Should You Hire Millennials for Leadership Positions?

A not-at-all satirical thinkpiece.

In my decade of helping brands position themselves as “thought leaders,” I’ve been asked for a thinkpiece on Millennials about once every other month. But this recent request in my inbox gave me pause:

Can you discuss whether companies should train Millennials into their leadership?

Yes, absolutely – and no, absolutely not.

Should you hire millennials for leadership positions_

There are very good reasons not to train Millennials for leadership positions in any business or organization. Here are three:

1.  They’re too young (until they’re too old).

Millennials have greedily occupied the younger end of the workforce, making up 100 percent of all workers ages 23 to 38 or thereabouts.

Their pervasiveness, and the trickiness of their ages, make Millennials a bad bet for leadership positions. Do you really want to put a snot-nosed 23-year-old college graduate in charge of your teams? And that 37-year-old you just hired for a quarter of what you were paying her 67-year-old predecessor: Do you really think your people are going to take someone seriously when they’re practically over the hill?

Millennials are straight-up too young and irresponsible for leadership positions, unless they’re too old to be taken seriously in those positions. It’s best just to give them a miss altogether.

2. They don’t value money.

Here’s a sampling of things Millennials have killed in the past few years:

Oh, yeah. And The American Dream.

What do all these things have in common? That’s right: They’re all sites of “conspicuous consumption,” or methods for telegraphing the unnecessarily large size of one’s paycheck.

Millennials, instead, appear to be spending more on education, healthcare, and rent. Seriously? When did those ever impress the Joneses?

These spending trends should give employers pause. If Millennials can’t be trusted to invest their pay in the sort of status objects that will make everyone on the block envy them, what can they be trusted with? Certainly not leadership.

3. Capitalism is doomed.

Capitalism is dying anyway, and not just because Millennials killed it. Whether you prefer to frame the oncoming problem as the accelerating approach of catastrophic weather changes brought on by climate fluctuations, a Biblical end times scenario, or the arrival of fully automated luxury gay space communism, the fact is that capitalism is drawing to its close.

Sure, failing to prepare a single Millennial worker for leadership will leave a 15+ year hole in your company’s continuity, as your older workers retire or die and the remainder are in no way ready to take the reins. But since your business and everybody else’s aren’t going to survive the coming climate/Bible/Federation utopia apocalypse anyway, why are you wasting time and money training anyone for leadership? Think of the shareholders!

In short: Training Millennials for leadership positions is a bad proposition. Stick to training everyone born before 1980 or after 2000, and leave your Millennial workers to do what they do best: an unpaid internship.

 

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A Quick Guide to Writing Satire

This bit of wisdom appeared on my Tumblr dash recently:

tumblr satire

(#THAT TAG THO)

And, since the topic of “how to write satire effectively” has come up for several of my students in the past few weeks, I thought I’d offer this

Quick Guide to Writing Satire

1.  Ask yourself, “is this a real argument I have heard/seen/read someone make – and mean it?”

If it’s an argument someone has made on your topic, in all seriousness, then when you parrot it, you are not writing satire.  Instead, you are agreeing with the serious-arguer.

Examples:

a.  “Overpopulation could easily be solved by sterilizing poor people.”

This statement is not satire.  Why?  Because this argument has been made, in all seriousness, in the past.  A quick Google search on “sterilization of the poor” turns up some pretty unsettling examples.

Yes, sometimes this argument gets used by writers attempting satire.  But, as this retraction from The Daily Currant illustrates, using an argument that many people take seriously can backfire on you in a big way.

b.  “Overpopulation could easily be solved by serving poor children as veal.”

This statement is satire.  Outside of Jonathan Swift’s infamous “A Modest Proposal,” perhaps the most well-known satire ever written, nobody appears to be seriously advocating for the marketing of poor children as veal or any other meat product.  A quick Google search for “serving poor children as veal” turns up recipes for veal, petitions to stop the eating of veal (made of baby cows, not baby humans), and links to agencies tasked with “serving poor children” (meeting their needs, not preparing them as food).

2.  This argument I’ve thought up is so hilariously impossible no one could ever state it seriously!  Am I safe to put it in my satire?

Have you looked it up to be sure no one really has stated it seriously?  Do that first.

I know the dreaded “R” word (“research”) puts a damper on your “oh, the cleverness of me!” buzz – I’ve been there.  But it’s worth spending five minutes with Google to avoid showing your arse in public, perhaps for all eternity.  Lesson Two to be learned from the above-linked Daily Currant retraction: the Internet never forgets.

3.  Okay, so my satirical argument hasn’t been argued seriously by anyone, and it is hilariously hilarious.  NOW can I write my satire, please?

You can if you do one more thing: make it so outrageous that even the people arguing seriously for the most extreme measures would say “whoa, that’s too far.”

If that sounds unlike any writing teacher’s advice you’ve ever received, that’s because satire is unlike any genre you’ve ever learned to write.  Satire is the ultimate “go big or go home” genre: if it’s not so completely outrageous that even the people advocating the most extreme measures say “whoa, hold up,” it has failed as a satire.

Examples:

a.  “Gay marriage should be illegal because America is a Christian nation, where non-Christians are stripped of their citizenship.”

Maybe no one on the anti-same-sex-marriage side of the argument has advocated seriously for stripping same-sex couples of their citizenship.  (Feel free to Google this.)  But a great many people on the anti- side have argued that American laws are so closely conflated with Christian values that permitting same-sex marriage would violate both.  From there, it’s not a big leap to “if Americans must follow Christian morals, then those who don’t follow Christian morals aren’t real Americans.”  Indeed, there are probably a few people in the world who actually believe this, whether or not they post to the Internet.

b.  “Gay marriage should be illegal because America is a Christian nation, where non-Christians are put in tiny boats and set afloat in the Arctic Ocean.”

This, however, is satire.  Not only does it make an argument no one is seriously advocating actually happens, but it makes an argument that even the most vehement anti-same-sex-marriage advocates would probably say should not happen.  Most people, no matter how passionately they are for or against same-sex marriage, are still going to say “whoa now, nobody said they had to freeze to death” – especially if the proposal is made in so many words.   Indeed, marooning people in the Arctic has a decidedly non-Christian ring to it.

To name another example: Remember that in “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift’s recommendation “for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the public” wasn’t to force them all into boarding schools, or train them all how to tune pianos.  People in Swift’s time were already advocating for such things, and “put them all in an institution” or “teach them all a trade that can’t possibly support that many practitioners” were both ideas advocated by people on various sides of the question.  Swift skipped all these genuinely “modest” proposals altogether and went right for the jugular: let’s just eat them.

Think of satire like a bouncy castle.  If you fill the bouncy castle up allll the way with air, fun times are had by all.  If you fill it up only halfway, however, it makes a sad puddle in the middle of the backyard and your birthday party is ruined.

4.  Help!  I still can’t tell satire from current-day American politics!

That makes two of us.  Perhaps you should write something about that?