January 20, 2017
How Millennials Are Misunderstood
What is it called when someone—other than a millennial—feels the need to explain who millennials are? Boomer-splaining?
The Simon Sinek video on managing millennials has gone viral.
How do I know? I’ve received tons of emails from clients, trainers and members of my online community asking for a response.
As a millennial who studies millennials for a living— I found Simon’s video disturbing.
I started an international training and consulting company to help leaders understand and engage my generation. I’ve sat through one too many conferences featuring Xers or Boomers talking about millennials—as if we were on display at the local zoo. I’ve developed hundreds of tools like this free social media policy template to help leaders better relate to millennials.
At age 43, Simon Sinek’s recent rant elevates him as another non-millennial guiding his peers on what millennials want. When men talk over or on behalf of women, it’s dubbed “mansplaining.” So what is it called when someone—other than a millennial—feels the need to explain who millennials are—Boomersplaining?
What Sinek says isn’t all wrong—but it is in no way complete. His vantage point gives him an incomplete picture of who we are and yet again places a stereotype on this young generation.
See also: Why Millennials Are the Best Workers
Here’s why Simon Sinek is flat wrong on Millennials:
1. Millennials don’t have low self-esteem.
We were handed trophies for absolutely no reason—by well meaning parents and coaches sensitive to our feelings. Understanding how we were raised is the #1 strategy to marketing, recruiting or retaining Millennials. However, the accolade culture of the 90s and 00’s has actually had an opposite affect on my generation than what Mr. Sinek argues. Millennials have extremely high levels of confidence according to Pew Research. Millennials are ambitious—in our travel plans, relationships and careers. Sometimes too ambitious. It is this over-confidence that is misinterpreted as entitlement. From asking for a raise to expecting access to the C Suite—Millennials exude a solid confidence in who we are and what we can contribute. The challenge comes in how leaders can capture this confidence and use it for good.
2. Millennials aren’t the only ones addicted to social media.
Try separating a college student from her smartphone and you will quickly learn just how addicted Millennials are to technology. It’s not just Millennials who treat their devices like phantom limbs. Nearly 80 percent of Millennials admit to look at their smartphones first thing in the morning. Smartphone usage isn’t much different for Xers or Baby Boomers. However, Millennials are the first generation that uses social media to see the world—and simultaneously letting the world see them. We are using technology to innovate, to dream, to collaborate and challenge ourselves to become our best selves. The answer lies in each of us becoming self-aware to use our devices responsibly and respectfully. Technological etiquette (what I call “textiquette”) is just as necessary in the classroom as the corner office. Most companies have outdated or non-existent social media policies– even though studies show it is signficant in retaining Millennials. I have developed a template for leaders to use– 100% free. Download your free social media policy template here.
3. Millennials don’t expect instant gratification.
Sinek points out nearly everything worth having— job satisfaction, meaningful relationships and purpose— takes patience. However, I have discovered this truth interviewing hundreds of Millennials: if you want to appease Millennials keep things moving. If you want to retain Millennials make them a part of the movement. It’s not just a need for speed that distracts Millennials; it’s an addiction to involvement. Millennials have a fear of missing out, better known as FOMO. Leaders can capitalize on Millennial FOMO and motivate my generation with short term and long term goals we help create.
According to Sinek, the future is bleak for my generation: “The best case scenario is that you’ll have an entire population growing up never finding joy…. Just waft through life… fine.”
Simon Sinek throws a fair punch that feels more like a low blow. He paints my generation as reactionary and out of control. He patronizes our passion and need for meaning.
Sinek sees a shade of us, but he doesn’t truly know us. And I don’t blame him. Simon is a brilliant thinker and skilled writer. But he cannot advocate for a generation that has been talked over, lumped together and mislabeled our entire lives.
No, Simon. Millennials are not the victims.
We were dealt a bad hand. But we aren’t blaming our parents. They sacrificed their health and happiness to give us a better chance. We’re not satisfied with our careers and we resent the lie that degrees guarantees employment. But we’ve also learned that whining isn’t attractive.
The recession was the best thing that happened to us. We learned about ourselves while traveling the world, starting from scratch and paying off loans. We discovered simple but powerful truths: we could do it on our own but we don’t have to and the life we create is ours to enjoy.
See also: No, Millennials Do Not Rule the World
The future is ours—and we will build a better America because we’ll do it together. We are confident because we will change the world, even if we don’t know our next move. We don’t need bubble wrap, beanbags or free beer. We aren’t defined by safe spaces. And although we appreciate the perspective, we’ll stick to representing ourselves and smashing the boxes you keep putting us in.