Everywhere I look I see and hear people picking on millennials. Going by the memes, so-called expert analyses, and a million personalized rants on social media, these millennial people must be lazy, entitled, undeserving of achievement, irresponsible, demanding, whiny, and rude. Bashing millennials for their perceived wrongness is so popular it goes with everything in any atmosphere - just like your black pumps or slacks.
A really interesting interview has been shared and viewed on Facebook in recent weeks more than 55 million times - a talk with Simon Sinek speaking about millennials and the challenges they present to employers and in the workplace. It’s an interesting talk that makes a lot of great points. Feel free to check out the video here.
Here’s what’s wrong with it: its fancy stereotyping (and I know if it’s research that shows most people are such and so, it’s not ‘stereotyping’ in the traditional sense). Before you mentally yell at me, hear me out. Researchers love data that falls into lines. It looks great in charts at your next TED Talk. They don’t like data that falls below or above the norm, whatever that norm may be. They love comparison. This thing is like that thing, but is unlike this other thing.
The difficulty is that when comparing groups or individuals someone always suffers. Right now, millennials are sitting back staring at computer screens asking, “What did I do to these people? I can’t turn on my laptop without reading about how lazy I am!” How soon we forget that my generation (Proud Gen X-er, right here) was the slacker, hair in the eyes, never will amount to anything, grunge generation - when we were being compared to our predecessors, we suffered as well. I remember, I was there.
We will often become the labels we’re given whether those labels are true or not. I don’t disagree that the research Sinek puts forward exists, but when we blanket 76 million people with it without acknowledging and explaining that it isn’t true for every single millennial experience, we’re essentially passing out name tags and then getting upset when people start acting like a Barbara or a Karen.
The points put forth also fail to consider important cultural aspects like ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The millennial in rural Texas has a different experience than the one in Manhattan. My kids are very much millennials by generational start/end points, and yet - neither has a cell phone (and they’re 17 and 15 - the horrors). Neither of them has unlimited internet access. Also, we don’t do cable television (maybe if MTV ever starts to play music videos again).
I work with a lot of millennials both from my counselor seat and from my coworker position. They’re awesome. Hard working, innovative, smart, and able to communicate well. I do see some of the issues Sinek describes - yet I don’t see all of them in every millennial I meet.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m neck deep in research-based methods in my practice and I spend more time than anyone ought to staying up to date in the latest studies that keep me moving forward in helping others through professional counseling (as well as in some additional pet areas), but I recognize the fact that all social/psychological data that lumps 76 million millennials (or any other group) into a giant pile and tells me all of them are this very specific one way - isn’t true across the board. That lump category process is inherently flawed because if fails to consider the human uniqueness each person possesses.
Sadly, not every one of the 55 million viewers of that video are able to consume it within the context of understanding individual and cultural variances. It gets shared over and over again. People comment relentlessly hateful things - most of whom raised millennials who fail to see they created some of the problems. Hello! Who do you think decided everyone should get a trophy? It wasn’t the millennials - it was their Gen-Xer parents! They were too young to be in charge of trophies when that call got made. The millennials just watch, a few argue their own points, but seem to pay dearly in the comments sections.
My challenge is this: Do what Simon said in the video. One of the last things he talks about is making human connections without social media, without phones, without internet, etc. Make those connections. Instead of spewing millennial hate online, go find a millennial and talk to them. Stop making instant online judgments and get out and talk to these people. Just like any other lumped in group of people some of them are pretty cool. Make human connections to understand your fellow humans. It’s that simple.
Whitney White is a counselor working in Texas in multiple settings with diverse populations. Some of her areas of passion are anxiety, non-suicidal self-injury, and compassion fatigue. With an integrated approach utilizing client strengths, she supports others in achieving their best self. For more information please visit counselingbywhitney.wordpress.com. The thoughts expressed in Whitney’s blogs do not represent her employers.