Millennials – The Canaries in the Coal Mine

First, a little history about coal mines. Decades ago,
coal miners would take a canary with them into a coal
mine as a way to detect dangerous levels of carbon
monoxide (CO). The canary was an early warning system of
dangerous levels of CO. When the canary passed out, it
was a sign to the miners to get out of the mine.

One way to look at millennials is to consider them as the
canaries in the coal mine. Instead of complaining about
millennials and what they say and do, consider what they
say and do as an “early warning system” of when the
culture and employee engagement are getting to excessively
dangerous levels.

Comments that are often heard from millennials are:

#1 Managers see direct reports as simply tools to achieve
their goals and show no interest in them as human beings
or in their professional development.

#2 Policies are outdated and make it hard to work.

#3 Supervisors do not respect any life outside of work.

#4 Executives keep employees in the dark about the company
and its goals.

#5 Employees only receive negative feedback and seldom
praise or appreciation.

#6 There is no effort to show how work benefits the
company’s mission.

Millennials would rather quit than endure the above
working conditions that other generations endured, which
raises the question of, “How effective are the other
generations if they are simply enduring rather than fully
engaging in the business?”

Because the other generations don’t speak up or leave,
managers have no idea that “CO levels are rising.”
However with millennials, they are not happy being the
silent majority.

Maybe it’s time that we make an effort to listen to the
“complainers” because they may just represent the tip of
the iceberg that we are not seeing.


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