If you want to make someone bristle, pick anyone in their early 30s or younger and call them a Millennial. We Boomers don’t seem to have a big issue with our label, and I haven’t heard many Gen Xers complain, but there’s a widespread and deep frustration shared by Millennial employees when all 75 Million of them are lumped into one generic category.
A recent video of Simon Sinek has many of them understandably riled. In his talk on Millennials in the workplace, he seeks to answer what he calls the Millennial Question.
The reason Simon Sinek really struck a nerve is that his generalization is so negative. He doesn’t hold back in his portrayal of Millennial employees as the unfortunate result of poor parenting, social media, impatience and environment. He refers to their reputation for feeling entitled to things they haven’t worked for. (Nota bene: Entitlement is one of those words that is pretty much guaranteed to make Millennials flinch and/or grind their teeth.)
He does say it isn’t Millennials fault. If you keep watching past the part where he lists everything that’s wrong with Millennials, he makes some great points about organizational and behavioral changes that could benefit all of us, not just Millennials. But he’s certainly not making a case for Millennials being the best thing ever to happen to the workplace.
In the Huffington Post, Jared Buckley makes an argument for why Simon Sinek is wrong. Buckley resists the notion that one can generalize about an entire generation. He also suggests that the Millennial Question can best be answered by asking more specific questions that relate to your desired outcome. Do you want to attract more Millennials to your company? Do you want to help them develop their careers faster? Are you trying to understand how they like to work?
In some sense, answering the Millennial Question is a moot point. From technology to manufacturing to the service industry, they’re carrying a tremendous share of our collective workload. They’re filling the ranks of middle management. They’re starting their own companies in record numbers. One can’t dismiss the entire generation as a bunch of entry-level workers with no experience to offer.
Perhaps the issues Sinek cites are less about a generation and more about a life stage. Complaining about the follies of youth is not a new thing. When the Boomers were coming of age, their elders complained about “kids these days.” Even the ancient Greeks griped about the young ones. Socrates wrote, “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect their elders, and love talking instead of exercise.”
Millennials are steadily aging out of one life stage and into another. Maybe it’s time to start complaining about the next generation.
Interested in better communication with the Millennials in your company? Tribe can help.