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Dear Millennials: It’s Not Your Fault

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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Rebecca Smith

Copywriter, Freelancer, Short Fiction

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Published on June 30, 2020

What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good)

What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good)

Many conversations are being held nowadays regarding unconscious bias, but what does it really mean and how can it affect your life and the people around you? With many types of biases, it can get quite confusing. In this article, we’ll touch on cognitive bias, and then zero in on unconscious bias. Both types of biases have an immediate impact on your life because they relate to how you and others think about yourself and other people.

If you want to protect your relationships and make good decisions about other people, you need to know what these biases mean[1]. Once we have clarity about that, we can explore in more depth unconscious bias and how to address it[2].

Cognitive Bias

Let’s start with cognitive bias[3], a predictable pattern of mental errors that result in us misperceiving reality and, as a result, deviating away from the most likely way of reaching our goals[4].

These mental blind spots impact all areas of our life, from health to relationships and even shopping, as a study recently revealed[5]. In other words, from the perspective of what is best for us as individuals, falling for a cognitive bias always harms us by lowering our probability of getting what we want.

Cognitive biases have to do with judgment, not mood. Ironically, cognitive biases — such as the optimism bias and overconfidence effect — more often lead to positive moods. Of course, the consequence of falling into cognitive biases, once discovered, usually leaves us in a bad mood due to the disastrous results of these dangerous judgment errors.

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Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is different from cognitive bias. Also known as implicit bias, it refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, and so on[6]. Despite cognitive biases sometimes leading to discriminatory thinking and feeling patterns, these are two separate and distinct concepts.

Cognitive biases are common across humankind and relate to the particular wiring of our brains, while unconscious bias relates to perceptions between different groups and are specific for the society in which we live. For example, I bet you don’t care or even think about whether someone is a noble or a commoner, yet that distinction was fundamentally important a few centuries ago across Europe. To take another example, most people in the US don’t have strong feelings about Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims, yet this distinction is incredibly meaningful in many parts of the world.

Unconscious Bias and Discriminatory Behavior

Organizations often bring me in as a speaker on diversity and inclusion to address potential unconscious discriminatory behavior. When I share in speeches that black Americans suffer from police harassment and violence at a much higher rate than white people, some participants (usually white) occasionally try to defend the police by claiming that black people are more violent and likely to break the law than whites. They thus attribute police harassment to the internal characteristics of black people (implying that it is deserved), and not to the external context of police behavior.

In reality – as I point out in my response to these folks – research shows that black people are harassed and harmed by police at a much higher rate for the same kind of activity. A white person walking by a cop, for example, is statistically much less likely to be stopped and frisked than a black one[7].

At the other end of things, a white person resisting arrest is much less likely to be violently beaten than a black one. In other words, statistics show that the higher rate of harassment and violence against black Americans by police is due to the prejudice of the police officers, at least to a large extent[8].

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However, I am careful to clarify that this discrimination is not necessarily intentional. Sometimes, it indeed is deliberate, with white police officers consciously believing that black Americans deserve much more scrutiny than whites. At other times, the discriminatory behavior results from unconscious, implicit thought processes that the police officer would not consciously endorse[9].

After becoming aware that unconscious bias does exist, the next step would be learning how to recognize it in order to reduce it. I’ve outlined three crucial points to keep in mind below while further exploring the unconscious prejudice discussed above.

How to Reduce Unconscious Bias

Remember these three important points if you want to work on reducing your unconscious bias.

1. Unconscious Bias is a Systemic Issue

When we understand that unconscious bias is ultimately a systemic issue, we understand that internal cultures need to be checked and addressed first.

Interestingly, research shows that many black police officers have an unconscious prejudice against other black people, perceiving them in a more negative light than white people when evaluating potential suspects. This unconscious bias carried by many — not all — black police officers helps show that such prejudices come – at least to a significant extent – from internal cultures within police departments, rather than pre-existing racist attitudes present before someone joins a police department.

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Such cultures are perpetuated by internal norms, policies, and training procedures, and any police department wishing to address unconscious bias needs to address internal culture first and foremost, rather than attributing racism to individual officers.

In other words, instead of saying it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones, the key is recognizing that unconscious bias is a systemic issue, and the structure and joints of the barrel needs to be fixed[10].

2. There Is No Shame in Unconscious Bias

Another crucial thing that needs to be highlighted is that there is no shame or blame in unconscious bias as it’s not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences, helping them hear and accept the issue.

Unconscious bias is prevalent and often doesn’t match our conscious values. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs and prejudices stemming from our tendency to categorize people into social groups. This developed naturally as a way for our ancestors to quickly size up a possible threat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well in modern life.

3. It Takes a Sustained Effort to Prevent and Protect Against Unconscious Bias

After being presented with additional statistics and discussion of unconscious bias, the issue is generally settled. Still, from their subsequent behavior it’s clear that some of these audience members don’t immediately internalize this evidence. It’s much more comforting for their gut reactions to believe that police officers are right and anyone targeted by police deserves it; in turn, they are highly reluctant to accept the need to focus more efforts and energy on protecting black Americans from police violence due to the structural challenges facing these groups.

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The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions, so they reject this concept, despite extensive and strong evidence for its pervasive role in policing. It takes a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is almost never sufficient, both in my experience and according to research[11].

Conclusion

The examples and points raised illustrate broader patterns you need to follow to recognize unconscious bias. Only by doing so will you be able to determine if, and what type of, intervention is needed to address it.

Unfortunately, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices when we simply follow our intuitions. Unconscious biases are systemic and need to be addressed in order to make the best decisions[12].

We need to learn about the kind of problems that result from unconscious bias. Then, you need to develop the right mental habits to help you make the best choices[13]. A one-time training is insufficient for doing so. It takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline and efforts to overcome unconscious bias, so get started now.

More Tips on Overcoming Unconscious Bias

Featured photo credit: M.T ElGassier via unsplash.com

Reference

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