There’s a general rhetoric that’s been going around for a while now (and I’m sure it has done so for every generation preceding ours) and that is basically how shit Millenials are.
‘Young people these days have no respect’
‘They eat too much smashed avo on toast’
‘They go on too many trips to Europe’
A large portion of the current debate around this was sparked by an interview with Simon Sinek (Author, Motivational Speaker) on Inside Quest which went viral on Facebook a while ago – you can google ‘Simon Sinek’ and the video should come up first on YouTube. The interview centred around ‘the millennial question’ and why certain businesses are having trouble connecting with millennials in the workplace.
Basically, the gist of the interview went that failed parenting strategies have led to a generation of entitled, lazy, depressed young people that don’t really know what they want in life. This is a very general summary of the interview, just as Sinek’s summary of the millennial generation was very general and mainly based on anecdotal evidence rather than research. And there’s a reason I have summarised it this way.
Generalisations aside, Sinek’s main view was that some millennials are struggling in the workplace because they lack good leadership. After all, Sinek’s work including his books are focused on the importance of good leadership.
Yet the only thing many people seemed to have taken from this interview and the important message behind it, was the negative and not encompassing generalisations that were made about millennials.
Instead of looking at the video and thinking “Hmm, that sounds like a good summary of certain problems that certain young people may be facing individually in their careers”, many took it as “every Millennial embodies all of these traits without question”.
I am not saying that every person who watched this video interpreted it this way but it’s becoming more and more clear to me recently that many are, and my main problem with that (apart from the fact that people often try to box me into these categories), is that they are spreading this rhetoric purely for the sake of being cynical.
If you truly do believe that all or most Millennials embody these traits, then what are you doing about it, beyond vilifying them for something that apparently isn’t their fault?
I just started a mentorship program with my university, where alumni are connected with current students to help them navigate the workplace in the 21st century. I’m grateful to have several mentors in the workplace and in my personal life in a less formal sense.
My uni mentor asked me this week what I think the difference is between a mentor and a boss in the workplace.
I said that I think Mentors are the kind of people who approach colleagues and problems in their team with the same level of respect, no matter how small a problem is or how low an employee falls in the workplace hierarchy. They never speak down to their colleagues, they are open to new ideas, they care about the personal and professional development of their workers and they conduct themselves in a way that leaves a lasting impact on their mentees.
I crave connections with successful people who can guide me in all aspects of my life; from my career, health and finances to ‘how to make a mean lasagne’ and ‘how to live a happy life’. I dare say many Millennials will agree that they want the same thing.
Today I was reflecting on that question my mentor gave me and I realised that another thing my mentors all seem to have in common is that they never waste time waffling on about the apparent downfalls of our generation.
I think that’s likely because they’re too busy doing something about them.
Can you say the same?