Millennials is a generation of people who were born approximately from 1984-1995 onwards, are tough to manage and accused of being entitled and narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused, lazy etc. The twisted generation. And because they confront leadership so much, the leaders are asking the millennials what do you want?
The millennials say, we want to work in a place with purpose, make an impact, free food and bean bags.
So somebody articulates some sort of purpose, there is lots of free food and there’s some bean bags but for some reasons they are still not happy. And this is because there is a missing piece. We can break them into four: Parenting, Technology, Impatience and Environment.
Many of the youth belonging to the generation that we call the millennials grew up subject to failed parenting strategies. They were told that they were special. They were told they can have anything they want in life just because they want it. Some of them got into honors classes not because they deserved it but because their parents complained. Some of them got A’s not because they earned them, but because the teachers didn’t want to deal with their parents. Some got participation medals/awards or certificates. A medal for coming in last. As science of behavior tells us clearly, such practices devalues the medal or reward for those who genuinely work hard and makes the person who comes in last feel embarrassed because they know they did not deserve it, hence achieving the opposite of the intended purpose.
When this group of youth pass through graduate school and get a job, they’re thrust into the real world. Instantly, they find out they are not as special as they thought. Mum cannot get them a promotion. One gets nothing for coming in last and one can’t just have it because one wants it. Suddenly, their entire self-image is shuttered. Thus, you have an entire generation that is growing up with low self-esteem than previous generations.
The other problem to compound it is, growing up in a Facebook, Instagram, tinder world. In other words, we are good at putting filters in everything. We are good at showing people that life is amazing even though we are depressed. So everyone sounds tough and seem to have it all figured out. But the reality is there’s very little toughness and most people don’t have it figured out. So when the senior people ask what we do, we answer impeccably yet have no clue that we are even breathing.
Add in technology to this state. We know that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine. That is why when you get a text, you feel good. We’ve all had it. When you’re feeling a little bit down or lonely, you send out ten texts to ten friends Hi… Hi…Hi…Hi… because it feels good when you get a response. It is the reason we count the likes, we go back twenty times to check our posts, get frustrated because our following is growing slower, wonder whether we did something wrong, whether we’re liked anymore, the trauma to be unfriended, unfollowed etc. Because when one gets such attention, one gets dopamine which feels good.
Dopamine is the exact chemical that makes one feel good when one smokes, drink, gamble or gets an orgasm. It is highly addictive, I don’t need to know you to tell that you have been, or still are, a victim. We have age restriction for smoking, gambling and consuming adult content, but have no age restrictions on social media and cell phones. This is the equivalent of opening up a liquor cabinet and a strip club and telling our teenagers, “If this adolescent thing gets you down, indulge!’
Exactly what is happening. We have an entire generation that has access to an addictive, numbing chemical called dopamine through social media, cell phone etc. as they are going through the high stress of adolescents. Why is this important? Almost every alcoholic discovered alcohol when they were teenagers. Almost every sex-addict discovered sex in their teenage. The same goes for many other addictions that plague almost everyone in life.
When we are very young, the only approval we need is that of our parents. As we go through adolescents, we make this transition when we now need this approval of our peers. This is frustrating to our parents, but very important to us. It allows us to acculturate outside our immediate families into the broader tribe of humanity. It is a highly stressful and anxious period of our lives when we are supposed to learn to rely on our friends.
By accident, some people discover drugs and numbing effects of dopamine to help them cope with the stresses and anxiety of adolescents. Unfortunately, that becomes hard wired in their brains. For the rest of their lives, whenever they encounter significant stress, they will not turn to a person, they will turn to that which numbs them and gives them dopamine. Social stress, financial stress, career stress…pretty much the primary reasons an alcoholic drinks.
Since we are allowing unfettered access to these dopamine producing devices and media, basically it is becoming hard wired into one’s system. As one grows older, one doesn’t learn how to form deep meaningful relationships. Many will admit that most of their friendships are superficial. They will be admit that they cannot count on their friends, cannot rely on their friends but they have fun with them. They also know that their friends will cancel out on them when something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practiced the skill set and worse, they don’t have the coping mechanism to deal with stress. So when significant stress starts to show up in their lives, they don’t turn to a person, they turn to a device, social media, and commensurate things offering temporary relief.
We know this and science has proved it, people who spend more time on Facebook have far higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook. This things ought to be balanced. Alcohol is not bad, too much alcohol is bad. Gambling is fun, but too much gambling is dangerous. There is nothing wrong with social media and cell phones, it is the imbalance that costs. If you are sitting at the dinner table with your friends and you are texting somebody who is not there, yet when you are with the friend, you will still be texting someone else who is absent, there is a problem.
