I feel like I'm standing in a room with 100 people criticizing me, yet no one is paying attention to the fact I'm here too.
"She's impossible to work with!" I can hear them whisper to one another in conspiracy-like tones. "We need to study her and find ways to play on her whims! We need to hook her in and get her to play our game!"
As I hear the gossip rushing around the room, my face flushes red and my heartbeat accelerates deep within my chest. The whisperers are ripping me apart with frenzied passion. They are saying I'm overly goal-oriented and that I don't take "no" for an answer. They are even going so far as to describe me with adjectives like brash, selfish, childish, lazy and spoiled.
It's not just the name-calling I find disturbing. It is also the fact that they are sending research organizations on CIA-like quests to study me. We are talking about groups who get paid tonnes of money to conduct surveys: companies like Career Edge Organization and The American Express OPEN Small Business monitor.
Hell, even the media are in on the gossip!
Reporters from as far away as Tokyo, Berlin, and London are writing exposes on my work habits. They have even taken the liberty to crown my friends and I with nicknames like The Trophy Kids, The Echo Boomers, The Millennials and Peter Pans.
I know the whispering has been going on for years, but it seems to have picked up momentum recently. I think the typecasting was best encapsulated by a quote from a journalist from USA Today who wrote: "They're young, smart, brash. They may wear flip-flops to the office or listen to iPods at their desk. They want to work, but they don't want work to be their life."
As the whispering intensifies, I'm left wondering: has this really happened every time a generation walked the plank from childhood to adulthood?
Are the wishes of people aged 18- to 30-years-old so off-the-wall different from our parents and grandparents that everyone else feels the need to label us as anomalies and study us with scrutiny? Are you telling me that we are truly that out of whack with humanity?
Surely, we aren't the first crop of humans to ask for flexible work hours and kinder bosses. There is no way we are the only people to actively seek meaning within our jobs and careers. And I don't believe for a second that we are the earliest generation to hope for recognition from our superiors after a job well done.
O.K., I realize we can be more demanding than other generations. But maybe we are also the first generation that's had enough affluence to stand up and question the sterile corporate structure we are destined to function within for the next 30-or-so-years. (Or maybe we simply have more balls and ovaries than previous generations, I don't know.)
This Friday, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce is hosting a special event called "Bridging the Generation Divide" with Community Futures-Howe Sound to flesh out different tactics business owners can use to "hook" and "get buy in" from Generation Y workers, a.k.a. my friends and I.
And as bosses and employers gather to discuss Generation Y, I can only hope they will not gossip about us using the derogatory language people around the world are promoting. I hope they won't revert to the blatant stereotyping when describing our work habits. And I hope they will completely refrain from using the adjective "brash."
I am also optimistic, perhaps blindly so, that as business owners meet to hash out strategies to deal with us, they will also keep in mind my generation makes up over one-third of the working population in Whistler and we are the single largest group in the workforce. (The latest census of Whistler, conducted in 2006, pegs Generation Y-ers at 3,000 and people aged 30 to 65 at about 4,745.) In other words, I hope they will recognize that we are a key part of the population mix in Whistler and we have been for quite a while.
Please, let's drop the stigma, the whispering and the name-calling. Those of us who form Generation Y are a crucial part of the worldwide workforce. And we will also continue to be important to this resort municipality's economy into the future.
On the other hand, blindly stereotyping us won't help anyone in the long run, no matter what generation you belong to.