By Rachel D’Souza-Siebert,
Founder + Chief Purpose Officer, Gladiator Consulting,
Sr. Director, Resource Development + Justice Philanthropy, Forward Through Ferguson

Friends. I am turning 40 this summer. I am milleniOLD. An elder millennial. Some might say a geriatric millennial — which is just rude, y’all. I still feel young, despite listening to chats that my children — both born after 2010 and currently categorized as Gen Alpha —— have songs and trends and technology that I’m completely clueless about.

Gen Z is entering the workforce and I can see my Millennial peers, along with Gen X and Boomer leadership, dismissing the youth perspective in favor of “what we know works.”

Sometime in the last decade, I went from being one of the youngest people in the room to one of the oldest. I did not realize this shift had occurred until recently, when I was on a Zoom with a client. During an icebreaker, we all had the chance to share one of our favorite teenage/coming-of-age movies.

I could not wait to drop “Empire Records” and “Can’t Hardly Wait” in the chat.

Not a single person on this call had seen either film. For shame, all. For shame.

There was a brief moment where I felt insecure about it — like, am I out of touch now? Have I suddenly become the eclectic auntie who jokes about “the Tik Tok” and tells too many stories about her children?

In a blink, I moved past the shock. Because with age, comes power. And, if simply being an elder millennial afforded me a new level of influence and power, then I must use this privilege for good. But how?

When I began my first nonprofit job in 2007, my new workplace was dominated by Gen X and Boomers; even a few Silent Generation employees walked the halls.

(BTW, I know that these generational labels, while useful to talk about those born during a specific time frame, are not scientific in any way. Sometimes these labels tend to offer stereotypes and generalizations that are not accurate for every person born during that generation span and often ignore the experience of marginalized groups. I’m using these terms to mostly refer to age and will do my best to leave out the generalizations (i.e. latchkey kids, avocado toast, Euphoria stans, Among Us players, etc).

I was excited. I was ready to bring the full scope of my academic education, lived experience, and passion to the organization. In my middle-management role, I was ready to change the world.

It turns out that no one was particularly interested in or ready for me.

There was hierarchy.

There was formal and informal organizational culture.

There was, “This is the way we do things around here.”

The first challenge on my plate was to get in line. Learn how to work within the system. Get comfortable with a slow pace of change. I felt that I had so much to learn and so much to offer, but that I needed to keep myself small — to take up very little space — in order to be heard and respected.

It made me feel disheartened and at times, unmotivated. I remained a dedicated employee and worked hard to excel in my role though, even earning a couple promotions during my time there.

Millennials: Could we be the generation that puts a stop to this harmful cycle in the nonprofit workplace?

But, I never really learned what I wanted to learn or changed what I believed needed to be changed — and often, I wonder what I should have done differently.

Here we are, fourteen years later. As I became milleniOLD, I founded and continue to lead a successful boutique consultancy, which gives me and my team the privilege to work with many nonprofit organizations in our local community and more recently, across the country.

And friends, it kills me to watch history repeat itself.

Gen Z is entering the workforce and I can see my Millennial peers, along with Gen X and Boomer leadership, dismissing the youth perspective in favor of “what we know works.”

Einstein famously offered, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Millennials: Could we be the generation that puts a stop to this harmful cycle in the nonprofit workplace? Could we offer Gen Z what we were denied in the early days of our careers? Are we the ones we’ve been waiting for?

Millennial leaders in any role within your organization, I invite you to try the following in 2022:

Make space at the table for Gen Z — or make a new table.

Let’s stop the practice of keeping young people out of the room where decisions are being made. Instead, what if we invited their experience and gave them some responsibility to advance the work of our organizations? Alternatively, you could coordinate a space where Gen Z could collaborate with peers and offer recommendations to institutional decision-makers. Either way, it’s time to listen.

Provide resources to support their ideas.

Few things have made me more frustrated than to watch leaders chuckle while giving members of their team “enough rope to hang themselves.”


What is it about our own unresolved workplace trauma that drives this behavior? We have the choice to stop. Our younger peers do not just need us to listen — they need us to use our power and influence to resource their ideas. They need the budget to support their learning through mentorship, coaching, and professional development opportunities. They need us (or someone) to help them figure out how to access the technology or other resources needed to support the changes and shifts they seek.

Help them fly — or fail.

Learning opportunities are not a waste of time. Growth and change don’t happen without audacity and risk-taking. Ask your Gen Z colleague how you can show up for them. Offer space and time for them to test ideas.

And when they experience success or failure, help them parse out what they learned. Hold space for the reality that learning from failure is an excellent way to grow. Then, help them plan for their next try.

We have so much on our plates these days. It is challenging to juggle the flaming torches that are our daily priorities and frankly, it might be hard to get out of bed some mornings. And yet, we chose this line of work because we wanted to drive change. We must choose to break the institutional patterns of dysfunction and lead differently in our ever evolving, intergenerational workplace.

Rachel D'Souza-Siebert

Rachel D'Souza-Siebert

Rachel D’Souza-Siebert (she/her) is the Founder+Principal of Gladiator Consulting in St. Louis, Missouri. Through Gladiator, Rachel has combined her knowledge of organizational culture and fund development with her deep personal commitment to centering community, seeking justice and creating belonging for those who have been disenfranchised or targeted by institutions, systems, and policy.

Born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from India, Rachel has always been passionate about bridging differences and celebrating what’s possible when we collaborate from a mindset of abundance, learning, and risk-taking. Rachel loves cooking, snuggling her kids, and Instagram.

Tip Rachel — PayPal:; Venmo: @RD-Siebert0620; CashApp: $GladiatorRDS