pros and cons of the options available to us in order to get the best possible outcome from it.”

“We know what are goals are and we don't settle for a job that harms our mental health. We thrive in environments that will nurture and help us grow into our fullest potential. More on the salary, we look at the company culture and how the management cares for its employees. The most important thing for us is being valued and appreciated despite being young and maybe at the lowest rank of the company hierarchy.”

“We refuse to settle in our jobs, lifestyle, relationships etc. because now, more than ever, we are well aware of our liberty and freedom to choose whatever path to take in our lives. We are not afraid to exercise this right and to draw the line especially when people try to dictate how we should live our own lives.”

“We have zero tolerance on injustice. If this is what it means to be a crybaby then I would gladly be called as one as I’d rather be noisy and make people uncomfortable than remain tight-lipped and endure the consequences of an unjust system.”

“Being able to take complete ownership of our decisions and actions shouldn’t be mistaken as entitlement. Rather, it should be seen as an act of bravery because we, gen z, #Takenoshit.”

“This generation is the fruit and labor of the Boomers and Gen X, however, the foremost critics are likewise coming from the older generation. Its critics overlooked the reality they are encountering; in which, this generation is the outcome of their parenting and guidance during the childhood and teenage development years. We cannot blame this generation but, parenting must be evaluated and prioritized nowadays.”

“It only knows what they want and would not settle for things that do not stimulate growth, critical thinking and change.”

“This generation is becoming more flexible in terms of learning outside-the-box, and socially inclusive considering how social media platforms bring ease in connecting each others' ideas. As a result, people in this generation are free of learning new things in their own control. If they are not happy with the process, they tend to leave.”

“Generation Z and Millennials are entering and taking over a big percentage of today's workforce. This is creating changes in the workplace because their set of qualities and how they behave differ from the expectations of the generations before them.”

Reading through these responses, I smile. These are just a few responses of the generation that now composes perhaps 80% of our organization, perhaps, 60% of the entire workforce and the market we now serve! The responses are consistent. Similar. Related. When pushed and taunted – they push back. They remind me of someone some years back, some decades ago. Defiant. Proud. Determined. Searching.

We were once twentysomething! We, too, didn’t we want to change the world our parents left us with? What are they really telling us? Maybe we should let them finish the work we were not able to complete?

Reading through these responses, one more time, I smile.

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