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Star Wars – Millennials vs Boomers Part 2

From Aararat's Employee Engagement Consulting Series

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By Dr. Kevin Orieux

What's at Fault?

In our last article, we examined how the Star Wars saga has a repeated theme.  Galaxy is in danger from the Dark Side, a veteran Jedi is called upon to save the day but in the process, a new wannabe Jedi gets in the mix and then screws up by attempting to “be what s/he is called to be”.  In the latest instalment, these are the actual words spoken by Kylo Ren <aka Princess Leia and Hans Solo’s son, Ben> to the newest young wannabe Jedi, the heroine Rey.  Kylo tells her that everyone who has mentored, guided, supported (and put up with her) in the past are mere fools who don’t recognize just how amazing Rey is, that therefore Rey would be a fool to stay in their company. Instead, Kylo offers her the opportunity to switch sides (i.e. to the Dark Side) and take up with his company. 

Together, Kylo promises, they will rule the Galaxy.  

All Rey has to do is switch companies.

Which is exactly what Millennials do.

Lots of them.

Frequently.

Without thinking.

At least, that's what many executives and managers in the corporate world see.  After they have invested time, resources and money to bring Millennials up to speed, the Millennials take all that training to the competition. 

Which is exactly the scenario in which Rey faces in The Last Jedi – will she switch allegiances just because she isn’t being recognized, praised and deified by everyone who has poured their blood, sweat and tears into trying to help her achieve her potential?  The sales pitch that Kylo Ren uses to become who you really are  is a not-so-subtle way to cast doubt about Rey’s support group and poison Rey’s mindset into believing that she will never become “who she really is” if she continues to keep company with the good folk of the Resistance.

There’s a psychological force at play, and this force is the reason that so many Millennials change jobs so quickly and so frequently.  They jump ship from one company to another as soon as they feel their needs aren’t being met, or they aren’t being fully appreciated for all the amazing skills they have, or because somebody offers them an extra fifty cents an hour, or maybe just because the Millennial got their ego ruffled because some senior manager <think: Jedi Master Luke Skywalker> actually had the nerve to point out one of their weaknesses.

Nobody “likes” having their flaws pointed out.  But if no one points out our flaws, we live in the flawed reality that we are wonderful.  Worse, if nobody ever points out our flaws then we are doomed – doomed to remain mediocre.  Nobody improves without having to self-examine where they need to improve, and nobody improves unless they have a wiser mentor who has made the same mistakes they are making, point out those very same mistakes.  One of the most important lines in the The Last Jedi is when Master Yoda says that we only grow from our failures.  In all of moviedom, nobody comes close to having the proverbial wisdom of Solomon as does that little green muppet. 

So where does this thin-skinned, quit and go home, can’t take constructive criticism mindset come from in Millennials?  The answer may shock you: it come from Baby Boomers.  More accurately, from Baby Boomer “parents”.  You see, after Baby Boomers got enlightened from intro classes in sociology and psych when they were 18 and 19 in the hallowed halls (and beer gardens) of university during their freshman year, they quickly determined that every parenting generation before them had it all wrong.

Because they weren’t enlightened. 

Because they never went to university. 

And never took Intro Soc an Psych.

So the enlightened Baby Boomers tore the traditional parent manual in half and rewrote it to suit their own self-image of a new genre of Super-Parent, where being a super parent simply looks like the antithesis of how their parents raised them (this is why we call it “enlightenment”).  When Baby Boomers started birthing the Millennials in the 80’s and 90’s, Boomers effectively changed the paradigm of parenting.  In generations past, the order of the day was, well, order.  Parents were authority figures and part of being in authority was to discipline those you are in charge of, meaning your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and even your neighbors.  For the parents of Baby Boomers (and every parenting generation previous to that) not only did the traditional parenting model dictate that adults were to chastise, correct and discipline their children, but it was a community effort.  Aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers and even the neighbors on your street would call a spade a spade and dress a kid down if they were acting out of order.  And when some aunt, uncle, teacher or neighbor dressed down some kid, the parents thanked them for helping raise their children.

