Millennials Under Pressure: How will they perform when the stakes are high?

Companies and governments are falling slowly into the hands of perhaps the most stereotyped generation in history.  They are, of course, the so-called “trophy kids” – too often dismissed as a bunch of entitled brats who expect accolades just for showing up.  Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are suspicious of authority, intolerant of misinformation, and slow to extend loyalty to those who haven’t earned it. 

Writing for the New York Post, Karol Markowicz observes that “much has been written about how millennials are tender and delicate. They’re sometimes absurd, like when they don’t eat cereal because there is, apparently, too much clean-up involved — what with the bowl and the spoon. They draw headlines like Do Millennials Stand a Chance in the Real World?

Millennials certainly have unique tastes and preferences, which often confound their observers.  And their supposed lack of loyalty offends leaders who live by it.  But to say millennials are not up to meeting the challenges of the next quarter-century is probably not justified.

Millennials are the first generation raised in the age of 24-hour cable news, the internet, and social media.  In their young lives, they’ve received and processed more information than what their more distant ancestors processed over many centuries. 

According to a 2011 report by PwC, Millennials at Work – Reshaping the Workplace, millennials will account for 50% of the global workforce by 2020. 

Among the more disturbing parts of the millennial experience has been witnessing the scandalous downfalls of giants in both the public and private sectors – men and women of enormous professional stature and wealth who were exposed as frauds, cheats, criminals, and hustlers.  To the millennials watching these real-life dramas play out on television or YouTube, these articulate, charismatic, but misguided high-rollers probably seemed remarkably poised and collected just before they were led away in handcuffs.

No generation in history has had so many examples of abuse-of-power play out before their very eyes.  Why should anyone be surprised that they distrust authority?

That millennials are so stereotyped is, perhaps, even stronger evidence of why they behave as they sometimes do. Instead of studying, labeling, and mocking them, their more senior generations might have spent more time mentoring them.

Millennials are now being given the opportunity to lead; and the stakes are increasingly high as globalized technology changes the already complex affairs of the international landscape.  To lead effectively, however, millennials must cultivate trust, prioritizing the development of their humanity over the development of their technologies.  With increasing authority and power, they must envision a worthwhile future for themselves and their fellow citizens, leveraging their many talents to make that future a reality for as many people as possible.

In the final analysis, however, the millennial generation will simply do what every generation has done before them – navigate the world and its complexities as they come, apply what they have learned, and strive to create a better world for their children.

It’s silly to expect anything more of them.

By John Collins MA, SHRM-SCP
Published on Wednesday, October 24, 2017

John Collins is a High-Stakes Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach at Critical Victories (www.criticalvictories.com).