If you are sitting in a meeting, with people you are supposed to be listening/speaking to and you put your phone on the table, face up or face down, it sends a subconscious message to the room that the people in there are not just that important or priority for you at the time. The fact that you cannot put it away is because you are addicted. If you wake up and check your phone before you say good morning to your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, you have an addiction. And like all addictions, in time, it will destroy relationships, it’ll cost time, money and make your life worse.
Now you have a generation that has grown up with low self-esteem than the others, has no coping mechanism to deal with stress. Add to this the sense of impatience. We’ve grown up in a world of instant gratification. You want food, go to a site and it is delivered in minutes. You want to buy something, go to an app and it will be delivered to your door step. You want to watch a movie? Just log in. You want to watch a TV Show? Alexa. You don’t have to wait a week to go to cinemas. I know people who skip seasons just so they can binge at the end of the season. Instant gratification. You want a partner? Just swipe left. You don’t have to learn the social coping mechanism.
Everything you want comes instantaneously except job satisfaction and strength of relationships. There are no Apps for that. These are slow, meandering, uncomfortable and messy processes. So you meet these wonderful, fantastic, idealistic, hard-working smart kids who’ve just graduated from school, in their entry level job. You ask them how it’s going and they tell you they want to quit. When you ask them why, they tell you it is because they are not making an impact. You are surprised because they have only been there for merely 5 months.
It’s as if they are standing in front of a mountain, and have this abstract concept called impact they want to have in the world. What they don’t see is the mountain. Regardless of the speed you use going up the mountain, there is still a mountain. So what this young generation needs to learn is patience and learn that things that matter the most like Love, Joy, Job fulfillment, self-confidence, a skillset or anything else takes time. You may expedite pieces of it but the overall journey is arduous, long and difficult. If you don’t ask for help and learn a skill set you will fall off the mountain.
Consequently, we are seeing increase in suicide rates. Increase in accidental deaths due to drug overdose. More and more people drop out of school due to depression. At the least, we risk having an entire generation of people going through life passively and never really finding joy or satisfaction in anything. Just cruising through our long empty lives like an air balloon.
This amazing energetic group of fantastic humans who just dealt a bad hand, are placed in corporate environments that care about numbers than they do about people. They care more about short-term gains that the long-term life of it’s employees. They care more about annual results than lifetime outcome. These companies don’t help them build their confidence or learn about the skills of cooperation or overcome the challenges of the digital world and find more balance. Nobody is helping them overcome the need for instant gratification and teaching them the joy and fulfillment that one gets by working hard on something for a long time that cannot be done in a month or a year.
The worst thing about it is seeing these unscrupulous aged professionals invalidating this youth and pressurizing them to ‘Figure things out’ when they themselves, in their old age, haven’t figured out anything. They make these youth start blaming own self. They feel it is they who can’t deal. But it is not. It is the corporations. It is the total lack of good leadership in the world today that is making them feel the way they do. It is the company’s responsibility to figure out the way to build confidence while administering reality. Teach them about the social skills they lack. Put them in spheres which call for reasoning, interaction, negotiations and not allow them to use their phones in the task. When sitting and waiting for a meeting to start, let them talk to each other instead of using their phones in meeting rooms. Create more chances that allow little innocuous interactions to happen.
Why is this important? Because the Millennials are the luckiest generation ever! They are in-between two generations: the one before the internet and technology took over and the generation after. The generation before us was old school and believed in working hard. The generation after us believes in working smart. We saw it all: Radio,TV, Mario, Waptrick, Nokia, Nintendo 64, Samsung, iPhone, PS4, Tape, CD, DVD, MIXit, MIG32, Netflix, Snapchat, Emojis,Virtual reality etc.
The generation before us can be scammed with simple emails asking for money and offering love. The generation after us knows it is better to have 4 emails: one for serious stuff, social media, financial transactions and one for experiments on things you don’t trust. We are a generation that knows tradition and question it picking from it what makes sense to us. The generation before us knew no questions. The generation after us knows no tradition.
We are the gap between the industrial age and the internet age. We understand both sides from experience. We should be running the world! The old guys don’t understand what is going on anymore, the new guys don’t fully understand where what’s going on came from. I see people quick to blame the millennials and I wonder, ‘Who raised them?’
It is not the millennials, You are the problem!
This article is inspired by Sinek’s Views on People born 1984 onwards VS Workplace.