Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why is Gassy Liz Lemon so Mean to My Millennials?

People seem to be especially intimidated by or interested in the Millennials.

The attitudes identified above have been demonstrated to align along some age breakdowns. (These breakdowns have been painstakingly researched at the Hauge Institute of Intuition not Verified by Any True Knowledge or Rigor of Thinking. I am on the Board there and have access to all of it's nonsense.)

The intimidated group seems to fall between the ages of 34 and 45. This age group seems to bear an attitude toward the younger population of superiority mixed with terror. The GenX and Y'ers thought they used computers everyday in college so they had the digital-native thing locked up. And they did, until the world moved beyond email, Excel and Powerpoint. The Gen Alphabet Soup folks cling to their Blackberries and iPhones trying to stay up-to-date with their mail and calendars. But, there is a difference between using a computer every day in college and having high-speed-internet-access everywhere, all the time, as the Millennials did. The first-generation-digital-born population, the Millennials, do not confuse keeping their life organized with living their life online.

The intimidated group is understandable. The Gen Alphabet Soup ("GAS") gang have achieved an age that connotes some experience and perhaps even a bit of success. They learned the rules and they know how to play the career game. The problem is The Millennials seem to want their own rules, especially in the workplace...they don't understand the old rules very well ("Why would a shirt with a collar make me do my job better"? "How are we integrating our give-back philosophy into our business strategy"? My friend is Asian and he is good with spreadsheets, why can't I say that in public"?)...and in this world of social networking and viral marketing (which, by-the-way the Millennials have invented) the channels that their elders are trying to exploit are controlled by twenty-somethings. Consequently, you need some of the collar-less Millennials around to hold the flashlight, so to speak, even if you wish they would go back to their video games and community service and let you get your real work done.

But, can you get them to just hold the flashlight?

Not in my experience, no Sireeee!

The following is from Wikipedia:

"Brody Ruckus" incident

In September 2006, Ruckus attempted to create the single largest group on Facebook as a promotional tool. An employee started a fictional student account under the name "Brody Ruckus." The group created under the name "If this group reaches 100,000 my girlfriend will have a threesome" drew membership on the claim that if 100,000 people joined, the fictional character's girlfriend "Holly" (based on a real-life friend of the employee) would have a threesome with "Ruckus" and another woman. Within a week, the group had reached 100,000 members. "Brody Ruckus" then promised to post pictures of his sexual encounter online if 300,000 people joined. Within seven days, the group membership had exceeded 400,000 and "Ruckus" wrote that if the group became the largest on Facebook, he would post a video of his threesome. Facebook administrators deleted the "Brody Ruckus" profile and his group, since it represented a breach in the site's Terms of Service agreement, specifically with reference to: "impersonating any person or entity, or falsely stating or otherwise misrepresenting yourself, your age or your affiliation with any person or entity."

In an interview with the online newspaper eSchool News, Ruckus President Mike Bebel said that the Brody Ruckus affair "was an exercise conducted by one of our marketing teams. It wasn't something we had any real designs around. It took on a life of its own. It was a good learning exercise for us, but not something that we would repeat."[16]

In a letter to the editor of Student Life the student newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis, Bebel stated that "contrary to what has been reported in other media outlets ... Ruckus did not use this [Brody Ruckus] profile to market the Ruckus service." He also acknowledged that "the creation of the Brody Ruckus profile was ill-advised and I can promise that this tactic will not be repeated."[17]

Yeah, 'cause who would want to ever do anything that successful again? Brody Ruckus also known as Noah is a genius. Instead of figuring out how to use this amazingly creative intellect (although, I must admit he uses far too much hair product for my taste), the intimidated, "GAS" CEO never figured out how to leverage this energy and inventiveness. The company went back to standard marketing solutions (good Google placement for example).

Imagine, over 400,000 friends/customers/users in that short time-frame. Hell, I'd commit to a threesome on a video if it would get me that kind of traffic (and if my husband would just let me pick the other guy, it might happen yet).

Sometime later I introduced Noah/Brody to another internet based company for a job. The CEO of that firm had read about him and asked me to connect the "GAS" Marketing Management team to Noah/Brody. I would have had better luck if I had brought in a Great Dane with a digestive track disorder. The "GAS" group acknowledged he was gifted. Amazingly, so. And, yes they did need to attract teenagers and young adults, but Noah/Brody would be just "such a handful" to manage. Really, that is what I was told, he'd be a "handful". He shows up on time every day. He is well groomed (that hair product thing notwithstanding), he has a degree, he has a proven track record and he has ideas. Dangerous handful, here.

