Personally, I’m not someone who likes to spend time criticizing millennials for their reputedly bad attitudes at work.
It’s not that I think that individual millennials don’t bear any responsibility for the traits they’ve come to be associated with, such as entitlement, narcissism, laziness, etc. It’s just that I don’t think they bear sole responsibility for them. Part of the responsibility inevitably lies with the context in which they have been raised.
In a recent video that has gone viral (it's been viewed over 50 million times since it was posted December 21), author and consultant Simon Sinek offers an interesting explanation of what’s wrong with this context. He does so in response to the perception that millennials are tough to manage in the workplace, and identifies 4 reasons why:
“The generation that we call the millennials, too many of them grew up subject to failed parenting strategies where… they were told that they were special, all the time, they were told that they could have anything they want in life, just ‘cause they want it. Some of them got into honors classes, not because they deserved it, but because their parents complained. And some of them got A’s not because they earned them, but because the teachers didn’t want to deal with the parents. Some kids got participation medals—they got a medal for coming in last…
So you take this group of people, and they graduate school, and they get a job, and they’re thrust into the real world, and in an instant they find out that they’re not special, their moms can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last, and by the way you can’t just have it ‘cause you want it. And in an instant their entire self-image is shattered. And so you have an entire generation that’s growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations.”
“We know that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine. That’s why when you get a text, it feels good… It’s why we count the likes, it’s why we go back ten times [to check the likes on Instagram]… Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink, and when we gamble…
Because we’re allowing unfettered access to these dopamine-producing devices and media, basically it’s becoming hard-wired, and what we’re seeing as they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships… because they never practiced the skill-set, and worse, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress.”
“They’ve grown up in a world of instant-gratification. You want to buy something, you go on Amazon, it arrives the next day. You want to watch a movie, log on to watch a movie—you don’t check movie times. You want to watch a TV show, binge…
You don’t have to learn the social coping mechanisms… Everything you want, instant gratification, EXCEPT job satisfaction and strength of relationships. They’re ain’t no app for that.
And so I keep meeting these wonderful, fantastic, idealistic, hard-working, smart kids that just graduated school, they’re in their entry-level job, and I sit down with them and I go “How’s it going?” And they go, “I think I’m going to quit.” And I’m like “Why?” They’re like, “I’m not making an impact.” I’m like, “You’ve been here 8 months”…
“We’re taking this amazing group of young, fantastic kids who were just dealt a bad hand, it’s 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 young human being... We are putting them in corporate environments that aren’t helping them build their confidence, that aren’t helping them learn the skills of cooperation, that aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and finding more balance, that isn’t helping them overcome the need to have 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 a year.
I hate to say it, but it’s the company’s responsibility. Sucks to be you, [but] we have no choice. This is what we got. I wish that society and their parents did a better job, but they didn’t. So we’re getting them in our companies, and we now have to pick up the slack. We have to work extra hard to figure out the ways that we build their confidence. We have to work extra hard to teach them the social skills that they’re missing out on.”
Dan is a former Senior Fellow at Intellectual Takeout. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (MN), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find his academic work at Academia.edu.