Ever heard of how people describe millennials? They have different notions about them. They are often described in a negative way, and are often perceived to be less than desirable in the corporate world. But there are a lot of things about the millennials that most people don’t know about.
Millennials are people who were born in 1984 and after. They are often accused of being tough to manage, entitled, narcissistic, lazy and unfocused. On the other hand, millennials are also known for wanting to work with purpose, desiring to making a true and meaningful impact on the world. However, they tend to have wrong expectations about life and the corporate world. But the reason millennials are the way they are is due to a few key factors that have shaped them – greatly contributing to their personalities and characteristics — and they are not entirely to be blamed.
Simon Sinek On Millennials in the Workplace
This article was inspired by Simon Sinek’s talk on “millennials in the workplace” for Inside Quest. Simon Sinek’s often described as a “visionary think with a rare intellect” and teaches leaders and organisations how to inspire people.
In this video he argues that there are four key factors that contributed to the way millennials think and act in their daily lives and in the corporate world. You can watch the video in full below:
Failed Parenting Strategies:
Simon Sinek’s argues that “too many (millennials) have grown up with failed parenting strategies”. Although some parents might want to disagree with this, it’s easy to spot what strategies might have greatly contributed to the characteristics millennials are known for.
One of the most common mistakes parents of millennials make is telling their kids that they are special and that they can have anything they want in life, just because they want it. They spoon-feed their children with unrealistic expectations about life and the way the world works. Whilst there is nothing wrong with commending children for their achievements, Sinek argues that giving them too much appreciation can cause them to expect it from others as well — even if they’ve not done anything particularly deserving of it.
Sinek goes as far as saying that in some other cases, parents would even intervene in school rankings and rewards to make sure their kids could have something to be proud of, leading schools and teachers to give out rewards for everything, even just showing up. This devalues the purpose of medals and rewards, and once again reinforces unrealistic expectations in their children.
And what’s the result of all this?
Millennials grow up, they graduate and then they are thrown into the workplace of the real world.
“Within an instant they find out they are not special, their mum can’t give them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last and by the way you can’t have anything just because you want it.”
Technology: An Addicting Stimulant?
Millennials are the first generation to be brought up during the age of modern technology. It’s become more integrated within their lives than any other generation before them. This had a led to a dependence and through no fault of their own. In social media and beyond, it has become an expected trend for them to always make themselves appear as if they’ve got everything figured out in life.
Science has shown that engagement with social media and technology releases a chemical called dopamine. That’s why when you get a text it feels good. Dopamine is the exact same chemical released when we smoke, when we drink and when we gamble. In other words it’s highly addictive. Just like any other stimulant, technology and the use of social media can be seen as a highly addictive, numbing stimulant. Mix that with millennials low-self esteem and anxieties of social-acceptance, approval and FOMO “fear of missing out”, then it becomes extremely obvious as to why technology affects millennials the way that they do.
It’s possible to assume that many millennials feel the need of endless affirmation and approval of others to keep their confidence high. Gone are the days where it’s all about trying to impress your parents, it’s now very much about impressing peers while keeping up with the pressure and expectations the society sets for them. This isn’t anything new. The shift from trying to impress parents and family members to then expanding out to peers is a normal tribal instinct. The difference is now that with everything online, the anxieties and pressures are a lot higher than before.
This is the same reason why social media channels are full of self-glorifying posts. Millennials are addicted to social media and peer approval. As Sinek’s says “we’re growing up in a facebook/instagram world, in other words, we’re good at putting filters on things. We’re good at showing people that life is amazing even though I’m depressed.” Everybody wants to appear like they are having the best time of their life, even when they are feeling unstable, directionless, and depressed.
What’s more, social media and the use of phones has lead to a barrier in forming real meaningful relationships. Sinek states that when interviewing millennials they admit that their relationships are “superficial, that they don’t count on their friends…they have fun with their friends but they also know that their friends will cancel on them if something better comes along.” This of course doesn’t apply to everyone, but it definitely rings some truth. Deep meaningful relationships aren’t there because millennials never practice the skillset, and because they don’t have friends to rely on, when stress starts to show up in their lives they’re not turning to a person, they’re turning to a device and to social media.