That is pretty much why his former CEO failed to grow his company, because he could not get his hands around this talent.

On the other hand, I have noticed there are a few domesticated Millennial men at the second internet company. Most are kept in cages just outside their "GAS" cougar-boss' offices. These boys are not a handful (well, maybe they are but not the way we meant with Noah) but I bet they are pros at holding a flashlight.

Are all Millennials genius' like Noah/Brody. No. But they do have a different perspective. And they know how to maneuver and manage in this age. Skills and talent. Yeah, give this group a pass...they are too hard to manage.

By the way,

The interested group is primarily interested in the Millennials from a business perspective. The Millennials are a powerful market with an enormous amount of disposable income. Who doesn't want some of that? So, you try to get to know them as a group, by having a few in your network.

The interested group is age-group-non-specific, it is actually made up of anyone with a working brain......'cause these cats are fascinating, trust me.

Isn't it Bromantic?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (where I get some of my really questionable facts; the others I just make up):

"A bromance or "man-crush" is a close but non-sexual relationship between two men, a form of homosocial intimacy. Coined in the 1990s, the term has historically referred to a relationship between heterosexuals, but the term has gained currency in describing such relationships when one of the men is gay".

When I was in college, Brad and Ethan would have been called buddies. Noah and John would have been called roommates. Michael and @@@ would have been called good friends. And Josh and Mike would have been called questionably and unnaturally close.

With the Millennials, a "friend" is someone in your sphere on social-networking sites. You may or may not know them personally. In fact, a friend on one of these sites might be the acquaintance of a guy who was the roommate of your sister's boyfriend's cousin who you met at a party and both thought the host's girlfriend was a pain. The next morning you have a friend request and you are connected. You have another friend to add to the 579 already in your collection.

"Friend" is used loosely on the web, consequently, the language around the male personal/social relationship has changed from buddy, pal, main-man, friend-o'mine and best-friend to some more descriptive vernacular.

Now young men have bromances.

A few years ago, back at the entertainment company, a woman named Bobbie, who worked with me in HR offered to make one of the young executives life easier by running a few errands. The executive, Brad (Big Vicious) was managing a portion of the sales team, he was traveling all of the time and he was backed-up with some banking. Bobbie offered to help.

So, Brad brought Bobbie a bunch of checks he needed deposited, paychecks, gifts from Mom and Dad, half-the-rent from his roommate Ethan. Bobbie added them all up, prepared a deposit slip and then came to my door.

"Have a minute?" Bobbie asks.

"Sure", I reply.

"I am not sure I should show you this, but..." Bobbie is stammering a bit.

"What is it?" I am beginning to feel uneasy, Bobbie's pretty tough.

"It is this rent check, from Ethan to Brad...the notation...." she is really stammering now.

"Show me".

The notation on the bottom of the check did not identify the month for which this portion of rent was due. Oh, no....it read: "For big sloppy-wet man kisses"

Now, I must be very, very clear. There is no doubt that Brad is straight and we are open to the idea that Ethan might be too.

While the obvious purpose of the notation was to make Brad too uncomfortable to deposit the checks (ergo, Bobbie's service). There is also the understanding in these relationships that if the genders were different (or in some cases, just a trifle more bent) this would be a love-affair. This is a bromance. And some of what Ethan wrote on that check was an endearment in service of the love-affair.

Don't misunderstand, this is not about being a "metro-sexual" as straight, sensitive, well-groomed men were called over the last 10 years. Metro-sexual is about a man's relationship to society. A bromance is about his relationship with another guy. The one non-sexual relationship a man is willing to pour some attention into. So guys in a bromance know things about each other one used to only know about a lover. Favorite drink, restaurants, vacation spots, sexual positions, bands, sports, TV shows, jeans manufacturer, deodorant, shoe designer, sandwiches, bars and video games. They not only know them, they try to make sure the other guys needs are met in these areas.

And, they dress for each other. Lately, when I see young people go out on dates, the girls are often dressed up, little black sheaths and come-get-me stilletos...and the guys are in t-shirts and jeans. As if in preparation for the date she got ready and he.....got up. Now, we all presume that girls like to dress up more than guys, but just hold on there a minute. The last time I heard about Michael and Todd going out together they wore suits. Suits. (to be fair one of these guys is gay....but this is still a bromance, as the other one doesn't know the first one is gay!)

And when these guys plan or anticipate a costume party watch out, they are much more into coordinating costume selection with their bromance partner than their girlfriend/date ("Dude, you go as the penis and I will go as an undecended testicle!").

