Okay, we get it: there are a lot of people out there who think millennials are essentially lazy, good-for-nothing slackers who demand a lot from the world and don’t necessarily want to work for it. Everyone from the New York Times to Jezebel (who, by the way, ran a story with the actual headline, “Breaking: Millennials Want Nice Things But Don’t Want to Work for Them”) has talked about it, and Time magazine even ran a cover story on the topic. We got it.
However, what’s not being discussed as much is why millennials (which, in case you’re hazy on the definition, is the term term affixed to any person born between the early 1980s to early 2000s) have this reputation, and whether or not it’s true. To find out more, we chatted with positive psychologist Caroline Adams Miller, who pointed out research that supports the lackluster nature of the millennial generation.Embed from Getty Images
StyleCaster: What’s the source of all this alleged millennial laziness? And is there any validity to the claim?
Caroline Adams Miller: It’s been discovered that the self-esteem parenting movement [mostly] developed narcissists and sociopaths, not hard workers. It started in California in the 1970s, and it was a parenting approach that aimed to validate each child and make them feel like winners, even if they hadn’t done anything specific to be a winner. Parents just said ‘that’s great,’ [no matter what their kids did]. Kids were protected from failure, and they didn’t develop the character strengths to be resilient when things don’t go well.”
SC: So it’s our parents’ fault, right?
CM: Well, the new millennials—those impacted by the self-esteem parenting movement—are the least gritty generation of all time. They did grow up at a time when the self-esteem movement was predominant, when everyone got a participation trophy. When you sift out the belief in winners and losers, everyone believes they will all end up with the same reward.
The minute they got out into the world, the real world slapped them in the face, and they have a fixed mindset—they all believe they’re winners. They crumble at the first sign at getting feedback, and they don’t work very hard subsequently. [Companies are actually hiring] consultants who coach them on how to show up on time, how to work hard.
SC: Is there something going on in modern-day society, that also impacts the millennials’ attitude and work ethic?
CM: Facebook. There’s status updates and texting, where people don’t even have to work hard to connect with people. You get everything quickly and with very little effort.
SC: Do you think the whole “positive thinking” movement is making things better or worse?
CM: If you’ve developed a mindset where everything ought to go well for you, because the Law of Attraction [says so], you could begin to become so doubtful of your ability to make things happen for yourself that you begin to reinforce those beliefs over and over again. It’s a learned helplessness, whereas a growth mindset is that if you keep trying, you’ll learn something. Fixed mindset is that if you try something the first time, and you can’t do it, you’ll never be able to do it; that intelligent and abilities are fixed.