What do Millennials Really Think about Being “Hard to Manage?”
By 2025, millennials (generally categorized as someone who was born between 1980 – 1999) will make up 75% of the world’s working population. They are considered one of the most educated and technologically advanced generations of our time, and their numbers have surpassed those of the baby boomers. Yet, their attitudes and behaviors appear to be uniquely different from those of earlier generations, creating many unprecedented management challenges.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last and Together Is Better, is well known for his visionary thinking and intellect when it comes to inspiring others. He is also a thought leader regarding millennials and has spurred a lot of discussion based on his interview, “Millennials in the Workplace”. Sinek explains that millennials are the way they are because of four factors – Parenting, Technology, Impatience and Environment.
Emily Perry, Accelerate ActionCOACH’s marketing administrator and resident millennial, has a different take on his understanding. While she believes his statements are valid for a portion of the millennial demographic, she argues that his broad generalization does not take into account those who have worked hard to combat the “negative side effects” of the factors Sinek has identified. Read below as she addresses his key ideas and shares her own insights.
Sinek states that too many millennials grew up subject to failed parenting strategies. They grew up constantly being told they were special, and that they can have anything they want in life just because they want it. Some millennial parents were instrumental in getting their kids in honors classes and or receiving top-performing grades in school – not because of the millennial’s own merit, but because of the parent’s influence.
Because of how they were raised, the working world is often a harsh reality for millennials. This reality can shatter their entire self-image and has led to an entire generation that has lower self-esteem than previous generations.
For Perry, she argues this isn’t always the case: For every parent who influences their kid’s way into an honors class, there’s a parent who is teaching their kid the hard lesson of what it feels like to fail a class. For every parent who bought their kid a smartphone as a pre-teen, there is a parent who wouldn’t allow their child to use social media until they graduated high school. While I do believe there are cases of this within my generation, Sinek’s generalization of the upbringing of millennials fails to address the percentage of parents who also observed these “failed parenting strategies” of others and adjusted how they raised their kids.
Sinek’s second point was that Millennials have grown up in an age of technology and social media, and they have developed a dependence to it, especially in cases of stress. It’s been proven that receiving a “like” on social media or a text message from a friend gives off the addictive, numbing neurotransmitter, Dopamine, which is also given off when people gamble, smoke or drink alcohol. This neuro-chemical can cause an addiction, which Sinek claims is the case for millennials. Sinek states that many millennials haven’t developed the coping mechanism to deal with stress and turn to social media, instead of a person, for temporary relief.
Perry: While millennials grew up as technology was evolving, I would argue that a large majority of millennials didn’t actually grow up USING the technology as much as Sinek makes it seem. Personally, my parents were terrified of social media, so I was banned from using it for most of high school. That’s not to say that millennials aren’t currently addicted to it and feel gratification when they receive a Facebook like or a text message.
This idea is more relevant to Generation Z, who are currently growing up fully embracing cell phones and the Internet. Today it’s not uncommon for 7-year-olds to have access to smart phones to play games, use their parents’ social media accounts, and have text message capabilities. Many millennials are starting to notice their dependence on social media and there is a large movement to delete their accounts and focus on growing their relationships outside the web.
Sinek stated that millennials also grew up in a world of instant gratification. In the age of Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime, millennials don’t have to wait for much. He argues that this has lead millennials to be an impatient generation. He believes the need for instant gratification also translates to the workforce. Millennials expect to feel fulfilled in their careers – even when their career has just begun. Many boomers view this mindset as entitlement, however, millennials just haven’t had to climb many mountains in their lives to get them where they want to be.
Perry: Millennials do expect fulfillment out of their careers, and they often come into the workforce with unreasonable expectations of just how much hard work is put in to get them where they want to be. However, I’m curious if this is the case with every generation? Are these unrealistic expectations set due to our expectation of instant gratification, or is it because we were always taught that if we go to college, get a degree, and work a few summer internships in between, we can get any job or any career we want?
After I graduated school, I felt as though I had already put in the “hard work” needed to secure a position in my ideal job, simply because that’s what I was always told throughout my high school and college career. This entitlement mindset may be a product of a “failed parenting strategies” that Sinek mentioned earlier, reinforced by both parents, school teachers and peers. Entering the workforce, millennials are often hit with the reality that there are a lot of other candidates and coworkers with the same credentials as them, and there may even be less qualified people working above them.
It’s also important to note that while millennials may not expect to move up the corporate ladder in the span of a year, they are impatient to move up from their entry-level position and will likely expect a promotion or pay raise after working a year or two in their entry-level role. Creating a promotional plan or bonus structure is a great way to motivate and retain them.
Lastly, Sinek claims that the current corporate environment is not conducive to millennials’ success. Millennials are thrust into corporate environments that care more about short-term gains than their employees, which do not take Sinek’s previous points into consideration.
Today’s corporate environments do not help to build a millennial’s confidence and self-esteem, nor are they helping them learn skills of cooperation. They aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and find more of a real-world balance. They aren’t helping them overcome the need for instant gratification and teach them the joys and impact and the fulfillment you get from working hard on something for a long time that cannot be done in a month or even in a year. Sinek states that It’s the company’s responsibility to pick up the slack and work to find ways to accommodate for millennial’s needs.
Perry: I agree that the traditional corporate environment is not very welcoming to millennials. However, I believe there are easy ways to change this stereotype. Many corporations that currently attract millennials have a strong focus on workplace culture, embracing the “work hard, play hard” mindset that many millennials bring to the table. Many managers also strive to understand the expectations and career goals a millennial has for him/herself, and look for ways to help them reach their goals through a promotional and compensation plan.
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