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.

Many millennials aren’t saving for retirement and suicide rates are at an all-time high.

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.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Managing technology, like managing money, is all about balance.” user=”millennialmoney” hashtags=”balance”]

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:

[easy-tweet tweet=”Millennials want to add value and feel valued” user=”millennialmoney” hashtags=”#millennials”]

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.

parents society failed millennials

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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  • Comment Author image blank
    Financial Samurai
    Grant, I'm thinking Millennial parents have actually given Millennials the best gift of all: being richer than any generation in history! When the parents pass, Millennials will inherit $30+ trillion. Why work if you are already set for life? Maybe that hurts motivation. Sam
    • Comment Author image blank
      Grant @MillennialMoney
      Thanks Sam. I agree that it has to hurt motivation if Millennials are expecting an inheritance. Another form of entitlement unfortunately. I personal know a few people whose parents have done very well and none of them are hitting it very hard. But with life expectancies as high as they are, many Millennials won't inherit anything until they are in their fifties or sixties.
  • Comment Author image blank
    The people so focused on "impact" obviously aren't spending most of their money on bills. Completely unable to save, no prospect of being able to own anything. The millennials that are able to finish college and get a corporate job might have low self esteem and be social media addicts.... But plenty of 20 somethings can't even afford a used car on Craigslist and aren't progressing past renting a room. Jobs these days give $0.13 per year raises to "millenials" who in turn dedicate 3-5 years of their life 1-2 hour a week less than legally required to give benefits. I do agree about his cell phone addiction theory. I personally have not owned a cell phone in nearly 2 years, and you truly don't even need one.
    • Comment Author image blank
      Grant @MillennialMoney
      Thanks for your comment Bailey. I agree there's a huge segment of the population that are underemployed. This is why I think it's so important for all of us to try and diversify our skill sets to add as much value as possible. For example, I have a bunch of friends who work in coffee shops making $11-$13/hour, which kinda works for paying your bills but has no long term prospect. I encourage them and others to learn in-demand skills like coding, copywriting, or anything where they can start making money on the side and build their skill set. Then they can use those skills to find higher paying jobs. If you don't develop those skills then it's tougher to get out of those low paying jobs.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Primal Prosperity
    I'm not a millennial, I'm a gen-x-er. I used to be a mobile work program coordinator, and it is funny, because many gen-x managers still think that seeing someone in a cubicle means that they are working. However, that is not always the case, and most people are more productive if given more freedom on how, when and where they do their work. I like to tell managers "Don't confuse activity with accomplishment." I would use the millennial generation of a good example of being innately capable of mobile work and maximizing flex hours. I also reminded them that the millennials are taking over the workforce because of their population numbers and that managers must learn to manage this generation in a new way if they want to recruit and retain the best talent. So, for me, I'm glad the millennials are changing the way we work!
    • Comment Author image blank
      Grant @MillennialMoney
      Thanks Primal Prosperity. I agree there are some great new models emerging.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Very interesting read! Over the next 10 years, do you feel technology will create more jobs than it destroys/replaces (insert your word of choice)? Personally, I worry about a potential future where fewer jobs are needed, as I view technology as a job destroyer. I'm not against technology, but at this point, it's become an unstoppable force.
    • Comment Author image blank
      Grant @MillennialMoney
      Totally. I think we should all fear automation. There will always need to be a human element - but that will be building, coding, and managing the automation heavy technology. Especially where machines make humans more effective - digital marketing is one of those areas. Algorithms just keep getting better, but the automation software can't make "intuitive" decisions that are so important in digital marketing.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Mrs. Picky Pincher
    I always find it funny that people are trying to "figure out" us Millennials. At the end of the day I believe anybody can overcome their circumstances and upbringing. So yeah, I do agree that my parents put a lot of high expectations on me growing up , but I guess I have to get over that and move on. And about social media: just because it's digital and less connected than real life doesn't mean it's an anti-social behavior. In fact, social media mocks real-world interactions but in a real-time, and sometimes overwhelming volume.
    • Comment Author image blank
      Grant @MillennialMoney
      I totally agree. Hard work, persistence, and smart effort goes a long way. Excuses don't do anyone any good. Most of us have the ability to build the life we want it just requires creativity. And with social media, if used strategically it can form connections with new like-minded people. Hence all the love in the personal finance blogging community. Thanks Mrs. Picky Pincher!
  • Comment Author image blank
    Lindsay @ Notorious D.E.B.T.
    I've been thinking about this for a long time. Growing up, I had a disabled sibling and so I was constantly reminded how I was NOT the "special" one. I was largely left to my own devices, and so I learned to work hard for the things I wanted. I made it to the National Spelling Bee as an 8th grader because I spent about six months obsessively copying down and memorizing words from the dictionary. What's frustrated me is that even when I put in the hard work, win prestigious awards (not just ones where participation medals are handed out), and am persistent, nothing happens. I'm sure social media has a role in these things, but most of my friends are in my same situation or worse. It's not like I'm the odd one out. Where the comparison game really comes into play is with my parents and in-laws. My mom never finished a single college degree, while I have two. When she was my age, she was far advanced beyond where I'm at. She just doesn't understand how I'm not progressing, and my in-laws are even worse: I get the vibe from them that there's just something wrong with us. To me, the intergenerational comparison is far more frustrating than the intragenerational comparison.
    • Comment Author image blank
      Grant @MillennialMoney
      Wow Lindsay. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I agree it's really hard for our parents to understand how difficult it is today. A lot has changed - there just aren't the same type of opportunities I think. The older I get the more I realize that it's not just hard work, luck and timing play huge roles too. A lot of opportunities are simply being in the right place at the right time. The key for me has been to always have a lot of "irons in the fire" to have more chances of one of them working out. I've also found networking to be so essential since opportunities come directly from people, so the more you know the more opportunities tend to arise. One piece of advice my mother gave me over the years is that a lot of people are smart, and a lot of people work hard, but when you focus on trying to always add as much value as you can (to people, companies, projects, friend etc.) that is what gets people to naturally reciprocate. This was huge for me - I just started trying to help as many people as I could and over time they have repaid me through connections and business opportunities at least 10x. I think a lot of people try to do as little as possible for what they are paid or wait to be paid to do something. These are missed opportunities and there is so much value anyone can create in the world. It's just about deciding to give back. The value you create then compounds over time and the world starts paying you back. I've found that to have the biggest impact on my life. Thanks for sharing.