Descriptors of ‘Millennials’, those born somewhere between 1980 and 2000, range from ‘open minded and confident’ to ‘ narcissistic and spoiled’.

The negatives consistently outweigh the positives.

It’s an easy game to play.

But no generation develops distinctive characteristics mysteriously or spontaneously.  Social and cultural changes, fashions in parenting, reactions against previous generations; all combine and conspire to incubate recognisable generational characteristics.

What were the parenting values that formed the millennials?

I’m interested because I suspect that some organisations act in a similar way.

The consensus is that these baby boomer parents were determined to ‘do things right’.  Their children were angels in waiting. All problems must be solved for them, all support offered, and all they did would be wonderful.

There seem to be 3 axioms that kind of did it…

  • success and happiness are an imperative and a right
  • the child’s (millennial’s) definition of success and happiness is the prevailing, and only, definition that matters
  • everyone else (especially parents) exists in order to facilitate this success and happiness.

If these beliefs drive you, then you’ll expect to get what you want (and imagine you deserve), will fight any that oppose you (and probably pick a fight – complaining has always worked) and actively resent unexpected challenges and problems.

The last time I spent a day with a team that displayed these characteristics, they weren’t millennials at all.

They were a very serious, grown up and senior team.  But the company had acted as a sort of indulgent, helicopter parent. The team was finding a tricky scenario not just challenging, but a personal affront.

The development experience that the sociologists say the ‘millennials’ miss is the bump in the road, the ‘life’s hard knocks’ lesson.

Perhaps organisations can suffer from that too.

The leadership team that has been cossetted and indulged is surprisingly millennial-like in behaviour: simultaneously fierce and frail.

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