Millennials take a lot of heat from older generations. While discrediting younger generations by the older generations has been going on for as long as one can remember, it seems that Millennials have it a bit worse being the first generation of the digital age.
Many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers believe that participation trophies have caused Millennials to be entitled brats that are incapable of working independently or having as good a work ethic as past generations. It's almost as if they think that Millennials just love getting participation trophies and are always requesting them. If anyone is to blame for giving out participation trophies, it's the parents and community leaders.
The participation trophy argument only holds up if you believe that kids aren't smart enough to know the difference between a participation trophy and first place. I'm here to tell you that they do.
I simply don't buy it. Are some Millennials inherently flawed people? Of course they are, but you see that in all generations. I certainly have not seen enough evidence to suggest that Millennials are any less competent than Gen X or Baby Boomers were at their age. In fact, as a whole, I find Millennials to be highly intelligent, resourceful, innovative, and fast learners.
I used to be the head coach for a high school boys' tennis team that had between 50-75 players come out each year. We won several team and individual trophies while I was there for things like winning tournaments, conference championships, and placing at state.
However, we also gave out a participation award for each player who came out for the team and met the attendance policy and team rules for the entire season. They put their butts on the line in practice each day (quite literally, we ran sprints for at least 10-20 minutes every practice). They worked hard and dedicated themselves to a team instead of being on the corner after school with the kids that were smoking and just "hanging out." I believe that each kid deserved a little recognition at the team banquet at the end of the season.
Believe me when I tell you they knew the difference between the participation awards they all got and the trophies for winning tournaments and conference championships we proudly put in the school trophy case.
Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with many of them. Despite all receiving participation awards, they've gone on to do some pretty amazing things in their lives. Many of them went to top universities and received advanced degrees. Some served our country in the military. One of them just won an award from NASA. Another has successfully started and sold two companies and his third company was named #84 on the Inc. 5000 in 2016.
I love the response visionary Millennial Carlos Gil (Snapchat Brand Ambassador, Head of Social Media at BMC Software, and keynote speaker) gave in his recent video to Simon Sinek (best-selling author, global keynote speaker, and expert on Millennials in the workplace).
"After seeing Simon's video, 'Millennials in the Workplace' 4-5 times within a 24-hour span, and being humbled by many of Simon's points (such as cell phones at the dinner table and in meetings as well as the dopamine rush or "high" that social media gives us) it dawned on me once again that Millennials are the most misunderstood generation in human history despite the fact that we aren't too far off from who our parents once were." -Carlos Gil
The time is long overdue to stop Millennial bashing. Instead, let's focus on the many talents that they bring to an organization. In fact, the top companies out there have already figured this out.
It's been my experience that the people that are loudly blaming Millennials for participation trophies and the associated failures that come with them are largely doing so to deflect the blame for the shortcomings in their own career.
Anybody who sees Millennials as anything other than game changers is in complete denial.