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June 28, 2016

No, Millennials Do Not Rule the World

Summary:

Millennials just think they do -- and we employers do them a disservice by not correcting them.

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Google the phrase “working with millennials,” and more than 22 million results pop up. No other generation has had so much emphasis placed on them as they entered the workforce.

Recently, I attended a conference where the primary or secondary focus of nearly every session was how to deal with millennials, or how to make the workplace more palatable to millennials or why we should make millennials comfortable.

Who Cares?

One panel speaker made two points that sum up the problem: 1) Why do we feel like we need to cater to the millennials? They are coming into a place of work, a professional atmosphere where they need to figure out how to get along with everyone else and not the other way around; and 2) It’s not all the millennials’ fault – parents are to blame.

Toward his second point he gave two examples, but one really stood out. A millennial showed up for an interview accompanied by her dad. This speaker knew the father, so he assumed the father was just there to say hello and make the introductions. No! When the prospective employee was asked to come into the office for the interview, her father followed right in behind her. I don’t think she got the job.

Several years ago, a Harvard Business Review article addressed the problems created for millennials by their parents. One manager interviewed for the article said that if he gave a poor evaluation to a millennial he often got a call from the parents. What!!??

It’s not necessarily the millennials who are the problem, but the parents who have always tried to make things easy for their kids – never letting them experience failure or, Heaven forbid, discipline.

See also: The ‘Sharing Economy’: What It Means for Insurers (Part 1 of 3)

No Different Than Us – in Some Ways

Let’s face it, college graduates today are no different than we were the day we graduated. We wanted to be in charge and have our ideas appreciated and applied from day one. We were brilliant; after all, we just graduated from college (I wish I was as smart now as I thought I was the day after graduation). We thought we were worth more than we really were. But someone was patient with us. In the same way, we need to be patient with and help (not cater to) this new generation.

But there are some differences between past and current generations. Past generations knew – sort of – that there were “dues to be paid” (and what was meant by “dues”). We knew that there were consequences for actions we took. We knew the battles were ours and ours alone – our parents did not feel the need to call our boss (personally, I would have been ashamed to have my battles fought by my parents – especially as an adult). We learned – rather quickly – that we weren’t nearly as smart or important as we thought we were.

But the biggest difference: We knew the workplace was not going to change to suit us; we had to fit into it. If we wanted the workplace to change, we had to wait until we were in charge.

This is where we are doing millennials a disservice. Their parents protected them from the realities of the world, and now we, as employers, are doing the same thing. No one can grow professionally if they are never allowed to make mistakes, suffer the consequences and learn how to recover stronger. Allow these newly minted adults to grow up, especially if their parents never allowed them to suffer the consequences that they needed to suffer to mature!

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About the Author

Christopher J. Boggs is the vice president of education for Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance. He joined the insurance industry in 1990. He is a self-proclaimed insurance geek with a true passion for the insurance profession and a desire for continual learning.

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