Each of America’s six living generations has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, forged by the historic events that occurred during its formative years. Edward Snowden represents the characteristics of his generation, the Millennial Generation, born from 1982 to 2000. But, he embodies them to an extreme.
Millennials grew up in an environment where everything was public and nothing was private. On Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, Millennials shared their most intimate thoughts and deeds with the world via the internet. The concept of privacy was and is foreign to them.
Another generational characteristic, Millennials developed a need to make grand statements, some for the good, some for the bad. Society offered them a good support system – strong families, strong religious roots, strong government programs – and that gave them confidence, a desire to do great things, and a feeling of empowerment.
That’s good, unless a Millennial is off track, like the Columbine killer kids. Then, the desire to make a grand statement becomes a tragedy.
Another characteristic — Millennials were team-taught, team-graded, and rewarded for participating in team sports. They were raised to be part of a pack, to be part of a group, and to be highly influenced by their friends.
So, here comes Edward Snowden, willing to tell all, to make that grand statement, and, according to his father, greatly influenced by the Wikileaks crowd.
The result – Edward Snowden left his job with the NSA carrying highly classified information on a USB flash drive.
Millennials are a great generation that will change the world for the better. But, each generation has its own strengths and weaknesses, and employers and agencies must make preparations for building on strengths and protecting against weaknesses as each new generation enters the workforce. A rogue employee or two angry and depressed teenagers can do great damage.
Those who do not understand unique generational characteristics pay a dear price.