Simon Sinek on Millennials in the workplace

I think the main thing that permeates society today is ‘instant gratification’. I can see it in myself, even though I am way older. Whereas my parents would save up for years to buy a new car, I would want to buy one immediately and pay it off for years. Whereas my father received a watch for his 21st brithday, wore it all his life, and would have received another one when he retired, I have several different ones and never expect them to last a lifetime.

One thing I don’t miss though, is darning socks! I used to have to spend every Sunday afternoon darning all the family socks, using a tiger cowrie shell inside the sock to make a smooth surface to darn on. Now I can just go out and buy new ones. In that case, instant gratification rules! Oh, and cloth hankies – tissues may be more expensive but hankies were disgusting!


There is much derision today about helicopter parents giving rise to special snowflakes who talk about trigger warnings, safe spaces and microaggressions. A millennial generation who has been told they can be anything they want to and who avoid entry level jobs because they are ‘beneath them’.  While this is often true, millenials are also very good at branding themselves, working outside the boundaries of time and space (if they enjoy what they are doing), dealing with huge amounts of information bombarding them from every direction, and it is accepted that women are equal to men. The downside is that they tend to burn out, particularly women. Levels of stress and depression are skyrocketing.

HR managers in several of the organisations and companies in which I work have to attend courses on dealing with millennials in the workplace, because they are unlike previous generations (which, it has to be said, all have their own special quirks).

I wrote before that I am glad I was born when I was, and when I watch videos like the one above, it just reinforces that feeling.

I have always been more like many man in that I have always had a career (and generally careers dominated by men – first political journalism and then computers), always financially supported myself, put my job above family for most of my life, and never wanted the traditional female role that society attempted to impose upon me decades age. I don’t cook, I am terrible at housework, I have never allowed a man to tell me what to do or needed one economically or emotionally, I am fiercely independent. I have no doubt that living my life would have been easier now than it was when I was a strange aberration in a conservative, religious family. But I couldn’t deal with the stress that millenials have to face in today’s information and social media age. I couldn’t deal with the pressure to have it all and be everything to everyone.

There is a lot to be said for starting at the bottom. When I graduated with my first degree, I got a job at the maintenance department of the university. I used to deal with all the requisitions for any work to be done – from painting walls and unblocking toilets, to repairs, renovations and changing of lightbulbs. I also took bookings for the university bus pool. I was very young – 20 – and worked with only gruff, burly middle aged men, most of whom had been working since they were 14 or 15.

For example every time someone at the university wanted a lightbulb changed, they would send in a requisition in duplicate. I would give the white one to the lamp man and keep the blue one aside. When they had completed it, they would return it to me with the time spent. I would then enter the details into a computer form, match the blue one to the white one, and file it. Once a week I would send all the computer forms to the Wang centre where they would be input. Just for a lightbulb.

But I loved it. I learned more from those men than I ever did at university, and doing monotonous work let me think about all kinds of things while I was doing it. I started at 8 and finished at 5. I never lay awake thinking about work. I also got to read requisitions like ‘toilet door blown off hinges by wind’ and ‘please tell the painters their brushes are making too much noise. The students have exams!’. I honestly loved that job. I never thought ‘I have a degree, I should be doing something more in line with my education’. I was just thrilled to be earning a living!


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. I posted this on my facebook status and got some very negative response. People found it scaremongering, defeatist and judgemental. Those reactions came from millenials, often without a job, with burn outs and such. I was shocked by their defensiveness and closedmindedness.

    1. Yes I can imagine. I think that is part of the problem actually. Each generation has its strengths and weaknesses. But having those weaknesses pointed out to you is not always easy! Millennials will be grumbling about the generation that comes after them soon enough!

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