Are Millennials Being Helicopter Parented at Work?

If you listen to the buzz about the Millennial Generation, you will generally here the same story of how never before has such a brilliant and talented generation been given so little opportunity and such tough circumstances. Not that I believe it’s the Millennials themselves saying these things. Yes, Generation Y, the children born to the Reagan Era, got the shaft when they entered the workforce during the recession and general economic downturn, and that coupled with huge student loan debt really did give them a raw deal that wasn’t anything they had control over. It was just bad luck.

But the rest of the narrative, about these hyper-talented young adults that would be taking over the world but for annoying, lazy, and incompetent old people, doesn’t seem to be coming from the typical Millennial themselves, but rather from a few media and Internet famous pundits with rather loud voices, many of whom seem to have been born some time between 1950 and 1965; namely the Millennial’s Baby Boomer parents.

Here, I cite a specific example. An article on LinkeIn entitled, Why Millennials Keep Dumping You: An Open Letter to Management. Written in typical clickbait fashion, this bit of embellished fluff portends to enlighten us as to why the average, everyday, overachieving, and hyper-talented Millennial isn’t living up to their full potential at work. (Spoiler alert: It’s your fault.) The funny thing is, the author, a “sales leadership consultant” by the name of Lisa Earl McLeod, isn’t even a Millennial. She appears to have been born some time in the mid 1960s. In fact the whole piece appears to be cribbed from a conversation with her cum laude daughter and then pureed with a healthy dose of Baby Boomer, “The man is keeping us down,” rhetoric. The fact that the alleged informant’s LinkedIn profile is in no way associated with the article makes me believe that she is embarrassed by her mother’s drivel. I certainly would be.

The article itself seems to boil down to four, very false, unprofessional, and pretty dangerous statements about work:

  1. The people who sit next to me and do not perform according to my standards are preventing me from doing my best work, which is unimaginably awesome.
  2. Things like profit and revenue are boring. My job needs to define me and your key performance indicators do not fulfill my need for self-actualization
  3. Thanks for for the free lunch and the comfortable office, boss, but I hate how boring you are
  4. My boss’ job is to make me feel like I’m changing the world, which I was raised to believe is my destiny. In absence of validation of that belief, it’s perfectly reasonable for me to drink to excess in the evenings and throw a slow-burn tantrum that ends in an early departure from my current position

Obviously I’m paraphrasing, but the gut-fee I get from this article, and what I get from most of the buzz about Millennials, is narcissism and blaming other people for ones shortcomings. If so and so behaved better or did this or that or made me feel good, then I would do what I’m supposed to do, not what I’m actually doing. But are narcissism and deflecting blame unique to Millennials? I don’t think so.

What I’m actually hearing from the Millennials I know is different. Many of them reject this way of thinking altogether. And many of them are the victims of helicopter parenting, where they were constantly monitored and reassured that when things didn’t go their way, that it was a temporary setback and that they were still awesome, and ultimately, if they stuck to the program, they would still be more awesomer! I think many of them, as adults, are unhappy about their upbringing, and struggle with reconciling that message with the stark reality of adulthood, just like every other generation before them. Anyone fortunate enough to have had parents has eventually had to deprogram themselves.

But the pundit class will keep beating the drum. And right now the pundits the narrative are closer in age to the elder McLeod than the younger McLeod. They are concerned parents who can’t quite grok why their kids aren’t happy and why their parenting philosophy didn’t produce the outcome that they expected. The Millennial generation isn’t any better or worse than any other generation, and that drives their parents crazy. So now the late era Baby Boomers are extending the range of their helicopter parenting to the media. They take to the screens, on television and online, and complain about how their kids’ careers are being sabotaged by lazy coworkers and lackluster bosses, because the reality that their kid didn’t grow up to become a superstar, despite the unreasonable level of effort they put into engineering the perfect child, is more than they are yet able to accept.

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