Millennials Are Not The Only Entitled Generation

Millennial interns were fired this month for petitioning against a company dress code. This was not a summer blockbuster movie or an episode of Glee with a snappy song to take you through the week, but instead the reality hit social media with accusations of millennial entitlement and a clear lack of emotional intelligence. 

Entitlement behavior isn’t just a ‘millennial thing’ and I’m a little tired of media reporting millennial employees as entitled. I’m going to share 25 years of work experience in APAC, Europe and North America to tell you Gen X and Boomers are not squeaky clean.

Here are some examples that demonstrate millennials are in an equal playing field within the human condition world.

Leadership Misunderstandings

Gen X and boomers demonstrate entitlement in their own way too, where they expect millennial employees to follow a leadership model that is antiquated without learning how to adapt to an educated and eager-to-learn workforce. 

Millennials have a lot to share on leadership that their elders need to learn from too.  Leadership is no longer about top-down decision making. It requires the ability to effectively collaborate.

Leadership is about engagement. Collaborative networks and discussions, not dictators and orders, form the model for leading today’s companies. It’s a change largely driven by technology, which allows people to effectively operate in lateral real-time networks. Power is shared rather than hoarded.

Yet, across the board, people struggle to work in teams and effectively collaborate. We can blame it on the rise of narcissism across society, which does a big disservice to meeting the needs of today’s organizations that require leaders with strong interpersonal skills.

The lesson: everyone needs to develop a learner mindset to collaborate and reach goals effectively.

Skills Gap

Members of Gen X often feel entitled in their roles and expect higher salaries, yet fail to take the initiative to update their skills. Meanwhile, millennials embrace the constant learner mentality and frequently update their skills because they tend to bring more agility to their work.

In today’s world, constantly updating skills is critical to not become obsolete as a worker. I’ve had members of Gen X wonder why they’re not getting the interviews when they have not continued to update their skills and remain relevant.

Today, it is easy to quickly become a dinosaur with gaping holes in your skills. For those not adopting the needed mindset and level of motivation, you will quickly become unable to compete with your peers and become unemployable in today’s environment.

The lesson:  Never stop learning. Never stop investing in yourself.  The skills gap stops for no one and you need to stay ahead of yourself and the competition.  If you’re not learning, you’re not advancing.  Be hungry.

Emotional Intelligence

Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Alphabet Inc., (formerly named Google) says, “Everyone needs a coach”.  I agree with him, but I also have a strong opinion that everyone needs to work on his or her emotional intelligence to be a successful leader and to get ahead.  Even members of Gen X work on this and if you want to get the edge, you need to hone on this to break away from the millennial brand the media wash you with.

The lesson:  Where was the intern in the gaggle of pitchfork interns demonstrating impulse control, empathy, social responsibility, problem solving, reality testing, flexibility, optimism and all the other EQi composites of emotional and social functioning?


CQ (curiosity quotient) is the new EQ (emotional quotient), and like the skills gap, it’s about always maintaining and evolving a learning mindset. Curiosity drives innovation and success for companies hinges on their ability to recruit and retain individuals with a knack for being curious.

CQ is crucial for succeeding in today’s competitive global environment. CQ empowers the ability to solve complex problems as well as a level of comfort with ambiguity and sophisticated thinking. It’s a critical skill not just for leadership, but every single employee. Unfortunately, too many people have become passive when it comes to curiosity or exploring ideals.

The lesson: Where was the CQ with the interns?  Why were they so fixated on a dress code versus learning to advance themselves for their career?  Why were they so distracted that clothing became the issue for the interns to band together and lobby for?  They focused on the mundane surface stuff rather than what mattered, demonstrating not just poor CQ, but also weak EQ and a lack of strategic thinking.

Start Listening

Listening is an art form in some countries, especially France.  Active listening and being focused on what the other person is saying ensures you learn and understand what the other person needs from you. I see all generations, but most especially millennials zoning out of a conversation and being distracted.

The ADD society does not support active listening and this trait is a big problem on multiple levels. Listening is about the ability to hear the other person, not just through your own personal bias, but from multiple perspectives. It requires empathy as well as an attention span.

The lesson:  Learn active listening skills so you can fully engage and activate results from your conversation or from what you heard.  I wonder what part of onboarding would have helped this skill be developed.

Get A First 90 Days Coach On The Job

If you can afford it either hire a first 90 days coach, approach your university for some in-the-job career support, get the Michael Watkins book ‘The First 90 Days’, or find a mentor who is 20 years older than you with many first 90 days under their belt as well as a wealth of wisdom to guide you.

The first 90 days sets the tone. It’s a likely predictor of the final outcome of your tenure at your new company. How you perform, interact, and establish yourself sets the tone for whether you will rise in ranks or fall to the wayside.

The first 90-days must be tackled with a strategy in order for you to succeed. It’s something most leaders have understood on some level for eons and now the idea has gone mainstream. Apply it and take advantage of it in order to move yourself forward.  

It’s rare for millennials to seek out a first 90 days coach, and even rarer for members of GenX and boomers.  Be ahead of the generation game and get yourself a coach as soon as you start a new job.

The lesson:  What would have happened if the interns had a mentor or coach to guide them?  

Caroline Stokes is founder of FORWARD, a human capital solutions company providing executive search and coaching for innovation leaders.

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