Generation whine?

Tuesday - 6/25/2013, 2:00am EDT

Senior Correspondent Mike Causey is on vacation. Today's guest column was written by Jack Moore (who normally digs up the "Nearly Useless Factoid" each day).

Generation Y. Millennials. The under-30 crowd. No matter what you call them, you probably work with at least a few.

Generation Y is the term used to describe the group of people born sometime between the early 1980s and the early 2000s and who are now entering the workforce in ever greater numbers. Much ink has been spilled about the shifting demographics of the federal workforce. As baby boomers retire, agency openings are increasingly being filled by younger and more idealistic — critics say inexperienced and entitled — new colleagues.

Millennials make up a greater share of the federal workforce than ever before. In 2000, there were about 75,000 under-30 feds employed by Uncle Sam. That more than doubled to more than 205,000 by the end of last year, according to statistics from the Office of Personnel Management.

Talkin' 'bout my generation...

Millennials are saddled with a reputation that precedes them. As a card-carrying millennial, myself, many of these stereotypes ring true.

We're entitled, narcissistic, "free spirits," who chafe at the confines of ordinary desk work. We grew up in the era of Little League trophies for everyone and require constant coaching and feedback (hand-holding, you steely graybeards might say) to get the job done. We seem to be tied to our smartphones and live out much of our lives on Facebook and other social-media sites.

Millennials, so the thinking goes, believe they can graduate college and land right away in their dream job doing meaningful work (i.e. changing the world). We bristle at the thought of being just a cog in the machine.

"When people first get into their first job after school, there is a period of adjustment as the instant feedback you get in school with grades constantly isn't the case in the workplace," said Tyler Robinson, the director of Young Government Leaders' Institute for Public Policy. "Expectations can also be not as grounded as they could be."

This may be annoying to the older, more experienced career civil servants who have dedicated their lives to doing their jobs well without much flash — or fuss.

But, it turns out, the federal government could be the perfect employer for fresh-faced idealists. After all, isn't changing the world (at least your small corner of it) what public service is all about?

"The federal government can speak to Gen Y's sense of civic engagement and public service," Deloitte researchers wrote in a 2011 report. "The breadth and size of federal agencies gives the federal government the opportunity to offer millennials the diversity of experiences that they long for."

More in common than you think?

As for all that tweeting and Facebooking (yes, the millennial generation has made those verbs): It may not be as big of a waste of time as you think. In fact, new research indicates using sites like Facebook and Twitter can actually make workers more productive.

The McKinsey Global Institute estimated in a recent report that sanctioning greater use of social media — for employees to communicate internally, for example — would lead to increased collaboration and boost productivity by as much as 25 percent.

"In other words, if employees can access Facebook and Twitter at work, a small amount of time may be lost or wasted, but the overall effect on productivity provides more gains than losses," a post on Industry Market Trends summarized the report's findings.

At the end of the day, millennials and baby boomers may have more in common than you think: misery.

A new Gallup survey found that the most discouraged and disengaged workers (those "roaming the halls spreading discontent," as the authors of the study put it) were two groups of employees often thought to be at odds: recent college graduates and baby boomers.

So the next time you see a millennial at work (the iPhone earbuds are a dead give-away), rather than seeing an enemy combatant in the generation wars, think of them as a kindred spirit.

What do you think? We want to hear from you. Do millennials get a bad rap or, in your experience, is the reputation deserved? Share with us your stories of generational conflict and cooperation. You can share your thoughts either in the comments above or email (we'll keep you anonymous!)

Send your thoughts to jmoore@federalnewsradio.com. Share what you think and it could wind up here!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Have you ever pandiculated? Why, yes, you almost certainly have. Pandiculation is the term to describe the act of both stretching and yawning. It comes from the Latin word pandiculari meaning to stretch oneself.

(Source: World Wide Words


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