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Dear Millennials: It’s Not Your Fault

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Dear Millennials: It’s Not Your Fault

If, like me, you are of the generation born after 1984 dubbed “Millennials” or “Gen Y”, I owe you my sincerest apologies.

You belong to an imposed demographic accused of being tough to manage, narcissistic, entitled, self-interested, unfocused, and lazy – aka, every young person ever in the history of mankind. So it’ll pass. Your bad rap won’t follow you into retirement – if you make it there.

You confound leadership. When asked what you want, you reply, “Make an impact, work in a place with purpose, free food, and bean bags.” Yet for some reason you’re still not happy.

There’s a missing piece.

“Entitled is the big one,” motivational speaker and author Simon Sinek says in his recent Inside Quest interview on Millennials in the workplace.[1] A speaker for modern leadership, he goes on to explain why new Millennials confound old methods and what can be done about it.

Sinek breaks the blame down into four categories:

  1. Parenting,
  2. Technology
  3. Impatience
  4. Environment

1. Parenting

Helicopter moms, participation awards – the generation that could do no wrong and were told they could grow up to be absolutely anything are then confronted with a whole lot of real world nothing. Enter apathy.

Millennials grew up subject to failed parenting strategies and are a generation of kids told that they were special, and given the constant messaging that they can have anything they want in life – just because they want it.

It was a strange time to grow up in where higher grades were often awarded because parents complained, and everyone received all-inclusive participation medals just for being there. Medals that scientific studies have since proven to devalue the reward itself and makes the person who comes in last embarrassed and feel worse. So, that backfired.

Consider the upbringing mentioned above and then being thrust into the working world, a harsh place where surprisingly, despite what the past formative years would have you believe, you get nothing for coming in last, and can’t have something just because you want it.

In his illuminating discussion on this topic, Simon Sinek dubs Millennials as “an entire generation that is growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations. Through no fault of their own. They were just dealt a bad hand.”

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2. Tech Addicts

You don’t have to shoulder all the blame for your perceived narcissism. Mark Zuckerberg can share some.

Your parents didn’t grow up on Facebook. Imagine a time before social media where dinosaurs roamed and couldn’t troll on one another to learn intimate, albeit mostly false, details about each other online.

Back in the day, people couldn’t slide into your DM’s and had to develop and learn how to pick up on actual real-time social cues – something babies miss out on now while staring at tablets in restaurants, deaf and dumb to the conversations around them. But we’ll get to how this affects our interactions later… *cue avoidance expert deflection*

The generation growing up with these social media tools are well-versed experts in putting filters on things, giving others a very limited and inaccurate scope of how their life is really going.

We create a Stepford Wives version of our lives to make ourselves feel better about it, and when we get praise for these constructed identities, the validation falls flat because it isn’t for anything we really did.

This is a generalization – there is a gold mine of comedy and art and design to follow out there – but I’m guessing your feed features more than that. It’s easier to look at the success of others and portray your own contrived image of being great than actually working at being great. And that falls into the next damaging factor to Millennials: the patience shortage.

So with the filtering for likes and creating false summaries of our lives without the balanced honesty of the bad, depression spikes. Everyone appears to be living their best #blessed life ever while being #depressed behind the scenes. Despite the majority of messaging on social media, most people don’t have it figured out.

Double Tap to Get High

Science has proven that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine. In a validating game of pitch and catch, it feels good when you send and receive a text. Nothing gives you more of a sense of accomplishment than topping 11 likes. You’ve done it. We obsess over our social online identities and deal with the trauma of being suddenly unfriended.

Dopamine makes us feel good when we smoke, drink, and gamble – in short, it’s highly addictive. There are age restrictions on the aforementioned bad habits, but not on social media and cell phones, which Sinek argues in his talk is the equivalent of opening up the liquor cabinet. It allows access to addictive numbing, as young people are going through the high stress of adolescence.

Simon goes on to explain that almost every alcoholic discovers drinking in their adolescence. When we are very young, the only approval we need is from our parents and as we go through adolescence, we make a transition to now needing the approval of our peers.

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Some discover the numbing effects of dopamine to help them cope with the stresses and anxieties of this difficult phase. Unfortunately, that becomes hardwired into their brains and for the rest of their lives when they suffer social, financial, career, and general stress.

As they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to form deep meaningful relationships. Young people admit many of their friendships are superficial. They admit that they don’t count or rely on their friends. They have fun, but know they will cancel on them if something better comes along.

Deep meaningful relationships aren’t there because they never practiced the skillset to obtain them and, worse, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So when stress shows up, they are not turning to a person they are turning to a device to social media, which offers a temporary relief.

