Saturday, September 24, 2016

Perspective: The Millennials

The Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are probably the best educated of any generation, and considering our nations leadership in digital technology, the quality and scope of our education institutions, the American created Smart Phone, Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and our nations energy independence, you would think that they would be excited about entering the adult world. You would be wrong!

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, the amount of anxiety and depression among the Millennials has sky rocketed in what many psychologists are calling a crisis of mental health. According to Psychology Today, “The average high school student today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient of the 1950s”. It is claimed that students used to show up to the nurse for skinned knees, but now they show up for panic attacks. Further, this is placing a major financial burden on academia to staff and fund the needed health facilities.

Psychologists are reporting that the level of anxiety increases dramatically when they enter college, and certainly will be worse as they enter the job market. What seems to trigger the anxiety is high performance expectation in sports and grades and the stress of applying to a future university or for employment!

Exacerbating the stress is that a high percentage of this generation’s graduates  is either unemployed or under employed despite their skill and training. This is understandable because, even though that the Boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day, it is unlikely that many of the jobs they are leaving will be available for the Millennials because of globalization, robotization, as well as illegal immigrants and legal foreign graduates from US schools who are taking US jobs.

Making it even more stressful for the Millennials entering the work place is that the mentors of the past are no longer there. Today, the Millennial is expected to come to the job ready to start work. Simply stated because the Millennial knows more about the tools of the trade (digital devices) than the Owner, the business owner believes that providing a mentor is not required.

Historically, the beginning employee was considered to be an apprentice. While the apprentice was being taught how to use the tools of trade by the master, the apprentice was also being mentored by the master regarding how to work in and live in the workplace culture. The apprentice learned about the importance of interpersonal relationships, how society worked, how business worked, how to be a good neighbor, how to work side-by-side with other workers and many other items indigenous to the business culture. This juxtaposition of roles places the Millennial in a position of being his or her own mentor in this radically and rapidly changing time. What can be more stressful than that?

The literature addresses several causes of their anxiety and depression, but one that is rated highest is the Millennials lack of problem solving skills. Dr. Benjamin Spock’s  book “Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” is blamed. According to an article by Reb Bradley, entitled “How Dr. Spock Destroyed America”, Spock “discouraged directive training and emphasized accommodating children’s feelings and catering to their preferences. No longer did children have to eat Brussels sprouts and suffer daily chores. Using Spock’s approach, parents began to feed self-indulgence, instead of instilling self-control”. Many of us will recall that parents were admonished to be careful not to destroy the child’s self-esteem.

Moreover, earlier generations were granted more freedom to experience life, such as playing outside from breakfast to dinner each summer, having jobs around the house or being paid for jobs in the neighborhood such as mowing grass, or shoveling snow. There were even farm or factory jobs for teenagers in those days. Further, those generations were not rewarded for every little achievement, so there was minimum stigma associated with failure. Learning to live with failure is an essential life skill. Unfortunately, the social media adds to the fear of failure because the individual is constantly being compared to others who may look better or may be achieving more.

The addition of texting to the cell phone in 1992 has permitted this generation to avoid verbal contact with their colleagues as well as family and friends. A book entitled “Reclaiming Conversation” describes this experiment: Millennials, their parents and grandparents were invited to a meeting. The grandparents and parents were seated on one side of the auditorium, the Millennials on the other. Immediately the grandparents and parents who did not know each other began chatting away, while the Millennials sat silently texting.

The parent and grandparent generations have not experienced the stress the Millennials face, and most of us have missed seeing the problems it is causing them. So, if the Millennials need help at any time, will they call on their elders? Probably not!
Nevertheless, we must stop complaining about the alleged societal causes of their stress, because we can’t change history. And we must not demand that they behave the way we would like!  They need mentors. We can be their mentors.

I have to confess that as much as I have been aware of and have been writing about the paradigm shift that the digital and global age is bringing to all our lives, I did not pick up on the stress that the Millennials are experiencing. The purpose of this blog is to have the older generations as well as the Millennials become aware of the issues so that both generations can be prepared to help.

One simple way is to have the parent and grandparent generations to become less intimated with the technology, and therefore communicate with the Millennials on their turf!  It is not that difficult to text, send e-mails, do Face time, and visit Face book and Instagram to keep up with your Millennial, to see how they are doing. We can do this!  Then the Millennials may feel freer to call upon us when they need help.

Doing this is not just important, it is essential if we are to help the Millennials work their way through this stressful time to become the nation’s leaders that we desperately need to preserve the American Dream!

For further information on how the Millennials can prepare for the new workplace, please refer to my blog of May, 2014 entitled: Perspective: The Millennials and Job Opportunities.

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