In REAL life you don’t get a trophy for losing.You don’t get a trophy for not getting your work done. You don’t get a trophy when you don’t feel like finishing something.
And you certainly don’t get a trophy when you quit.
For an entire generation of young adults this is a very difficult reality to face. The scariest thing about it? They don’t even realise this is a problem.
It’s not their fault. When they played pee-wee soccer or football or little league and they lost, they still got a ribbon. Or a “smaller” trophy. And they definitely still had a pizza party after the game. So if you get the prizes no matter the outcome, what motivates a person to try hard and win? How can you learn to win if you don’t know what losing feels like?
Where did this all start, and what can we do to help these young folks moving forward?
Whether you call them the Millennials, Generation Y or Boomerang Generation, 90% of people born beginning in the late 1970s claim to be “extremely close” to their parents. This has good and bad implications.
On the good side, Millennials and their parents often remain close over time, sharing similar interests in everything from music to clothing. In fact, the Millennial Generation is one of the first generations in recent history to not “rebel” against their parents. This closeness bodes well for the future of close-knit family units, and shared care for both the young (grandparents helping with grandkids) and the old(family taking care of their elderly).
On the bad side, many Millennials are so close to their parents that they haven’t been given the chance to learn how to do things by themselves. They’re so accustomed to input (and sometime inappropriate promotion and action) by their always-involved parents that they’re never given the opportunity to lose nor to create their own “wins”.
In fact, in many cases, these well-intentioned, “Lawnmower Parents” have “mowed down” so many obstacles (including interfering at their children’s workplaces, regarding salaries and promotions) that these kids have actually never faced failure.
Independent thinking in an age of Group-Think
Add in the social world that we live in. High school kids today spend their evenings texting, Facebook-ing and in group chats on Skype. They share typical kid stuff, but also ask each other for help deciding what to do about almost any topic. Their dependence on the crowd for decision-making has left many without a critical skill needed for independence and success in both work and life.
And this, of course is where the crux of the problem lies for many Millennial. As they enter the world of work many don’t know how, or where, to start when given an assignment. Without the collective voice of the crowd helping them or their parents telling them what to do, they don’t feel secure in their decision about what to do. This paralysis leads to feelings of anxiety, and worthlessness.
For many, these overwhelming feelings are so intense that their only solution is to quit, and they have no reason not to—because their history has not taught them how to get through tough times on their own. So how do we help these young folks as they enter the workforce? How do we capitalise on the brilliance and ideology of the collective pulse, while teaching them independent thinking? How can we infuse them with a sense of individual accomplishment?
1. Millennials Need to “Feel” Heard and Want a Spot at the Table
Problem: Millennials have been told since childhood that they are outstanding and they believe it, whether they are or not. Because of this, they think that they should be included in influential levels of company planning and decision-making no matter their position or title. In fact, many Millennials believe they should be in positions where they can be creative and have their ideas highly valued.
Company Solution: The idea of “working your way up” is not part of Millennial thinking. Companies need to find ways for Millennials to feel like they’re being heard. Managers should take responsibility for detailing specific objectives that, when accomplished successfully, will earn the worker a spot closer to the decision-making table.
Millennial Solution: Know that you’ve been hired for a reason. Know that your ideas are valid and useful—but only in the right and appropriate setting. Keeping these two things in mind will allow you to learn how to actively listen and know when to speak up—because timing is everything. If you have a HUGE idea during a meeting, and the timing isn’t optimal, write it down. Hold it until you know the timing is right.
2. Millennials Need Mentoring
Problem: Millennials are used to being a member of a tribe, not independent thinkers. They are used to the multitude of voices that constantly surround them, and are accustomed to constant input and feedback. They are not good at accepting criticism—it makes them get defensive and want to quit.
Company Solution: Companies who successfully integrate Millennials into their workforce will put in place one-on-one mentoring programs where young workers can have a higher-ranking employee to consult with and get the frequent feedback they desire. This relationship should be structured—perhaps beginning with daily contact and evolving into a weekly meeting. Give individualized, honest feedback. They’ll accept the good and feel terrific. They’ll hear the bad and be devastated. Help them learn that the criticism is constructive and encourage them to do better next time. Talk about the elephant in the room.
Millennial Solution: We all know that you are socially-minded world changers who want see things happen at warp speed. Here’s the rub. You’re no longer plugged into the collective. Use your mentor as a conduit to what’s going on and as someone to bounce ideas off of so you don’t feel so alone. Consider him/her your work confidant, and don’t be afraid to ask the wrong questions.
3. Millennials Care More About Making Friends and Recognition, Than Money
Problem: When asked what they “want” out of their job, many Millennials respond that they want to a) make friends, b) get recognised for their accomplishments and c) not be like their parents who work all the time. They don’t necessarily understand the value of money because many of them have no experience with it, and yet, incredibly dichotomously, they think they deserve to be highly paid.
Company Solution: Companies can be successful integrating Millennials into their workforce by creating opportunities for on- and offline connection with their peers. Find ways to capitalise on this “collective mind” by creating group-based activities that are work-related like incentive-based innovation contests. Workers connect, winners are rewarded, losers don’t get trophies and the company gains some potentially valuable ideas.
Millennial Solution: You’re right, money isn’t everything. But neither is recognition. And unfortunately most “work” is not about friendship and recognition. It is an exchange of work contribution and money between an employee and a company. It’s time for you to learn to find recognition inside of yourself, and not wait for someone else to tell you how great you are. Know that diligent work is vital. Do good work, and recognition (and perhaps even money) will follow.
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