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Are millennials a self-entitled bunch?

Differing opinions have sparked numerous debates about millennials and their self-entitled mindset.

PHOTO: EMAZE

A viral YouTube video of Simon Sinek talking about millennials in the workplace has more than 6.7 million views to date. It also made rounds on Facebook, where many agreed with his sentiments and shared their own experiences in dealing with millennials.

Sinek, an author, motivational speaker, and marketing consultant, broke down his impression of millennials and their problems into 4 main categories – being narcissistic and feeling entitled, addiction to social media, problems in forging relationships, and job-hopping as a result of a lack of patience.

In an article in the New York Post, Johnny Oleksinski, a self-declared millennial, agrees with Sinek. Oleksinski gave the example of the baby boomers generation inventing computers amongst giving other “major contributions to society” while millennials’ “major contributions to society are emojis and TV recaps,” as they complain that they are paid less than their older colleagues. He cited a Gallup 2016 report which stated that 21% of millennial employees had quit their jobs after less than a year, substantiating Sinek’s point.

In a Forbes article by Caroline Beaten, it is also contended that millennials’ sense of entitlement leads to an unhealthy working culture and decreased productivity at the workplace. One of the points raised was that a fixed salary causes millennials to work less as they begin to realise that their pay remains the same regardless of the effort put in. Beaten then suggests that this mindset will lead to entitlement in other areas of their life where they “expect unconditional rewards elsewhere, too.”

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However, those in the opposing camp have received a large amount of support as well, with a rebuttal to Simon Sinek’s video by Hasan Piker gaining 6.1 million views and more than 52, 000 shares on Facebook.

In his video, Piker deconstructs Sinek’s arguments to show that certain comments made by Sinek are no more than sweeping generalizations of millennials. He then brings to light the other circumstances that affect millennials, such as the higher cost of education, housing and how employee outsourcing has made finding and sustaining a job increasingly difficult for millennials.

Piker’s arguments are not groundless. In an article published by The Washington Post, it states that millennials will probably have to save more than the previous generations before they can retire, and the figure may be twice as much.


“Realistically, most people who are reading this article probably should expect to work a little bit longer than their parents did.”

– Tim Koller, a partner with the consulting firm McKinsey, in an interview with The Washington Post

PHOTO: YOUNG INVINCIBLES

An article by Business Insider also pointed out that millennials now earn approximately USD10,000 (SGD 13,800) less than baby boomers did as young adults, with wages declining by 20% from 1989 till now. Education has caused millennials to currently earn the same as those without a degree in 1989, reaffirming that the reality that millennials may have it tougher than the baby boomer generation.

A different interpretation of the job-hopping trend associated with millennials could also help to account for it. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) contended that companies could not retain millenials as “71% (of millenials) are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, making them the least engaged generation in the US.”

HBR later explained that millennials are not job-hopping because of their impatience, but rather that they value companies that can help to nurture their career growth and provide opportunities for advancement. This was in contrast to Sinek’s argument of millennials wanting “free food and beanbags” when looking for a job.

Unlike Sinek’s generalizations, instead of being entitled, it seems likely that millennials have shifted their priorities as a result of their circumstances. Lower wages, rising costs of living, and corporate environments that no longer value long-term employees as much, have led millennials to seek for other options that will allow them to survive and thrive. This may then have been perceived negatively by older generations.

Such stereotyping and blaming of younger generations is no new issue, with The Atlantic claiming the every generation has been the “me me me generation”. Piker notes this in his rebuttal video as well, referring to it as a cycle.


“This is just the latest in the cycle of older generations criticizing the younger one. It’s a pattern that repeats itself over and over again.”

– Hasan Piker in a rebuttal video to Simon Sinek

As Piker concludes, society is constantly evolving and learning. By making generalizations about an entire generation, it ignores the current circumstances millennials face and fails to recognise that a shift in values and priorities may have resulted from this set of evolved circumstances.

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