Does this mean that we should ban social media all together? Or anyone who engages with social media is weak-willed and narcissistic? Of course not! Stimulants like drinking and social media is healthy in moderation. It’s when you become dependent on something, reliant on it for your happiness that it becomes a problem.
“If you’re sitting at dinner with your friends and you’re texting somebody who is not there, that’s a problem. If you wake up and check your phone before you say hello to your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, then you have an addiction. Like all addictions in time, it will destroy relationships it will cost time and it will money and it will make your life worse”
Impatience: Growing Up In a World of Instant Gratification
Millennials are also known to be impatient. They are impatient in the sense that they want to achieve things quickly, often leading to low job satisfaction when they don’t see results right away.
So where does this all stem from?
In part from social media as discussed above, but also through improvement in technology.
“If you want to buy something you go on Amazon and it arrives the next day. Want to watch a movie? Log and watch a movie, you don’t have to check or wait for movie times. You wanna go on a date? You don’t even have to learn the social coping mechanisms required, you just swipe right!”
However, Sinek believes that the two things you cannot get instantly is job satisfaction and strength of relationships. Millennials want to reach all the success they’ve dreamed of, but are often unprepared for the long-haul it takes to get there. They grew up being gratified and commended by their parents all the time that it seemed to make them think that everything else should come just as easy. But it doesn’t. Greater things take time. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Sadly, the expectation of millennials and the realities of life and work, don’t often match up.
Environment: The Lack of Good Leadership
The kind of environment we grow up with affects us a lot. It affects our behaviour, our perspective, our response to situations and everything else. Millennials, just like everyone else, are shaped into who they are now because of the kind of environment they grew up in. One of the common reasons is the fact that their idea of life is cloudy. As previously mentioned, Millennials think things will come easy. Because of this type of mentality being built around them by their environment, they are unable to handle stress properly. When they come across it, the find it very hard to deal with. The more they see how hard things are, the more they easily lured into giving up. When it comes to dealing with life and hardships, the trend is not to expose their weakness. Therefore, they often resort to cheap boosts of self-esteem via technology and social media instead, rather than going to their friends for help. And the cycle tends to just go on and on.
“We’re taking these amazing group of young fantastic kids who are just dealt a bad hand through no fault of their own and we put them in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than they do about the kids. They care more about the short term gains than the long term life of this human being.”
And where does it leave them? These corporate environments aren’t helping them build their confidence, that aren’t helping them build the skills of cooperation, overcome the challenges of digital world and finding more balance, isn’t helping them overcome the needs of instant gratification and teaching them the joys and fulfilment you get from working hard on something for a long time.
They think it’s them who can’t deal. It’s the total lack of good leadership that is making them feel the way the way they do. It’s the company’s responsible responsibility, we now have to pick up the slack, we have to work extra hard to find ways to build the social skills they’ve missed out on.
So What Conclusions Can We Draw From This?
It appears that a lot of the negative labels and connotations towards millennials isn’t necessarily something brought about by themselves. As much as the older generations like to label millennials for this and that, many have a larger part to play then they’ll like to admit. The real question lies not in whose responsible but where do we go from here?
In truth, millennials do need to become more self-aware and take ownership and responsibility for themselves and not just blame their problems on external influences and circumstances. However, the corporations who hire them have an equal if not bigger part to play in all of this.
Sinek believes that it’s up to corporate environments to help them build their confidence, to teach them skills of cooperation and to overcome the challenges of a digital world and finding balance. When it comes to job satisfaction and fulfilment there isn’t enough focus on helping millennials overcome the needs of instant gratification and teaching them the joys and fulfilment you get from working hard on something for a long time. The first step is conveying this collective awareness to all generations. To not scrutinise, label or blame one generation for this and another generation for that. Only then can we work together to build a better world, a better environment and ultimately a richer and more fulfilling life and livelihood for all.
Christine has been working in the field of freelance for just over 7 years, specializing in copy-writing, social media and voice-overs.
Describing herself as a "social media bee 24/7", Christine has an undying passion for photography and music.