09 Feb Have Parents & Society Failed Millennials?
I don’t shy away from tough topics. I think they are important to discuss. Most of us need to work to make money to survive, but many millennials are overeducated, in-debt, and underemployed. This is making a lot of us incredibly unhappy and the effects have been detrimental.
Why are so many millennials unhappy at work, having a hard time finding joy, and generally feeling like we’ve underachieved? Simon Sinek believes our parents and society are to blame for the millennial discontent.
He was recently interviewed on the topic. It’s raw. I had to watch it two times. Seriously you need to see this and let me know what you think. It’s definitely worth watching.
He believes our expectations were set way too high by our parents, and that social media aka “the millennial drug” is causing us to disconnect and making it harder for us to find meaning in our lives. As a generation, he believes we are looking for immediate gratification and success, and are less willing to invest the time required to find meaning and actually achieve success.
We as humans find meaning through connecting with people, working hard, and adding value.
I think Simon hits on some truths, but like any commentary on millennials, it’s so hard to generalize across such a vast group of people. There is not one millennial. I know tons of millennials who are becoming entrepreneurs, who love where they work, and who are incredibly inspired taking control of their futures.
But, I think they are the exception. Not everyone can afford to become an entrepreneur or chase their dreams. It’s really a privilege. Most millennials are stuck in jobs they don’t like and struggling to escape living paycheck to paycheck.
Have our parents and society (technology) failed us?
This is where I think Simon got it wrong. Sure our parents gave everyone a trophy and told us we could be anything we wanted, but in many ways, this is what has inspired us to be entrepreneurial. And the technology that Simon Sinek believes is destroying us, has actually significantly lowered the barrier to launching an online business and made side hustling more profitable.
Sure, if you sit on your phone all the time and disconnect with the world you aren’t going to be happy. It’s been shown in study after study that
Sure, if you sit on your phone all the time and disconnect with the world you aren’t going to be happy. It’s been shown in study after study that too much Facebook and social media use make you depressed and that it’s addicting, but it just requires the willpower to disconnect and find meaning.
Yes, it’s hard, but turn your phone off, go outside, take a walk, have a conversation with a stranger. I’ve taken to leaving my phone at home sometimes – I panicked at first, but I’ve gotten used to turning it off or leaving it at home when I’m running errands. Just try it.
Let’s not use technology or our parents, who in many cases gave us better opportunities than they had, as an excuse to not work hard and push after our dreams. Try. Fail. Grow.
Millennials in the Workplace
But I generally agree with his assessment on millennials in the workplace. As a former employee and current business owner, I have both worked with and personally employed many millennials. Of course, I’m also a millennial. I’ve learned a ton.
I think there are some simple guidelines that can make the workplace more millennial-friendly and allow us to be happier and more successful employees. So if you are an employee look for companies that have this and if you are an employer work harder to create an environment where younger employees are encouraged, supported, inspired, and valued. It’s actually pretty simple:
Here’s how I think millennials can be better supported in the workplace and what you should look for when searching for company. These will make us all happier. And hopefully, contribute both healthier employees and a bottom line.
5 Guidelines for Managing Millennials
1. Create an entrepreneurial environment. As a generation, we are incredibly entrepreneurial and like to take charge of projects. Employers need to leverage this. Put on us tough projects, let us figure it out. If you are looking for a job, look for more entrepreneurial companies that are growing or looking to innovate. When interviewing ask companies about how they view innovation. Ask how you specifically will be managed.
2. Give real-time constant iterative feedback. The year-end performance review, while a formality, is not enough. As millennials, we want and need feedback. It helps us grow. We feel valued with consistent feedback. It signals someone is paying attention.
3. Be honest and transparent. We can see through the bullshit and the fluff. Just be straight with us. Tell us how we are doing, how the company is doing, and what the plans are. The more we feel included the happier we are going to be. We don’t like being played. So be straight.
4. Pay fairly and award achievement. While I am overly generalizing here, I’m betting that a lot of millennials are being exploited and are underpaid. If a company wants to keep any employee happy they need to pay fairly. As an employee, you should demand it. Only you can advocate for yourself. If you are an employee you definitely should read my how to get a raise post. Since writing that post, over 20 readers have emailed me saying that the process worked and they got a raise. As employers awarding achievement is also important – even in impromptu scenarios.
5. Commit to work/life balance. While we all work hard, we all need balance. Companies should try to build cultures where balance is valued and even celebrated. Employees will be happier and the company more successful. A lof of millennials just work all the time and are encouraged to work all the time. Burnout doesn’t help anyone. In Silicon Valley, there is a trend of offering unlimited vacation, but culturally most of those workplaces are so demanding that many employees don’t use this benefit and some actually fear guilty taking vacations. Yes, vacation guilt is a real thing and the reason so many employees don’t use their vacation days. Don’t be one of them.
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