Millennial problems, problem millennials
“I really don’t think it is an efficient use of my time,” she said breezily, not missing a beat. “I would have loved to have helped but I am going to pass,” shutting down the conversation before it had started, with no room for persuasion.
Out of the five people I had recently approached to help with a small ask at work, she was the only one who dismissed it with no pleasantries. The other four all gave it a shot; even half-hearted attempts were balanced with heap of pleasantries that took the edge off the sting. These people didn’t have any less work than the dismissive colleague, neither were they more junior.
So what was the difference? Or perhaps the question to ask: What was so special about the odd one out?
The only difference which would explain away her instant, abrasive dismissal is the fact that she is a millennial amongst a bunch of Gen-Xers, including yours truly. For what else could really explain the sizeable ego of a young woman in her twenties who truly believes her time is worth much more than those on par with her?
Yes, I am a Generation X thorough and thorough. Or at best the newly discovered Xennial – the microgeneration born between 1977-1985, squeezed snugly in between Generation Xers and Millennials – so snugly in fact sometimes we don’t know where we fit in. Those who are old enough to have lived a childhood free of the internet but young enough to have spent their working lives online. The online magazine Good says xennials are “a micro-generation that serves as a bridge between the disaffection of gen X and the blithe optimism of millennials”.
Don’t get me wrong. I have had my fair share of millennials in the work place ever since they were allowed a diploma and entry into a job circa 2006. There was one who quit three days into an internship as, despite expressing a desire to work in fashion and lifestyle publications in his first interview, he deemed writing fashion articles beneath his gamut of skills. The one who had failed to return items borrowed from a PR agency by her line manager and then claimed she was bullied when she was pulled up on her unprofessionalism. The one that takes the cookie has to be the one who, when pulled aside to get back to work at the end of a three-day conference – instead of hobnobbing with delegates at the happy hour, while all her seniors were hard at work wrapping up the event – resorted to tears, tantrums and threats.
I am of course not the first to note the millennial problem at work. British marketing guru Simon Sinek’s blistering analysis in 2016 of everything that’s wrong with Generation Y went viral within a day and has racked up millions of views since on YouTube.
“They’re thrust in the real world and in an instant they find out they’re not special, their mums can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last – and by the way, you can’t just have it because you want it,” he stated.Sinek’s views are supported by some research into millennial attitudes at work. According to a study from the University of Hampshire, millennials born between 1988 and 1994 scored 25 percent higher in entitlement-related issues than their 40-60 year old counterparts, and 50 percent higher than those over 60. The score was calculated using a survey comprised of several questions meant to reveal attitudes of entitlement, such as asking whether participants felt they deserved certain things, or asking how superior they felt to others.
While on the plus side a strong sense of entitlement can harness a stronger drive for achievement, it could also mean a reluctance to follow rules, proclivity to make unrealistic demands and seek special privileges and a selfish attitude.
Another research, from University of California, observed that young adults are “unusually and extraordinarily confident” in their abilities. “The idea of paying their dues by working hard to demonstrate their worth before they’re given significant tasks is likely to be resisted by millennials,” the UC paper noted.
“They seek key roles in significant projects soon after their organisational entry … co-workers see them as overly confident and inappropriately demanding, asking ‘who do you think they are?’”
“Who does she think she is?” was the very thought that crossed my mind at the breeziness of this young woman, I have to admit. Then, like any true Xennial who had an analogue childhood but digital adulthood I consulted my best friend Google on how to manage a Millennial. A slew of articles telling me to understand millennial motivations, mentor rather than manage, not to fence them in, not feel threatened when they speak up and above all not rely on the good old force of positional power.
Then came the news flash: 2018 is the year we will for the first time start welcoming Generation Z into the work place. Entrepreneurial multi-multi-taskers with a shorter attention span but higher expectations than millennials, here come the work force of the future. Even before we’ve managed to manage millennials, we now have to begin understanding and leading their 2.0 successors. Perhaps time to take that early retirement?
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