Millennials Aren’t Entitled, They Are Engaged

A talk by Simon Sinek about Millennials has been going around Social Media lately. He talked about Millennials in a way that enraged many of that generation and justified the way older employees talk about them. “See, I was right after all”- is a comment I have heard. In Simon’s talk, he made some very interesting points about Millennials, and why they are the way they are. He said about them:

  • Millennials are the product of fail parenting strategies
  • They were misled to believe they can do anything in life and have everything they want.
  • They got good grades and in special programs because their parents complained (see a)
  • They got medals for everything, including finishing last.
  • They were taught to believe that they can have anything quickly, they want instant gratification

What I disagree with

I think that he has a very interesting point of view, I particularly liked his blunt review of the cell addiction. I like to point out that this “cell addiction” is definitely not limited to millennials. I know several “older” individuals that are as addicted and behave exactly the way he describes as a cell phone addicted Millennial.

I also disagree that they are the product of “failed parenthood”. I think they are the product of a different type of parenthood that comes with generational and technological changes. Instant gratification is not a product of bad parenthood, In great part, it is the result of innovation and technology. As one of my good friends pointed out, generational “longitude” is very predictable, there is virtually the same amount of time between generations, but the growth of technology is exponential. The difference of the issues parents have to deal with, in regards to technology, changes from year to year, not generation to generation.

I disagree with the label of “entitled generation.” I think Millennials have been taught to ask for what they need, and that is a good thing. I believe that in most cases what comes across as entitlement is being misunderstood. Managers especially, tend to confuse entitlement with engagement. I have coached a few managers that complained about the Millennials that are coming too strong asking for coaching, feedback, advice mentoring or input, etc. I believe the majority of them are coming not necessarily because they are annoying or spoiled or entitled. Could it be that they are asking this because they are engaged and want to contribute? Employees that are requesting more responsibility might be pushy and greedy, but eager and engaged.

What I agree with

One thing Simon said, which I believe is true Companies are the ones that need to address how they manage their millennial employees, just like they did with boomers and X’ers. Millennials come with their own set of “challenges, older” and companies need to address those challenges of managing them the same way they addressed X’ers. Most importantly, companies need to train senior managers to see that Millennials aren’t a problem, in fact they might be the most versatile, innovative and engaged group if they are motivated enough. The secret here is providing the right motivation so they flourish.

Companies need to make sure that they understand that millennials want to make a difference in the world. They want to feel that they are making progress and adding value. Leaders must take advantage of the positive things Millennials are bringing to the workforce. It won’t be long before they are the majority.

The reality is that companies aren’t helping them to thrive, it is the corporate lack of good leadership that have created these labels.

In a HBR special report — Mentoring Millennials, the authors identified the top five things that millennials want from their immediate supervisor. They want their boss to a) help them navigate their career path, b) give them straight feedback c) provide mentoring and coaching d) sponsor them for further development programs and e) is comfortable with flexible schedules.

That is easy to provide if the direct supervisors have the right soft skills to address the need and wants of the growing Millennial Workforce.

We do it now or they will do it themselves

Interestingly, A NLC (New Leaders Council) study reports that 50 percent of the Millennial respondents to their survey were already in leadership positions. The study found that 64 percent of them felt unprepared for their role when accepting the position. This suggests that even current and aspiring millennial executives are looking for guidance and coaching. The Millennial executive “profile” is a bit different from older generation leaders. What they want and drive them is very specific, an article in Linkedin perfectly summarizes what the Millennial leader is like.

The point is, Millennials are different and they are already shaping the work landscape weather as individual contributors or leaders. It is the job of companies today to help them find their home and lead in a way that closes the gap between the company’s goals and the needs and wants of their Millennial employees.

What do you think?

Luis Velasquez MBA, PhD

Luis is a leadership coach, employee engagement expert, and management trainer. Formerly a University professor and research scientist, Luis holds a dual Ph.D. from Michigan State University; and an MBA in Organizational Leadership.

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