What Do One Year Old Babies Like To Play With How You Can Pamper Millennials at Work (and Why You Should)

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How You Can Pamper Millennials at Work (and Why You Should)

I think the term “millennials” is way overused, but it’s the easiest way I can think of to refer to a whole group of people I’m about to bash. Think people born between 1980 and the mid-90s. That will be quite specific. (Disclaimer: I am also part of that generation).

Anyhoo, millennials suck*. For many reasons, but none more so than their attitudes. I think we make a lot of our “trophy culture”, where everyone fusses just because we fit in and participated, but we rarely explore the specific impact this type of thinking has on our daily lives (besides an increased incidence of crying).

*This statement firmly excludes young people who serve in the military. They are braver and better than all of us.

Trophy culture breeds entitlement. We expect praise after accomplishing nothing; we used our parents’ money to go to college, then we graduated expecting a high-paying job, even though most of our undergraduate training prepared us for nothing. Now we expect promotions after a certain amount of time has passed, regardless of our achievements or actual skill. We compare ourselves to others and assume that we are being treated unfairly if someone moves faster than us.

Millennials are such babies.

Millennials are also innovative, extremely intelligent, and on track to become the most educated generation in human history. They are necessary. So rather than just beating their crying reluctance to get stronger, I’m going to show you how to treat them like I treat my one-year-old son, Colin.

1. Recognition

“Notice me!” shouts a generation. After several hundred years of individualistic indoctrination, America has created a horde of attention-seeking monsters. In more Gemeinschaft societies (Wikipedia that word – it’s good and literally the only thing I remember from Social Psych), like China, community takes the forefront. Children are encouraged to integrate into the group and contribute quietly. In the US of A, we clap for the kid belching the alphabet while tap dancing and spinning in circles.

Colin, my first born baby, has a basic intelligence level because he is a baby. He still tests the world’s levers and explores new ways to influence his surroundings. One of his measures of success for new acts is the amount of positive attention he receives when he acts. Say “balloon” when you point to the balloon, and you’ll hear mom and dad lose their shit; throw your puffs on the floor so you can watch the dog eat them, and you’ll probably get the cold shoulder.

Part and parcel to this process is our reinforcement of his good tricks by recognizing each and every time he does them. He begins to expect positive things every time he says balloon – because we are good parents and because we are a little patient, we recognize his achievements again and again. It’s tiring.

Switch to the millennial workforce. If you’ve ever worked with a member of this group, you’ll see the point. Millennials are trained to thrive in their careers when they are recognized, and then expect it consistently. They need their shareable moments and headline changes and email shoutouts to feel important. And, even if it’s annoying, it’s not that hard to accommodate. Set the bar high for achievement, but remember to celebrate the victories, big and small. Nothing is better for engagement. Millennials need to feel valued in their career; so show them they are.

2. Relativity

To be fair, the next point can be extrapolated to any person, but it’s still important. We judge ourselves by what others have. We overestimate our own contributions and underestimate others, which makes us bitter when someone else succeeds (“no way she deserves that”).

Colin has Mommy and Me playgroups where he gets to interact with a whole bunch of other babies. They play with blocks, read books, and then, since we’re in Brooklyn, they draw with organic, edible crayons. It’s fun to see Colin’s interest in toy wax and wane based on who’s holding it. He’ll let a stuffed dog sit right next to him, paying no attention to it at all, until Lucas crawls over and starts to show some interest. Then, the stuffed dog is FIRE, bro. It’s all he wants. Sometimes parents have to intercede and say “Hey, kid, this is the logical reason why you can’t play with this right now.”

Employers must do the same – make rank and movement as transparent as possible so that people can see an objective reason for rewards. The bitterness will disappear if there is a foundation of objective reasoning, and employees will even begin to model the things you reward.

3. Retention

Millennials change careers four times by the time they turn 32, which means they’re slippery stuff. Most of the time, they leave because they are bored.

I try to read a few books to Colin every day. Sometimes he doesn’t want to pay attention; he would rather pull the dog’s ear and pour water on her back. I have to do things that are very interesting for him to stay. That means funny voices, movement, putting underwear on my head; anything to keep him engaged.

Same for millennials. Start a rotation program to keep minds absorbed. Allow your employees to experience multiple departments and processes; they will be smarter for it, and the change will provide a much-needed mental stabilizer.

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