Stop Sharing ‘The Problem with Millennials’ Video

5 Jan

I’ve seen at least 10 people in my Facebook feed share a video from Simon Sinek talking about The Problem With Millennials in the Workplace. It’s a mess of hot takes and gross generalizations masked as Deep Thought on Important Issues by a Great Man that is specifically designed for viral success, which is pretty ironic given its content.

As you may be able to tell, I hate this video. I think it’s demeaning and simplistic and at times offensive. But instead of simply putting gifs of eye rolls in the comments of everyone that reposts it, I decided to rewatch the video, do some research, and explain my issues with it and the blind acceptance that this guy is a genius. Contrarianism: it’s the Millennial way!

1 – Parenting

He goes through a whole meandering point that all Millennials had the worst parents. I think you can find horrible examples whether looking at Millennials, Gen X, or Boomers. We do know trends have a major impact on parenting, but there is no one way a generation is parented and it’s not helpful to act that way.

The problem I have is this: Stop complaining about participation trophies, they’re basically a meme at this point. Kids always know who’s the smartest and strongest and best at basketball and while I’m of the opinion that every kid should be a part of a team that loses (I was on several), there’s also value in understanding that participating matters too. Maybe you weren’t the most valuable or the best, but you showed up when you said you would and you tried your hardest. Studies also show that encouraging kids for participating makes them more likely to get more involved in other areas of their life and get better grades. From where I sit, participation medals are far more applicable to life as an adult than winning first place anyway. So by all means, get a big trophy for the winners of your middle schooler’s basketball tournament, but don’t be an asshole to the kids that aren’t going to play power forward for the Lakers.

2 – Technology

Not going to get into his mansplaining that Alcoholism is the same as social media, but I will simply say addiction is very complicated and it’s demeaning to try to generalize about it in one sentence to serve a different point about generational differences.

In this section he says, “We know that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook.”

Let’s break down this meaningless statistic, shall we?

There are 156 million active Facebook users in the US, which translates to 64% of American adults. 6.7% of American adults suffer from depression. Isn’t it far more likely that depressed people are more likely to use Facebook than the other way around?

In fact, it is! This Forbes article talks about the study that *i think* he’s referencing (since he just says “Science shows” I can’t be sure) and explains that it’s not just that Facebook users are more likely to be depressed, but your relationship to Facebook is what contributes to having depressive feelings. In other words, you’re not “more likely” to be depressed if you use Facebook, but rather pre-existing depressive symptoms may worsen if you use Facebook and inevitably compare yourself to others. Pedantic? Maybe. But saying that a giant group of people is more likely to do a thing is the laziest form of generalization I can think of as well as belittling mental illness. Deleting your Facebook profile will not cure your depression.

In case you’re interested in actual research, here are a few takeaways from Pew Research about how Social networking affects people:

  • Facebook users have more close relationships
  • The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American
  • Social networking sites are increasingly used to keep up with close social ties.
  • Facebook users are much more politically engaged than most people

So if your assertion is that people get depressed and turn to Facebook for help – that’s correct! BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE THEIR FRIENDS ARE.

3 – Impatience

Wow, he can make jokes about Tinder. CUTTING EDGE COMEDY, MY DUDE. Dating using social media still requires meeting face to face and is still plenty awkward. To say nothing of the fact that there is no guarantee that people will want to date you or treat you well. If you disagree with me, maybe talk to women and LGBT folks. Stop making fun of people finding relationships because of your own misunderstanding of a technology that wasn’t available to you at a time you felt awkward. It’s not a good look.

More seriously, his assertion that Millennials leave their jobs too quickly is incredibly simplistic and, you guessed it, not backed up by facts. Millennials have about the same loyalty to employers as Gen X, aside from the first year of employment:

Furthermore, it’s important to understand that many Millennials graduated from college during a recession and thus took jobs that they are overqualified for. As a result, they may feel more anxious about their job and earning potential, especially because:

“Workers who start their careers in a recession earn 2.5 to 9 percent less per year than those who do not for at least 15 years after starting a career. Research further suggests that one reason for these lower earnings is that new entrants take jobs that are a worse fit for them when they start their careers in a recession.”

It certainly is true that a lot of Millennials want to make an impact and change jobs because of that desire, but they also are a generation with more student debt than ever before that may have taken jobs for which they’re overqualified. It’s also important to remember that Sinek is coming from a pro-business point of view, and while it’s nice that corporations are trying to improve the treatment of their workers, job loyalty on the part of the employee does not equal job security, and it never has. Employers only look out for me as far as it’s convenient for their bottom line; do not blame me for changing jobs to a better situation for MY career. Maybe that’s selfish, but unless you’re willing to chip in to pay off my student loans, step off.

Next he veers into where your life goes if you don’t have instant gratification and gets into suicide and drug overdoses. As with Alcoholism, I am not going to fight generalizations with generalizations. I will agree that suicide is a major problem for Millennials, but every age group has seen recent increases in suicide rates. We don’t have great mental health statistics from before the 1990s so it’s hard to say if the high rate of mental illness and suicide among young adults is a new phenomenon, or on track historically. Either way, it’s reductive to say Millennials are the only ones with this problem and that treatment only further stigmatizes mental health issues.

4 – Environment

His point meanders a bit here, but this is where the pro-business chickens really come home to roost. I think it’s just as likely that people want to make a difference in their job as it is that they compartmentalize and do work that pays their bills and volunteer/make a difference elsewhere. You can wish corporations will get involved and care about their employees, but that is a very recent trend.

To the point of not having meaningful relationships with coworkers: Since when is that a requirement? I’ve been been made uncomfortable by plenty of coworkers and wouldn’t tell them my Mom’s name, let alone her medical status. I’ve also had the opposite experience and built long-term, meaningful relationships with co-workers, but it wasn’t because my workplace had a “no phones in conference rooms” policy. It also has nothing to do with my age.

To wrap up, the thing that frustrates me the most about this video is that Sinek almost completely disregards the many positive aspects of technology, as these types of criticisms of Millennials always do. Technology enables people to stay connected while they live away from family and friends. It also is a major resource for people with social anxiety, mental illness or those who have trouble finding a community of friends with similar interests or problems. The following of YouTube stars and bloggers in some cases is a cult of personality, but I can name many that are doing positive things in the world whether connecting people, raising awareness for mental illness, fundraising, or volunteering (see Vlogbrothers, The Bloggess, Hannah Hart, Glennon Doyle Melton, among many more).

If George Orwell was right that “every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it,” then we’re all to blame, we’re all responsible, and the cycle continues. Think critically about your role, not some vague idea of what another group can or can’t do, and stop sharing a video because a smart guy made you laugh.


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