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Is it your responsibility to save millennials from themselves?

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Is it your responsibility to save millennials from themselves?

This is a great video with Simon Sinek on millennials in the workplace.

It’s a complex issue so you really need to watch the whole thing (15 minutes) to get all the nuances but in summary:

Millennials (born after 1984) are often tarred as entitled, self-interested and tough to manage.
The is the result of four main factors: parenting, technology, impatience and environment.

1. Parenting
“Failed parenting strategies” include where millennials were told they could have anything they wanted just because they desired it; where they were given medals just for “participation”. But when they were thrust into the real world, they realised that life isn’t actually like that. They realised they’re not actually special, they get nothing for coming in last and they can’t have it just because they want it.

2. Technology
They are also growing up in a Facebook/Instagram world where they can put filters on things. We’re all good at showing that life is amazing even if you’re depressed.

Sinek says it’s a generation that’s growing up with lower self esteem than previous generations. He says this is “through no fault of their own, they were dealt a bad hand”.

Engagement in social media and cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine, which is why we go back to our phones to count the likes, etc. Dopamine is the same chemical that’s released when we smoke, drink and gamble (all activities that have age restrictions because of their addictive numbing nature).

When stressed, millennials often turn to social media and cell phones because they rely on it for validation – and because many become addicted. They have not been taught other coping mechanisms for dealing with stress.

3. Impatience
Millennials have grown up in an instant gratification world: same day delivery with online shopping, instant movie downloads, binge TV watching entire seasons.They even have instant gratification with dating. They have not needed to learn the social norms of courtship and dating compared to the previous generation. Now it’s just normal to “swipe right”!

They have instant gratification on everything EXCEPT job satisfaction and strength of relationships. Sinek says: “There just aren’t apps for that. And these are slow meandering processes.

”They want to “make an impact” in the work. But they have a mountain in front of them and all they see is the summit but they don’t realise there’s a mountain they actually need to climb – and it takes time. And it can be arduous and long and difficult – and if they don’t learn how to cope with that, they will fall off the mountain.

The worst case scenario: increased suicide rates, increased dropouts or leaves of absence from school due to depression etc.

The best case scenario: An entire generation growing up and going through life and never really finding joy in work and life. It will just be “fine” but never “great”.

4. Environment
The millennials are in corporate environments that are not helping them to build their confidence, or to learn the skills of cooperation, or to overcome the challenges of the digital world and find more balance. These environments are not helping them overcome the need for instant gratification and to find the joys and impact and fulfilment on working on something for a long time that can’t be done in a month or even a year.

Who is responsible?
Sinek believes it’s the responsibility of leaders in the workplace to nurture millennials. He says: “We have no choice. This is what we’ve got. And I wish that society and their parents did a better job but they didn’t. And we’re getting them in our companies and we have to pick up the slack. We need to work extra hard to figure out how to build their confidence. We need to work extra hard to teach them the social skills they are missing out on.”

If you manage millennials, is this what you’re experiencing?
And if you are a millennial, do you agree with Sinek?

Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is CEO of the Australian Writers’ Centre, one of the world’s leading centres for writing courses. She contributed to Fairfax for 13 years and has held senior editorial roles at ACP (now Bauer), Pacific Magazines and EMAP. She was editor of Business Chick’s Latte magazine for five years and regularly writes for corporate and consumer titles. Valerie began her career in chartered accounting at PwC before moving into public relations, journalism and then entrepreneurship. She is co-host of the podcast “So you want to be a writer”, recently listed as one of the top 30 podcasts for writers in the world, and “So you want to be a photographer”. Valerie is also a mentor with the Australian Businesswomen’s Network.