We sat down with Nili Goldfein (54) and Tal Solomon (26) to watch Simon Sinek’s video where he unpacks the phenomenon of millennials in the workplace. Sinek (1973) is a marketing consultant, world-renowned author, and motivational speaker. His interview on Inside Quest has become a viral sensation on social media and the hottest topic for watercooler talk. We’ve asked members of two different generations to watch Sinek’s interview and give us their take on millennials.
The Millennial Viewpoint
Tal Solomon, 26. BA in Communications, Politics, and Government. Marketing and operations coordinator for NGG Global Consulting Solutions. Tal is a digital girl in an analogue world.
On my first day of university, my philosophy professor opened with a question: “What does it mean ‘to be’?” The lecture hall let out a collective yawn as hand after hand was raised in hesitation. One student was pointed to at random. The young man sat up in his chair and opened
his mouth to speak when… his cell phone rang. The professor announced his verdict with unblinking resolve: laptops and mobile devices were banned from the classroom.
Ever since I can remember, my learning curve could only be described as “fifty shades of everything”, and the same is true for my peers. There’s a constant and tangible frustration in trying to conform our abstract personalities to the “template” that the institutionalized world seems to impose.
What’s our problem?
We live in a world that values experience above all, where an academic degree is a common entry-level requirement. Those of us who studied a science rather than a profession and were subsequently thrown into the deep end of the job market find ourselves faced with a big looming question mark, lacking the skills to navigate our futures. Should I aim for one target or try to cover all my bases? Will I ever find work that allows me to make an impact and makes me feel valued and valuable? Or should I just go with the ancient tradition of keeping your head down, following orders and counting the minutes to freedom? At the end of the day, I don’t want to waft through life feeling like I’m always stuck in second gear. I also don’t want to race through it at 90 miles an hour only to realize I’m driving in circles or heading toward a dead end.
I want, need, and must feel significant and impactful!
“To manage us, you must speak our language” – here are my tips for bringing the best out of us millennials:
- Know who you’re dealing with. When we, a young population with no knowledge of the corporate world, are put in an environment that cares more about the bottom line than about the people and the process, we become lost and lose our sense of meaning. The lives we lead are heavily filtered. The corporate environment doesn’t help us in acquiring the kind of social skills or self-confidence we need in order to succeed. Moreover, our environment doesn’t feel responsible to show us the meaning of hard-earned gratification and that the fruits of labor take time to grow.
- Drill it into our heads: long-term effort will bring you gains. We have an aversion to persistence. Why should we want to keep at it day after day? We’re overcome by our desire to “live in the moment”. We’ve even come up with a whole new word to express that very sentiment – YOLO (You Only Live Once). Who in their right mind will choose to stay put, work tirelessly, and face the same old challenges day-in, day-out? Why would we want to stay in the same company, with the same boss and same hours and for the same pay? We need excitement. Rhythm. Change. Passion. Give us some excitement!
- Show us the virtue of patience – in addition to persistence (or lack thereof), it’s difficult to have the patience one must have in order to feel accomplished in their workplace. It’s only reasonable that if I do a good job, I should be routinely rewarded for it, isn’t it? To paraphrase Simon Sinek – where’s my participation medal?! In an age where everything is instantly available at the push of a button, somewhere out there in cyberspace awaits my next amazing job, one with more zeroes in the paycheck, more beanbags in the lobby and more Cupcake Thursdays. Why then, in all honesty, should I stick around? Give me a reason to stick around!
- We don’t need to be policed. What we need is a leader. Our feelings of inadequacy stir up our constant need to wander, and we just leave – or we stay and swallow our frustrations. Our generation yearns to become more confident and acquire social skills, to balance our real lives and our online existence, but in order to achieve that, we need our boss to be our mentor, someone who understands the psychological roots of our capriciousness. We need a leader that won’t single us out as spoiled brats, but instead take us for what we are – colorful, pliable lumps of clay – and shape us into the creative, proactive, charismatic, and motivated employees we yearn so deeply to become. Otherwise, we’re destined to fail.
An Onlooker’s View of Millennials
Nili Goldfein (54), mother of two, resides in the suburbs. Has Master’s degree, works at the same company for 24 years. Nili is, among other things, Tal’s boss. And now, Nili needs to recalibrate.
I’ve been a manager for 25 years, recruiting, onboarding, training, and firing employees when necessary. To me, character and motivation are more important than knowledge and experience. Knowledge can be acquired and so can experience. Good character and personal traits, a solid education, and the choices you made as an adolescent are far better jump-off points.
In recent years I’ve met many millennials in professional and managerial positions, and even without listening to Sinek’s explanation or reading books about management, I can safely say that they pose a whole different kind of challenge. They often seem perplexed, candid to the point of impertinence, often quite disoriented, and in any case, all the things that used to motivate me when I was their age are, in their eyes, inconsequential. Their general knowledge is deeply lacking, their values and priorities are riddled with contradictions, and their ability to sit their butts down and follow through on a task to completion is limited at best.
And yet, they are young and energetic, and their understanding of technology and globalization is light years beyond ours. They’re critical toward the institution, creative, and open-minded. They may need constant positive reinforcement and react to any shred of criticism like it’s the end of the world, but they are nonetheless intelligent, agile, and vivacious.
They just need to be managed a bit differently. Here are my tips for managing millennials.
- Authenticity – clear, down-to-earth communication is key; don’t come off as patronizing or manipulative. Millennials are highly sensitive and react to manipulation very harshly.
- Intimacy – their world has no boundaries: real-life or online, personal or professional, the various aspects of their lives are seamlessly intertwined. If we take Sinek’s word that parents of millennials (yes, all of us) did a lousy job raising them, then we as managers have to compensate for that and be a little more parental – not in a condescending, judgmental way, but in the sense of providing some guidance for life as part of what we do to train them to succeed at their jobs. We must view them as a generation of younglings that need help navigating the circles of life.
- Learn from them – we come from a hierarchical world where rank, seniority, and experience are extremely important factors. Millennials experience society as a flattened space where everyone learns from one another and we all contribute to human knowledge as equals. We have so much to learn from them. They are the present and the future. Let them teach you, show you, challenge you and open your mind – it will leave everyone feeling worthy and capable.
- Think outside the box – in the corporate world, employees are recruited based on their adequacy for a certain position rather than their potential to contribute to the organization as a whole. But in today’s fast-paced world, we must keep an open mind, ask them what they believe they have to offer, and try to use their passion and momentum to add some personal ‘flavor’ to their position. I often get a result that is not at all what I asked for, but something much better. They just think differently, and that’s great!
- Celebrate diversity – countless research studies have shown that companies that welcome and promote diversity in the workplace achieve better results. Men and women, different backgrounds, cultures, age groups and ethnicities – let us celebrate diversity and allow each generation and each person bring their best to the table.
It is an old African saying that if you want to go fast –go alone. If you want to go far – go in a group. And I say: make your group as diverse as possible. You’ll get much farther, and the way there will be so much more interesting!
Watch the interview with Simon Sinek: