Let me preface my comments by saying, “I’m not feeling old.” Recently at an office Christmas party, it was suggested the oldest employee start the gift exchange. Sadly, it wasn’t a tough call for any number of people to quickly identify me by name. The project was billed “Secret Santa”. Participation was voluntary.
The employee orchestrating the project asked me about a week before the party if I was going to participate in the gift exchange portion of the party? “I’m in” was my two-word response. Her one word answer was, “Good”. She then asked me three questions: “What’s your favorite color?” “What’s your favorite drink?” and “What’s your favorite restaurant?” She then asked me to close my eyes and draw a name. It was a pretty easy process. I remembered from quickly scanning the earlier email that there was a $15 cap on gifts. I drew the name of the wife of a former employee. The two of them would be attending the party.
The morning of the party, the General asked me what I’d purchased. When I told her she said, “That’s not a good choice. I wouldn’t want that.” I wasn’t about to let her pour cold water on my parade. I had gone to Barnes and Noble and purchased a gift box of two tins of tea: Hot Cinnamon Spice and White Tea. I spent more than the allotted cap and I would have been pleased to be the recipient of the gift. What more could anyone want?
A couple of minutes before the gift exchange started, I mentioned my wife’s response to what I’d purchased to the employee who’d orchestrated the Secret Santa. Her response caught me off guard: “Did you look at the three things written at the bottom of the card containing the name of the person you’d drawn?” In my “heart of hearts” I don’t believe there was anything else written on the card, but I tossed it as soon as I captured the name in my memory, so I really don’t know.
There is nothing quite like hearing the sound of your name being called to start the gift exchange knowing you’ve already gotten it wrong. Confession is good for the soul. I shared about the dangers of multi-tasking when taking on something as serious as the Secret Santa project. I extended my apologies to the lady whose name I had drawn and assured her she’d not be receiving anything associated to her list. Awkward? “Yes”. Enough to lose sleep over? “Probably Not”. She was good with it and she graciously seemed pleased to receive the tea.
In a worst possible case scenario, subsequently, the person who had drawn my name playfully said: “I looked very carefully at your list and opted to get you everything you wanted. You’re favorite color is green. Please note: ‘The gift bag is green’”. Following his instruction, I next took out of the gift bag an empty Starbuck Cup with a prepaid certificate for a Chai Tea Latte – my favorite drink. In addition, there was a gift card for an appetizer at my favorite restaurant. It was a delightful gift. I turned to the person who’d received my gift and said: “I feel really badly. I got everything on my list and you didn’t get anything on yours.”
Did I mention I got more than what I included on my list. The person who drew my name has a great sense of humor. He has both subtly mentioned and not so subtly mentioned that I use too many words when I write. He thoughtfully included a dictionary. Actually, it was entitled “The Devil’s Dictionary”. I’m not sure of the intent or the message being communicated, but it was good for a laugh.
Lesson learned: “If we do the Secret Santa next year, I’ll read the email and pay closer attention”. Did it bother me that I was quickly identified as the oldest employee? “Maybe? – Maybe not?” Maybe I’m in denial, but I can’t really be old enough to be this old. They put horses out to pasture before now and I’m delusional enough to think I’m keeping up with the pace. Actually, that’s not true. What I really think is: “Catch me if you can!” I told you I was delusional.
Besides that, I like hanging out with the millennial crowd. They fall in the 18-to-34 year-old-age group. I like the way they think. I like the way they act. Actually, at times I think I have more in common with them than folks within twenty years of my age. (I am mostly joking). Besides the fact that millennials were seemingly born with a smart phone in their hand and the innate ability to make it do things I’ll never figure out on my phone, they are quite skilled at one-on-one verbal interaction. They have good ideas and new ways of doing things and they want a seat at the table in any discussion that can make the program better.
They want the freedom to exercise creativity and be autonomous at work. They don’t see themselves as married to the job (til’ death do us part), but they are going to give the job everything they have to offer until they opt to do something different. They aren’t necessarily dependent on the company’s career ladder, they prefer to be captain of their own ship and chart their own course.
While they want to earn a living, the sense of doing something purposeful and meaningful trumps the income level. It is important to them to feel like they are making a difference. Job satisfaction isn’t tied to opportunities for advancement. They are more passionate about having a purpose than having a title.
The long and short of it is they are my kind of people. That is a good thing, because by 2020, it is estimated that 50% of the workforce will be millennials.
All My Best!