Has a cult of “tough leadership & shame culture” contributed to the generation divide?

Are Millennials the most misunderstood generation of our time?

Yes, they are certainly different. They’re the first digital natives, the first generation to ‘grow up’ on social media. They’re somewhat alien to the rest of us, it seems. We just don’t get them and their values. Never has there been such a massive gap between generations. (Or has there?)

I would like to challenge the popular view that Millennials are terrible human beings, terrible employees, and hopeless, hapless losers. Because I believe this view of Millennials isn’t coming from fact; it’s coming from older generations’ filtered lenses; from rumour; from misunderstanding; from media representation.

I believe there is not only a gap between generations, there is a gap between what is true and what is false with our poor Millennial workers. And I will prove it.

Where has the gap come from?

I believe the cult of “tough leadership”, and the shame culture so prevalent in Australian (and global) workplaces may in fact be responsible for creating this massive divide.

The dopamine-fuelled culture of dog eat dog competition and survival of the fittest has permeated many workplace environments. And in my experience, in these toxic environments, people do not thrive, they simply survive.

Could it actually be that much of today’s generational conflict stems from the fact the older generations want a command and control type of leader and adversely, the younger generations want a leader who includes them in decision making–– the old top down vs. bottom up conundrum?

Is it time to shake things up? (Again.)

We are well into the 21st Century, the Industrial Revolution has been and gone and our consumer and employer market is the most progressive we have ever seen it, and yet in our workplaces we are seeing a return to the traditional dictatorial style leadership of the 80’s and 90’s.

I want to know why? Why are we reverting to archaic practices?

Is it being driven by the culture of fear mongering and divisiveness seen by our global political leaders? Donald Trump an obvious marker, we could also be scrutinising our leaders closer to home.

Some of the iconic Aussie Managers we’ve had as role models for the Baby Boomer generation ––who still hold the majority of leadership positions right now–– display similar stand over qualities as the un-popular Trump.

The fiery Kerry Packer and ruthless Rupert Murdoch are still big business figureheads. And in Australian politics many of our past Prime Ministers also marry up with the traditional “management by fear” ethos. Remember Kevin Rudd’s reign? They called him the smiling Dictator. Are these leaders and their values the last ditch attempt by Boomers to hang on to their eroding power?

Is naming, shaming and blaming Millennials for all the problems we see in workplaces today a prolific way to lead the next wave of productivity?

I am absolutely confident it is not!

Further concern, of course, is the broader culture of bullying and shame culture that exists in Australian society as a whole. I worry, if it’s OK to sledge opponents on the cricket pitch or footy field then why not in the workplace? It’s certainly ok to do it on TV, on the radio, and on social media ––it seems.

The Australian parliament is another example of this bullying becoming the ‘norm’. It all began back on the 11 November 1975 – the day prime minister Gough Whitlam was to inform parliament about a secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr (Our Governor General at the time). Kerr then Invoked archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, and sacked the democratically elected prime minister on the spot. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

The 2018 ousting of Malcolm Turnbull revealed a toxic climate among some MPs who are supposed to be setting an example for the country. Malcolm perhaps getting some of his own medicine for the fabulous ousting of Abbot a few years prior.

But it’s not just the Libs behaving badly. Kevin Rudd followed a similar demise, and Julia Gillard was bullied out shortly after. Australia has had 7 Prime Ministers in 10 years! Now, I am no Liberal voting conservative but take us back to the glory days of John Howard’s 12 years Prime Minister-ship. We at least had some stability.

It’s not just politics, where we are seeing this behaviour. It has also become a norm in Australia’s schoolyards –– where children develop the very foundations for their social behaviours. The bullying epidemic in our schools is blighting future employees and managers in their formative years.

Y; we need to change…

According to the Productivity Commission, bullying costs Australian workplaces up to $36billion annually, due to lost productivity. This is a pretty serious number and we do not compare well to the rest of the world, a 2016 study found Australia had the sixth highest rate of workplace bullying when compared with 34 European countries. Ouch.

But still, we continue to bully, shame, and categorise an entire generation –– repeatedly and publicly.

But Y!?!

Why are we collectively doing this?

Forget the impact this is having for poor Millennials in our workplaces, what about the impact this mass bullying is having on our culture?!

The gap, the great divide. The way we’re continually focusing on all the things Millennials apparently suck at; how they’re single-handedly killing industries and fucking the world ––apparently–– is making the gap even bigger.

The gap is not good for our culture, and it’s definitely not good for business.

So guess what? I think it’s time we flipped it.

Because this divisiveness needs to stop, it needs to stop right now or I fear it will never end.

Are you ready to change your thinking around Millennials or are you well and truly staunch in your beliefs?

Written by Emily Jaksch

Millennial Expert