I have heard of bromance double-dating situations where the four principals will all wear suits, sunglasses and with only their AmEx card in their pockets go to London or Vegas for 24 hours. Since they never rent a hotel room, this event is not called by it's usual name: Honeymoon.

I like bromance. It is sweet and so much less sloppy than the old days when two guys got liquored-up and delcared "I love you, man, I really, really love you!". The Millennials do not need the liquor for the sloppy sentiment.

In Ethan's case, I think he summed up the bromance phenomenon with his March rent check notation: "For my hunkahunka burnin love". Brad was so touched, he deposited it himself!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

May this season of renewal, rebirth and resurrection bring all of you the hope and optimism you need to face whatever challenges are in your lives.

OR if that doesn't work for you, think of it this way....

If Jesus could wake up in a dark place and move a boulder, after the weekend he'd had....what are you you complaining about?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

An update to Take a Friend to Work Day

Apparently, Paul is an Excel Ninja, a nice guy, a good sport, and Asian.
The puzzle is this: Why can't he find his own job?

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Force of Nature

I was introduced to most of the young people who populate these posts by a man I will call The Force of Nature (The Force). The Force is....just that...a force in the world.

It is hard to describe The Force, he is a well-known, accomplished human being. He has taught in the most prestigious schools, he has been an executive in the most cutting edge companies, he is a sought-after speaker and writer, he is a respected economist and expert on creating technology. Plus he is a gastronome and wine aficionado. An evening with The Force is not something one easily forgets!

But the most striking attribute of The Force, is his ability to create and sustain friendships and family relationships. It is a wonder to behold how this man who travels 95% of his time keeps current with all the folks he loves and who love him.
Certainly he is a generous man, sharing the bounty his life has brought him with all in his sphere. His generosity is legendary and everyone who knows him has a story of extraordinary munificence. He has more friends than any person I have ever met. They are devoted to him, because he is devoted to them.

The Force has a special understanding and soft-spot for twenty-somethings. He and I share a delight in watching them evolve (see The Future Kings). The Force makes different contributions to them than I do. He takes them along on his travels, introducing them to people and experiences they would have had to wait another twenty years to have access to. It is not unusual to get a note from him saying "Joe is going to Copenhagen with me" or "Brad is meeting me in South Africa" or "Matt has never been to Japan, so I am taking him along next week".

The Force makes contributions to their lives that are so rare and exotic that I believe they should be able to put on their resumes that they are a "Friend of The Force" and move to the head of any employment opportunity line.

I, on the other hand, mostly contribute to these young people by making fun of them, passing out guilt, hurting their feelings and smacking them in the head. Oh, and sometimes I make them soup.

I am sharing all of this because The Force is a big part of the lives of these young people and he will appear in these posts. Also, because when someone is unappreciative of the generosity of The Force I am stunned. Today's post is about one of those occasions.

I am a fan of the Millennials. I love them. I think the world of baby-boomer adults does not give them nearly enough credit. But, the Millennials are not all shiny and bright beacons of a better future. Some of them are just assholes. Let me introduce you to John, the bad.

The Force and I were working together (well, he was the boss and I was trying to keep up) at an entertainment company focused on the college market. The average age of the employees was fetus...really, we had 90 employees and an average age of 24. That is a young work force.

One day The Force asked me to bring a young man of his acquaintance from another state to work in the company. This is how I met John, the bad. Now, I did not know that John was John, the bad when I first met him. I would have called him John, the shy at that point.

John-the-shy-soon-to-be-John-the-bad, knew The Force through the most byzantine set of relationships. Someones brother house-sat for The Force and that person or their second-cousin had this brother or cousin or cell-mate that had just finished film school and needed a job in an entertainment company. Well, hey-presto, we just happened to have one.

John-the-shy-soon-to-be-John-the-bad was relocated to the DC area. We gave him a job, set up a film studio for him and gave him responsibility for an important new part of the company. He did a marvelous job. He is talented. Creative. Semi-hardworking. He began to create a video experience for our users that was on its way to being first-class.
John-the-shy-soon-to-be-John-the-bad was also really working the shy artist thing and I soon learned he was sleeping his way through the office. He hit on anything with a pulse. Always with the lowered eyes and toe stubbing the ground.

One morning,
when John-the-shy-soon-to-be-John-the-bad had worked with us for three months, he came into my office and closed the door. John-the-shy-soon-to-be-John-the-bad had something he needed to discuss. Turns out that he wants to quit and take a part-time job with another company. I listened. I nodded. I understood.

Then I suggested he call The Force and tell him of these new plans.

"What?" says,

"Have you told The Force?" I asked.

