For the third time in about two months, a certain video has popped up on my social feed. A video called ‘Millennials in the workplace’ in which a man by the name of Simon Sinek talks about how millennials have it easy and are still running round like little entitled snowflakes demanding a trophy for coming last. His speech here is bland, full of misconceptions and is actually quite insulting. So, at the risk of sounding like the offended, self-entitled snowflake he believes me to be, I am writing today in defence of millennials.
First off, Simon Sinek is a ‘leadership consultant’ which pretty much translates to speech-giver and gets paid certain amounts to give speeches and write books on leadership. In a piece of anecdotal evidence, I personally hate the amount of ‘self-help’ and ’10 ways to change your life for the better’ style books and speeches because there really is no universal plan for success in your life. Each person is different and will need different strategies to make the best of what they have, not to mention a bit of luck. I can’t help but think that these books are just to make money for the author rather than a guide. That’s just me, but I felt that was important to include in this rambling.
In the video, there is a heavy emphasis on how millennials were constantly told they were special when growing up, as oppose to every other generation who presumably were told they would amount to absolutely nothing when they were children. He says millennials got high grades because their parents went to the teachers and complained. Huh, what? That was an option? I’m not aware of one person in any of the schools I’ve been to having their grades changed by a pushy parent (that’s not to say that I have not experienced parents complaining). If I’m remembering correctly, my parents gave me a lot of stick if I came home with bad grades and told me to study harder. Obviously my experience is not universal, but neither are chain mails that complain about kids these days and that doesn’t seem to stop Sinek from citing them as gospel. Not to mention that in most countries in the world, the law determines that the teacher will assign the grade and it’s final.
Simon says that this obviously doesn’t prepare us for the real world, which as far as I can tell is pissed off greatest generation language for ‘work place’. That millennials somehow reverted to being frightened children when our parents couldn’t just walk into some office and demand that we get a promotion. Therefore, our entire self-image is shattered. What? Does Sinek believe that not one millennial has ever seen a parent struggle in a career? Does he believe that GCSE and A-Level exams, where you are literally graded on your performance and are constantly reminded that these will affect your entire future, don’t count towards building a self-image? As a man so accustomed to generalisations, does he realise that if even a majority of millennials were given pay rises and promotions and every they demanded, the whole economic system we have would collapse? Sinek tries to back this up by saying that science has proved that this generation has lower self-esteem than previous generations. If you’re thinking, hey, that sounds like a conveniently astute statistic that is vaguely worded and somewhat impossible to measure, then congratulations. You’re me. Not to mention the evidence to the contrary.
Speaking of evidence of the contrary, Sinek also took aim at participation trophies saying “they get medals for coming in last,” whilst raising his eyebrow. Again, he refers to science by saying that the evidence is clear that this act devalues hard work and embarrasses the people in last place. Funny thing is, the evidence actually suggests that praising and rewarding hard effort helps them see the value of hard work. In fact, even just having trophies for participating can be a fun reminder when you are older of the nice times you and your team had during your club years.
Sinek also takes shots at social media itself by pointing out that we can get a rush of dopamine from texting, Facebook, Instagram etc. Now that bit is actually true, but he also compares this addictive behaviours like smoking, gambling and drinking whilst somehow forgetting that we can get a hit of dopamine by accomplishing something, getting a hug off a friend or exercising. I’ve kinda simplified what dopamine is and does there but that information won’t be relevant to this post. I’d recommend finding out about it though. Sinek also says “an entire generation that has access to an addictive, numbing chemical through social media and cell phones.” Sure, but we all have access to alcohol and drugs too? Yet somehow we aren’t the first generation of people to become full time alcoholics because some of us, hell even most of us, can consume in moderation?
Sinek also seems to believe that because we have a lot of instant access to things nowadays because of ‘next day delivery’ and the ‘ability to stream immediately on Netflix’ has left us with a hateful feeling in life because we are not making an instant difference in the world. I’m 100% sure that if you asked a person born after 1990ish if they thought it was easy to make a difference in the world they would say no (unless they’re a philosophy graduate).
This rebuttal has probably gone on long enough for now and there are a couple of other points to make about this video like the classic and condescending mountain metaphor, the complete omission of any economic stagnation, healthcare costs, education cuts, housing costs, salaries versus inflation or more false information on suicide rates which is easily disprovable. However, I know it’s much harder to make a viral video about those things so I hope Simon Sinek can now enjoy his speaking tour of telling young guns to put their phones down to be happy. Unfortunately, millennial bashing is an actual industry and has been since the Greeks. But sure, keep saying this guy ‘nails everything wrong with millennials’. It’s like giving him his participation award.