Simon Sinek’s solution to the problem’s facing millennials in the workplace (Sinek video)is a repeat of what got them there in the first place. While I concur with Sinek about the challenges employers face in dealing with this young workforce, his placing the onus of responsibility on companies is misplaced and apt to make matters worse.
Top 500 business owners and CEO’s I have spoken with all over the world agree that many of the young adults they are hiring lack some critical skills: ability to delay gratification, people skills, collaboration, self-reliance, self-motivation, and the ability to work hard with the long-term in mind. These millennials require a lot of external praise and guidance to keep them on task, and have a hard time coping with the normal ups and downs and failures of life. They also seem to want to choose their hours and garner the corner office without putting in the sweat equity to earn it.
Sinek states in his presentation that these young adults have been dealt a bad hand because their parents didn’t raise them in a way that allowed them to develop these vital life skills. Parents micromanaged, overindulged, and overprotected them as kids, causing them to look outward to adults like their bosses to fill that role. Despite all of that, I can’t look past the truth that we are talking about a lot of 25-35 year old adults, not 15-year-old kids. When will they step up and start taking responsibility for their own lives; when will they grow up?
Sinek says that companies need to work extra hard to help millennials build confidence, overcome challenges, find more balance, and overcome their need for instant gratification. Hasn’t that been the faulty script followed by their parents, i.e. doing things for them, rescuing them, and taking responsibility for their happiness? Qualities like grit and self-efficacy cannot be given to kids and adults, they have to be earned through having opportunities to meet challenges, overcome obstacles, and deal with mistakes and failures and disappointments. I don’t think people have to suffer in order to learn, but many times our best lessons come from periods of hardship and failure. The way for these young adults to learn how to find joy and fulfillment in their work is to get out of their way, stop micromanaging them, allow them to find their own motivation, and require them to work hard at their jobs. People who have that kind of autonomy do become more fulfilled because they own the results of their labor.
Millennials need to parent themselves, motivate themselves, encourage themselves, and push themselves. Businesses should create an environment where employees feel heard, valuable, and autonomous. When they come to their parents or boss frustrated or upset, the best response comes with a question right back to them, “So what will you do?” If a 30 year old can’t cut it in this kind of workspace, then maybe they need to experience the consequence of not working hard and long; losing your job might be the best thing that ever happened to them if it serves as a wakeup call.
Instead of blaming mommy and daddy and their boss, millennials need to point the finger inward and take charge of their life.
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