Studies show that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher amounts of depression. These things are not the enemies, in a balanced life, they are fine – just like moderate alcohol consumption is okay. Too much of anything – gambling, etc. – is dangerous. While there is nothing wrong with social media and cell phones, it’s the imbalance that’s the problem.

How do you know it’s a problem? You’re sending subconscious messages that the people in the room with you aren’t important by picking up and looking at your phone at dinner, looking at your phone first thing upon waking up before saying “good morning” to your spouse or housemates, treating your devices or social media like a reflex behavior when bored – those are all red flags.

Like all addictions, these things destroy relationships and cost time and money, and generally despite the immediate reprieve, make your life worse.

All of this results in a new generation growing up with lower self-esteem that doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to appropriately deal with stress or the skills to establish and maintain deep, fulfilling relationships in real life.

3. Immediacy

Enter impatience.

Oh attention span. How long is this article? I don’t have time for this.

How many times do you tap the screen on your device to see how many minutes are left in the Netflix series you’re binging on, or the YouTube video you’re watching with another eye on another device. Seven minutes?! Ugh.

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Anything long gets a bit lost in the immediacy of the movement happening now. As explained in the last point, we want those hits of dopamine fast and back to back to back, times infinity.

It would appear now that our time is hyper-valuable and if we can’t glean the value of something within a few minutes – seconds preferably – then we’re out to find a faster source. In all this jumping from one thing to the next, do we really retain anything aside from a quickly fizzling high?

Strung out, we search for the next thing endlessly and again in times of stress, instead of reaching out to others, we turn to the escapism of Netflix. Netflix won’t let you down, bud. I get it. Binge away. I’m just as guilty.

So Simon Sinek points that we live in a time now where we can buy something on Amazon and it arrives the next day (hopefully soon by Drone, which is exciting/dooms day-ish?), watch a movie, watch a TV show – binge don’t wait week to week. Instant gratification.

Dating in an online world without all the uncomfortable fumbles and learning curves – just swipe right and you’re a stud. No learning of social coping mechanisms. Everything you want, you can have instantaneously. All you really know is instant gratification.

So it becomes a world where everything is available to you immediately.

Except for two things – job satisfaction and the strength of relationship.

Simon explains the sad news that there is (or not yet at least) no app for that. That both things require slow, meandering, uncomfortable processes.

Instant Impact Issue

Simon Sinek goes on to praise the Millennials he’s had the opportunity to work with and discuss things with as “wonderful, fantastic idealists who are hardworking and smart, but get disillusioned because they aren’t making an impact.”

It’s not that they aren’t, it’s just that the results aren’t in yet because we look for immediate results and give up if we don’t get them.

Sinek says the young people who were bemoaning the lack of impact had been at their jobs for an average of eight months and that this generation has a very abstract concept called impact and needs to learn patience.

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He goes on to say that some of the things that really really matter like love, or job fulfillment, joy, love of life, self-confidence, a skill set – all of these things take time. There are of course some shortcuts but – spoiler alert – the overall journey is arduous, long, and difficult. So patience, young grasshopper.

4. Environment

Sinek wraps up his talk urging leaders to innovate the workplace environment to better suit this new generation.

He describes young fantastic kids dealt a bad hand are put in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than the kids, a system that cares more about short-term gains than long-term life. They are corporate environments that aren’t helping them build confidence or develop skills of cooperation, and fall short in helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and finding more balance.

It isn’t offering any guidance in overcoming the need to have instant gratification and teach them the joys and impact and fulfillment you get from working hard on something for a long time, that cannot be done in a month or even a year.

We are thrusting them into these ill-suited corporate environments and the worst part is they think it’s their fault. They blame themselves. They think it’s them who can’t deal and it makes it all worse.

Simon defends Millennials, saying it’s not them, it’s the corporations, and corporate environments and total lack of leadership in our world today making them feel the way they do.

It falls to leaders in the corporate world to discover new ways to engage and encourage this generation of workers, to find innovative ways to build up confidence and teach social skills they are missing out on, and to help form trust in working relationships.

T-Swift Summation: Haters Gonna Hate x3

Don’t let the shade thrown on the time you happened to be born in get you down and don’t adopt or internalize the discrimination geared toward this generation.

In a few decades, you’ll be flinging the same cow patties at Gen Z or the iGeneration. You’ll be waxing philosophical know-how on how you lived in a simpler time when the Internet was only available externally – before the singularity.

The point is, Millennials aren’t a particular breed of impossible new species – they are simply a product of the factors listed above, growing up in an ever-evolving technological world.

#thereshopeforusyet

Featured photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/bearded_earthling-2972455/ via pixabay.com

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Reference

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Rebecca Smith

Copywriter, Freelancer, Short Fiction

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