Millennials are entitled. That’s because they are narcissistic and incapable of empathy.
But no…millennials are idealistic. They have grand visions that will rescue our species from ourselves.
Both sets of statements are equally false and equally true.
Therein lies the great puzzle posed by millennials to the rest of us. Are they the problem or the solution? If they are the problem, how can they be “solved?” If they are the solution, why can’t we get out of the way?
Like the wider society, corporate organizations are dealing with the millennial dilemma with a mixture of frustration and awe. As the top rungs of an organization gear up for transformation, they look down the ladder with trepidation. They see minions who behave like monarchs. Or cogs that want to be cranks right away. Who will convince them that change is inevitable and not always democratic? Is it possible to command with grace and without resistance?
What sets the millenials apart?
The generational divide is nothing new. So why does the gap between us and the millennials seem more daunting than ever before in our species’ history? Well, let’s take stock of what sets them apart.
They are digital natives.
Seems more like a curse than a blessing.Gadgets are for millennials what the IV line is for the patient.Millennials have no recollection of a time when gratification could not be instantly delivered by technology.Technology enables the midnight meal, the daytime sitcom binge, the shopaholic adventure and the virtual world tour. When distractions are available for a dime, patience gets sold for a pittance.
They are products of the self-esteem movement.
Sounds like a fantastic thing, doesn’t it? But we messed it up. We took Nathaniel Braden’s wonderful ideas and extrapolated them to a point of sickness.We told the millennials that they are special in every way and need only to make a wish for something to come true. We even gave them awards for just showing up. We treated them like fragile creatures and robbed them of their natural resilience.Today, they struggle with the smallest sign of failure. And in our work lives, we have to deal with criticism, rejection, imperfection and other forms of failure on a daily basis.
They are inhabitants of a more unstructured society.
Families, communities and towns meant a lot more for older generations.Today, the millennial life is governed by undefined relationships like best friend, friend with benefit etc. This has given them more flexibility but also more instability.It is a profound truth that no relationship is permanent. But that doesn’t mean we discard them when fissures show up.Older generations had a steeper price to pay for terminating relationships.But for millennials, the giving and receiving of loyalty has become a vague ambition. Having too much choice sometimes leaves the individual with the feeling that they have no choice at all.
They are desperately seeking joy and meaning.
Isn’t this true for all of us? Yes, it is.But when older generations failed in individualistic pursuits, they had a larger group to fall back upon. Society could supplant those pieces of an individual’s life that were unviable. But the millennial either disallows such supplanting or knows not how to allow it. Sometimes, a single wrong turn brings them to a dead end in a dark alley.I’ve myself counseled dozens of millennials who took an optimistic and calculated risk at the age of 22 and felt that their life had ended at 25. The quarter-life crisis is a scary reality in this generation.
Now let me offer the other side.
A couple of years ago, I was addressing around 80 millennials during a workshop titled Having goals in life. A 21-year-old man stood up and told me he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He would graduate in 12 months, join a Sports Technology program in a specific university in the UK, land a job in the most advanced shoe-making firm in the world (which was not Nike, Adidas, Reebok or any of the usual suspects). He would then spend his life happily designing shoes for the next generation. Guess what? He was waking up at 4am the next day to be the referee in a taekwondo tournament. By doing so, he was augmenting his profile as a sportsperson which would help him land a seat in the chosen UK university. Seldom do we come across a person who knows exactly how a short-term goal maps to the medium-term and the medium-term goal maps to the long-term.
You will find a lot of such people amongst the millennials. If they find their vision, nothing can stop them. They were designed to soar high. They are primed to transform, not to adhere to the status quo.
[bctt tweet="'If Millenials find their vision, nothing can stop them. They were designed to soar high. They are primed to transform.'"]
What can organizations do?
This is good news, isn’t it?Instead of fearing resistance from them, organizations can make them champions of change. To make that happen, they’ll have to be given the right orientation which a training program can provide. Modules like the ones given below can be made a precursor to transformational programs that require the participation of millennials.
Learning Module 1: Motivation and I.
A module that uses Western and Asian frameworks to create a deeper awareness of what moves the individual and how that endless power source can be tapped into.
Learning Module 2: Management of emotions.
A basic module, endorsed by the World Health Organization, that helps the individual identify and address emotions in real time.
Learning Module 3: Beyond the individual.
Where we will learn why and how to belong to teams and organizations. Here, we will address fundamental issues individuals face with authority figures and power centres. We will end with discovering the joy of belonging – where the I is enhanced by the WE.
Learning Module 4: Change your environment, change your life.
Here, we will embrace the fact that making small and large changes to one’s environment is, if not more important, at least as important as “inner engineering.” Instead of relying on willpower and innate strengths, we can bring about change by changing processes, systems and the physical environment. Concepts dealt with are equally pertinent to individuals, teams and organizations.
Learning Module 5: Leadership.
A module that helps individuals realize that leadership doesn’t come in a single size or shape, not as a function of designation. By highlighting the soft underbelly of leadership, this module instigates every participant to become a thought leader.