A video of Simon Sinek talking about the ‘millennial question’, breezed through my Facebook timeline recently. On the first viewing, I thought it to be an excellent explanation of how people of my generation, GenX, can relate to and lead the millennial generation in the workplace. Even after watching it a few times, he makes some very valid points. Yet there is one major flaw in his answer and, unfortunately it’s one of the major foundation points of his thesis.
Where Simon Is Right
I’m now one of the ‘older guys’ in the work environment. Honestly, I’m not sure how the hell that happened, but it has. I look around my workplace and I see two groups of people:
- Those like me, 20+ years into their careers, and
- the ‘new kids’, those who graduated college after my kids graduated high school and, in some cases, are younger than my oldest daughter.
It’s been a shock to my system coming to terms with this.
At times, it’s also been frustrating as f*ck.
Simon’s correct when he talks about how the millennial generation lacks patience and, in many cases, social skills. It makes me think that this is one of the main reasons job hopping seems to be more prevalent now.
In my previous job, a young guy with a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering came on staff. He’d been in the workplace for maybe 5 years. Soon after, someone close to this guy came on staff as well. Both of these guys were young and, between them, had worked at nearly a dozen places. They both came into the company with the belief that in a short time, they should be running the joint. They both had an inflated sense of self that far outweighed their skill and ability. Their sense of entitlement led them to believe that certain tasks were ‘below them’. Their impatience and entitlement caused much division within the department. Because of their refusal to get their hands dirty, to do the work, contributed to an unhealthy work environment.
I also see this in kids today. Their having grown up in a time of instant gratification has disconnected them from the reality of how the world actually works. We are living in an age where knowledge and information are widely available. I started working in a time before the internet, where research still had to be done through books or by making contacts. Today, however, you can find almost anything on Google and YouTube can show you how it’s done.
While we’re living in an age of overwhelming information, we’re also living in an age where experience is lacking. Experience comes from time, from doing, from making mistakes. It’s not something that you can claim simply because you read it on a blog or watched a video. Gaining experience is a lifetime project.
The Social Media Generation
Simon’s point about the millennial generation’s addiction to social media is spot on. Unfortunately, the media feeds into this by glorifying social media stars and making people famous who’s only contribution to society is a massive following on Instagram. Exhibit A – The Kardashians. Social media has stunted the millennial generation’s ability to develop social skills. I look at my middle child and, although I did my best, she looked to social media to feed her sense of self worth. She looked to comments on stories she posted, the number of readers of her blog, etc. as ways to validate her worth.
Social media is a great place to pretend to be someone you’re not. Just create a narrative that gets enough attention and soon your self worth is inextricably linked to superficial metrics. This is a behavior known as borrowing confidence. Inevitably this leads to borrowing larger and larger amounts in order to feed one’s sense of self worth.
Where Simon Gets It Wrong
Simon makes the point that these kids were dealt a bad hand, through no fault of their own. While this excuse can work for kids and adolescents, by the time they reach adulthood, it simply becomes an excuse. You can see it in articles written by millennial kids, blaming their parent’s generation for everything that’s wrong in their lives and the world. I’ve even seen memes where this same generation says they ‘never asked for participation trophies’.
I’m sorry, I gotta call bullshit on that.
As a parent who didn’t embrace the participation trophy mindset, my kids still grew up with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Why? Because of the prevalence of that attitude in the world at large. Shows like “My Super Sweet 16” on MTV only feed into the entitlement that the millennial generation feels. Kids see these shows and when their parents don’t meet their expectations, the kids see their parents as failures.
Even if the house rules stand in direct contrast to those influences.
The Millennial Generation Needs To Grow Up
By the time adulthood comes, though, the millennial generation needs to start to own their shit. I vehemently disagree with Simon’s view that it’s corporate America’s responsibility to teach this generation how to deal with the world. It’s 100% not. When they go off to make their way in the world, they need to learn how the world works. Does this mean that some of their worldviews are going to get squashed? Absolutely. Yet it’s not the world’s place to coddle and cajole them into being productive contributing members of society.
Like Simon says, you don’t get anything for coming in last and your mom can’t get you a promotion.
It’s on you.
The way it is, the millennial generation has two choices:
- Buckle down and do the work
- Blame anyone and anything for your inadequacy
The first option will get you respect.
The second will get you nowhere.