Today, it’s all very different.  If a teacher were to criticize a child, that teacher would most likely get suspended.  A couple of years ago, a high school teacher gave a student an F on an assignment because the student didn’t hand in the assignment, even after several extensions.  Did the parents “thank” the teacher?  Oh no, the parents threatened to sue. Did the school board support the teacher?  Oh no, the school board FIRED the teacher!  Talk about the Force being out of balance.  Today, parents run to their child’s defence whenever anything or anyone poses even the slightest threat to their child’s sense of safety and well-being.  Today, many parents are more focused on trying to be their kid's pal, not their parent, especially when a divorce has occurred so parents try to outdo each other by giving in to the kid's whims so they aren’t the “mean” parent.  If a soccer coach doesn’t give their kid field time, the parent takes them out of soccer and puts them in Taekwondo.  If their kid doesn’t get a black belt in six months, the parent puts them in ballet.  If they don’t get to play the lead role of Laura in the Christmas Nutcracker showcase, the parent puts them into something else, anything else, as long as this new activity has the potential of putting their amazing, one-of-a-kind, can-do-no-wrong-wunderchild in the spotlight, at center stage, where the glory is. 

If this sounds over-reactive or heavens forbid, a little “harsh” then next time you meet a soccer coach, martial arts Sensei, ballet teacher or any other volunteer who coaches kids, just ask them how many times they have seen a parent pull their kid just because their kid didn’t get the playing time, prime position or glory role.  They’ll tell you – it happens a LOT !

The philosophical question we have to ask is:  what’s at fault.  In an attempt to sound like Yoda, the question needs to be “Ask not who, but what?”  because it’s not so much the parents of Millennials that are the problem, it’s the process of parenting that doesn’t allow a child to fail and then, learn from the failure.  The reality is, it’s reality itself that is under assault because in the real world when you have a job, if you screw up, you get corrected and if you keep screwing up, you get fired.

Except many of the Millennials have never been properly equipped or prepared to take ownership of their screw-ups because Mom and Dad have stepped in to coddle and smother them with adulation, rather than making them face up to accountability and a healthy dose of cause & effect realization.  Parents today have simply become way too over-protective.  In generations past, children finished high school, got a hug from their Mom and a handshake from their Dad and then they left home to strike out on their own.  In generations past, many young adults went to war, where they quickly learned that authority, discipline and accountability was a life or death reality. Today, when reality gives young adults a kick in the head, the children run back home and stay there, late into their twenties and even thirties.  They have Mom and Dad to bail them out, not bawl them out.  This leads to a deeper question: If a young adult doesn’t learn to take responsibilities for their mistakes, then like a tree falling in the forest, philosophically, did the mistake ever occur in the first place?

It’s not who is at fault, it’s what is at fault.

The what is the desire of anyone, Millennial or any other generation, to want to live in a world where they don’t have to own up to their problems, take responsibilities for their errors, but instead where they get to be told they are the be-all and the end-all of whatever fantasy they entertain in their heads.  All they need is some evil Kylo Ren to come along and whisper in their ear that they will “never be happy” until they join company with people who recognize their greatness and are wanting to let them rule the galaxy, just so long as they turn their back on everyone who has ever attempted to help them learn how to align themselves with the natural of thermodynamics and the forces of cause and effect that are what gives our universe any sense of order.

What’s at fault is when we start to believe that, not only is the Force with us, but we are the Chosen One.

Like Anakin…

And Luke…

And Kylo Ren…

And now, the newest wannabe Super Star - Rey. 

If we learn anything from Star Wars at all, it’s that human nature is extremely predictable to any who put in the effort to study the social sciences of psychology and especially sociology, not in the intro classes and beer gardens of freshman year, but in the graduate department of the real world.  Because when you do you will quickly come to understand, as George Lucas does, that history repeats itself.

What’s at fault is that the cycle of life dictates that almost every young adult, at some point in time, falls to temptation.

And we choose to believe that we more than we are.

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