So you want to know what’s wrong with us? Why you can’t motivate your workforce? Why an entire generation seem to be disengaging from the real world and falling prey to depression? Firstly, stop listening to jumped up leadership consultants and go straight to the source. We’re right here. There are billions of us.
I was born in 1992, right in the middle of the millennial generation, to a relatively well-off family. Dad made good money as an architectural photographer, and Mum looked after the kids and the house - standard middle class stuff. My parents cared for me, told me I was great and that they loved me, because that’s what parents are supposed to do. If you tell your toddler they are a failure and will never amount to anything then you’re doing it wrong! But unfortunately, parenting doesn’t come with a night course and a lesson plan (yet), so mistakes are obviously made.
There is a lot flying around at the moment about how our parents were failures, as can be heard in the recent Simon Sinek video that I will not link you to here. Simon thinks that millennials were “told they’re special” and told that they can “have anything they want in life, just because they want it”. It is clear now that our parents should have told us we would be uninspired worker bees, filling a generic person shaped space in a generic money shaped machine.
This is a real problem. When we were growing up, it made sense that our parents would believe in a brighter future - things were on the up! Few could have predicted the dark turn things would take, and even fewer did. Millennials mustn’t fall into the same trap the older generations have; they weren’t wrong, these jobs were what built society as we know it. Globalisation wouldn’t have happened as it did without the influence of capitalism, but the work of the present both destroys the past and builds the future. We will not see the same benefits of this financial system as previous generations, and people are starting to notice.
While this is a very complicated issue, it still shows that this generation is rejecting the systems that worked for, and were built by, those who’ve come before. But unlike Simon and his ilk seem to believe, our problem is not that we made it all the way to the workforce before realising that we weren’t above average. It is instead that we have made it this far in our lives watching countless horrors unfold right in front of our eyes (through a computer screen) knowing full well that we are powerless to stop them.
This issue is compounded by the introduction and expansion of the internet, but not in the way Simon suggests. When my parents were in college they didn’t know what was happening on the other side of the world, let alone get a daily update on all of the horrors as and when they happened. This continuous stream of (predominantly negative) news has a profound effect on the mental state of any person, increasing people’s tendency to catastrophise, and increasing their distrust in politicians. Catastrophising is also a key element of depression and this effect is exacerbated by the media establishment’s very millennial-like need for constant attention and could be playing a part in the increasing rates of global depression. Furthermore, we are constantly bombarded by images of successful people driving their fancy cars to their beautiful houses, and were told it could be us. Enough of this and you start to ask “Why aren’t I that successful? Is there something wrong with me?”
So we find ourselves very difficult position where we have a bird’s eye view of a world in flames yet no significant power to stop it. While this may not be an accurate representation of the world as a whole, it is how it is portrayed to many of us on a daily basis. There is a reason Millennials are so obsessed with “making a difference” or an “impact” at work; it is because, presumably, they are aware that a difference needs to be made.
While Millennials are not the only ones feeling the depression creeping around the edges of our minds, the desire to affect positive change does not seem to exist in all those who have come before. Instead, Millennials are referred to as ‘lazy, selfish, narcissistic idiots’. How is belittling an entire generation, spanning 20 years, 6 continents, and millions of people a good idea?
This is the shortsightedness of those we must still bow our heads to. The ones who got us into this mess are here to tell us that it’s all in our heads because Mummy gave us too many kisses when we were children. They hide their own failures from themselves, like a school bully preys upon the weakest child to hide his own deep insecurities.
Surely the more logical explanation is that a combination of economic and political factors, manifested on a global scale, have caused many of us great apathy and disconnect with the world around us. An economy that doesn’t work for its people and a world in flames. Could these be the reasons we come into your advertising agencies and accountancy firms dragging our feet through your hallways? Or the fact that we don’t see ourselves ever becoming as successful as our parents, and that most of us probably won’t. But as you send us up shit’s creek without a paddle it would be wise to remember that we’ll be the ones looking after you when you’re old and frail, and your needs might have to take a back seat to our damage control.