"Well, no" replied
John-the-shy-soon-to-be-John-the-bad, head down, toe stubbing.

The Force was in another state raising money for this little company. Part of the value proposition The Force was pitching was exactly what John-the-shy-soon-to-be-John-the-bad was working on. Having him bail on us at this point would not be good.

"Well, then, I want you to pickup the phone and call him. Right now, from my phone. I want to hear you tell him that you are bailing".

More toe-stubbing and head lowering followed..."I can not do that" said

Now, it is at this point that my memory gets a bit fuzzy. I know that there was yelling and dropping of the F-bomb (me) and crying, cowering and hiding in the parking lot (John the Bad).

I am not proud of my behavior that day. I should not have used vulgar language and I should not have raised my voice.

I should have just kicked his skinny ass all over the parking lot. The putz.

The Force is The Force, partially because he allows himself to be vulnerable to others. His bigheartedness should not be taken for granted. All of the other young people understood that. John, the bad, believed he was entitled to all of the beneficence. And that is what made him John, the bad. He was the only one, among 90+ twenty-somethings that took the opportunity for granted.

By the way, John, the bad stayed with the company. Avoided me at all costs in the hallways and went on to produce some fine content for us. But he is and always will be John, the bad to me.

And this is why I love these Millennials...because the ratio of great-young-person to asshole is about 92:1.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Meat Sweats

Apparently, as my friend Todd taught me last year, there is a syndrome where one perspires profusely after consuming copious quantities of animal by-product. This syndrome is commonly called: The Meat Sweats.

The Meat Sweats occur the day after you gorge yourself on red meat. They are exacerbated, if one also drinks a boat-load of red wine. Go figure.

I learned about this malady on a 5 hour journey via air and car from Washington, DC to a small village in Quebec. I was traveling with Noah, Joe and Todd. Todd was in the throes of a full-on attack. Joe had been out with Todd the night before and was not feeling any effect. There was some serious discussion of Joe's ability to handle his meat. (I am not kidding, they actually said he handled his meat like a man, without a trace of irony or double-entendre. The incredibly funny Noah is reading this, saying, "The joke was too easy...pitch me something with some spin and I will hit it out of the park!").

The Meat Sweats was the least peculiar topic that came up that day. Meat Sweats Trip, as I have come to think of it, was a day where the topics ranged from how to structure a compensation package which includes options in a start-up (I was the expert on that one), to Sexual Ethics after three dates (Noah seemed to think he was the expert on this one. Of course, at the time, he'd never been on more than three dates with the same girl, so he did have an edge), Joey was the expert on The Meat Sweats (because he knows how to handle his...well you remember), and Todd engaged us in a discussion of the etiquette involved in dumping an acquaintance (we will call him Bonzo) from your social network.

Bonzo had generously viewed, stack-ranked and provided commentary on the 100 best hetero-porn flicks which included anal sex. He then sent this list to Todd via email, which Todd received on his Blackberry as soon as we landed in Montreal. Bonzo thought this was something for which Todd would thank him (which begs the question, where did Todd make Bonzo's acquaintance). Todd read the first six titles aloud in the car...and then stopped. I was touched that he was concerned with my sensibilities, but I also hate to draw too much attention to myself in these settings, so I told him to ignore me, I would survive the title reading. But, Todd said, "No, the truth is I could not say these things out loud, no matter who was in the car".

Now, I am not suggesting that these guys did not scream and laugh at the situation. This weighty list in Todd's hand and his total befuddlement about what to do was funny (the titles were funny, too, but I identified my blog as not including adult content, so you will have to make them up yourself). But, after a couple of minutes of mirth at the expense of Todd, the three of them got down to a serious discussion of how to handle this awkward situation. I was, quite frankly, in awe.

These, red-meat-eating-and-sweating men were very concerned that Todd not hurt Bonzo's feelings. These guys, who knew exactly how to end a potential relationship with a woman after three dates (they all agreed you NEVER just stop calling, very declasse. You let her know you will not be calling again.), but they were not sure how to let this potential friend down. Just avoid him at the bars where he hangs out? Block him on Facebook and the other social networking outlets? What they were not willing to do was email him and tell him what he did was not cool. They could not bear the thought that he would be alone, with his porn-stash, and get a rejecting email. I think Todd put it best when he said, " Bonzo might be way too into the anal stuff, but that does not mean he wants to be b*tt-f*ucked by a buddy online!" Todd might be a poet, I am just not sure.

I was raised with a house-full of baby-boomer brothers and the legions of friends they brought to our dinner table. I do not remember ever seeing them ponder how to spare a buddy's feelings. The boys I grew up with would have felt feminine just letting that idea pass through their head. Then in order to over-compensate, they'd have started a game of whatever sport was in season and ultimately thrown an elbow, or hockey stick, or a bat or a punch to reassure themselves that they still belonged in the boys locker-room.

These Millennial men had no problem empathizing with poor Bonzo. I do not remember how they agreed Todd could avoid Bonzo in the future. That is not so important. What was important for me that day was the inherent kindness in these boys/men.

Of all the lessons and language I learned that day, their kindness sticks out as the most impressive take-away.

I expect that one day Joe is going to be a CEO, he is competitive and really chafes at authority. Someone smart is going build a company around Noah's wit and energy. He will not be the CEO, he will be a Chief Imagination Officer. And Todd, I am not sure....except I do not see him as a Proctologist.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Take a Friend to Work Day

My twenty-something friend Joe, just pinged me (IM) to tell me that today was "Take a Friend to Work Day" (TAFTWD).

The last time Joe pinged me to remind me of one of these occasions, it was "Talk Like a Pirate Day". I was intrigued, but at my age, it just seemed too haaarrrrddd!

Today, though, Joe has recommended TAFTWD as an antidote to the mood of the country. He suggests that TAFTWD, could solve some of the malaise we all feel. Joe called it a "work walk-on".

And after giving it a bit of thought, I realized he might be onto something.

Why couldn't trusted employees invite an out-of-work friend into the office for a day per week? The employee sets out a project, Joe's friend Paul is working on an Excel spreadsheet, (Paul is actually Noah's friend, but Noah has lent Paul to Joe for this occasion. Why Joe is friendless is a topic for another day). But, how much sense does this make? Joe gets some help, Paul gets out of his house...away from the TV or his endless online job searching...and keeps some real skills cooking. The company gets introduced to a potential, well-vetted, new hire. It is a lot like a sports walk-on at the college level. A try-out. Unlike the scholarship players, you are not being compensated to play during this period. But if you perform well, you might make the team. Other perks for the walk-on. You could learn about a new industry. Perhaps, think about a new function in which to work. Expand your network. Spend a productive day with a friend.

I like this idea. I know that a bunch of my HR colleagues are going to start pinging me about Workers Comp issues and FLSA issues and Co-employment issues, etc.etc. But before they do, I ask them to stop the deficit discourse for a second and try some affirmative inquiry; how could this work? how would you get past the obstacles? (anyone can identify the obstacles....try to see the opportunities).

So, friendless Joe has triggered some thinking for me. The love the Millenials have for working together undoubtedly inspired TAFTWD. And they might be the most successful at it.....let's see how Paul does on that spreadsheet before we pass on what might be a great idea!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Future Kings

I am no longer young.

I was young until one day a couple of months ago when I realized that the majority of the people I work with were born since my 25th birthday. Up until this realization, I had always thought of myself as one of the young people in any room I was in. Young and smart and cute was the domain in which I existed. And then one day recently, I realized that almost everyone I work with is 25 or more years younger than I. They are younger and, you know they are cuter too, damn! And, if truth be told, I am having a very hard time holding on to smarter. Smarter is an illusion I can maintain only by dragging out my "experience". The truth is they are smarter and it is only a matter of time before they figure that out.

The big saving grace here is that they are so wonderful.

Today one of them came to my office to talk. He started out talking about work, but very soon it became obvious that he just needed to talk to an older person. He is a new college grad, in his first real job, living far away from home, his summer vacations are forever altered. He was lonely and a bit confused and just needed an older shoulder on which to virtually lay his head for a moment. It is such a small thing to do, to stop and listen to this young man/boy/man as he sorts through his fears...and musters his courage to go back to being an adult. It is such a privilege. He doesn't know that I am in awe of him. That he is a future king who doesn't yet know he can pull the sword from the stone.

He, like so many of these young people, is unaware that they are royalty. They will rule the world of the future and they don't know it yet. They are accomplished and articulate. They are conscious of the world around them. They are trying to be good human beings. They are sensitive and thoughtful. And they are so smart. It is like watching great actors in the old clips of their walk-on roles or commercials, we know now that they are special and seeing them in the bit parts is funny and incongruous. Seeing these young royals in their first jobs is charming and thrilling. I can see where they are going, what they will be. They don't know it yet. They cannot see it yet. It is my secret from them. My consolation for not being the cutest, smartest and youngest in the room anymore.

I am no longer young. I work with many young people and I am blessed with the ability to see their potential and possibilities. They get more future than I do, but I can see their future. If these young people are indicative of the future; it should be a very good place to be.