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  • Writer's pictureVikrant Vartak

My Experiments with ‘Millenials’!

In my last blog called ‘The Ugly Side Of Entrepreneurship Coin’, I had delved upon three serious challenges that entrepreneurs routinely face leading to a lack of a supportive & conducive ecosystem for entrepreneurs. These were:

1) The half-baked role of entrepreneurship ‘fosterers’ and harsh realities that await a wannabe entrepreneur

2) Role of Government authorities

3) Critical need for a long term support system for entrepreneurs

In this blog, I wish to touch upon another serious PEOPLE challenge that entrepreneurs (/employers/managers) are confronted with. Unlike my other blogs in which I have also offered likely solutions, this blog only shares concerns as my experiments and my interactions with fellow entrepreneurs & business leaders are still to yield solutions!!

While I cannot generalize my experience, I am still to find an instance/a person to vindicate my strong impression built over the last 4-5 years. This has been a ‘hot’ topic that I ended up discussing with so many other fellow entrepreneurs (within Mavens & beyond) including with head of large organizations like Edelweiss, Thermax and several others. This topic also deserved one full slot in each of the three conferences, arranged by ISB, Times of India & Entrepreneur India, I attended in 2019.

My favorite author Jim Collins (of ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Great by Choice’ fame) writes “limit your growth by your ability to hire good people”. Since last 4-5 years, we started facing a lot of issues on the employee front. Our experience with people in our organization clearly and majorly differed from the experience we had before in The Senate as well as in StealthHunt. My concerns were also echoed by my peer CEOs from Mavens. We often discussed the commonality of our negative experience and tried to draw upon some inferences and draw up an action plan. Each time we failed as we were primarily unclear of the root cause. What we discussed were only symptoms.

The negative experience continued and our organizations continued to suffer. One day, a friend insisted that I watch a video and said that I will find it extremely relatable. It was a video by Simon Sinek. While the video was extremely witty & entertaining, it hit the nail on the head. I discovered the root cause of the agony our organizations were going through!

In this video called ‘The Millennial Question’, Simon Sinek spoke about the typical traits of a millennial particularly in the context of a work place. While, he pointed out three main root causes – (1) failed parenting, (2) The technological disadvantage, & (3) Instant gratification – the video could not offer much help as to what can entrepreneurs, employers, and managers do to handle this serious ‘modern day’ challenge. It ended up with a vague advice to managers saying, “this is what you have and now you need to live with it” J!! Once sensitized to this root cause of this serious organizational challenge, my experiments began.

In the three conferences, arranged by ISB, Times of India & Entrepreneur India, I attended in 2019, all of them had a complete slot on ‘millennials’. One of them focused on how bosses should ‘change themselves’ to handle millennials as the opposite was hard to happen!

Broadly, how do you recognize millenials? These are those who you see glued to their smart phones ‘spending’ their valuable time at the workplace (& otherwise too) on applications like WA, Instagram, Tik Tok etc and clicking selfies. Visit their Insta account or see their WA statuses, and you will see bombastic quotes & proverbs about: individuality, making an impact, power of the mind, the vision to change the world, unbelievable (of course for common folks like us) dreams and so on!

While it’s very impressive and inspiring to see these youngsters’ larger-than-life worldview, challenges begin when you hire them and start expecting something out of them!

1) All play and no work makes Jack a millennial J!

Elders have always taught us and generations have painstakingly followed this doctrine: “Success and happiness cannot be pursued. They must ensue.”

This doctrine is clearly being trashed in current times. Right from their interviews to their last day at work, millennials only talk about rewards. While, it’s perfectly alright to do so, they talk about and demand rewards even before they have started their work! Well even if you take the risk and bet on them by promising or offering rewards in advance, does the ‘karma’ follow the ‘fruit’? Unfortunately, NO! Most of them do not even have the intentions. Some of them have good intentions but lack the will and in most cases the ability too. Even if the ability is lacking, will they learn? Answer is ‘no’ again even though some of them will pretend to do so. In a marketing conference I attended in Delhi, I learnt a startling research finding: millenials have lesser attention span than gold fishes!

My personal experience during the last 4-5 years shows that most millennials do not even last a few months. At the maximum, they may last for 12-18 months. During this time, it’s not just that their quality of work and delivery is poor, but the stint is riddled with a lot of behavioral issues. They are difficult to manage, headstrong, egoistic, have poor interpersonal skills, resign too many times (many times out of silly reasons), demonstrate poor learn-ability and so on. Many of them (for obvious reasons) have messed up personal lives and they do not make any effort not to mix their personal and professional fronts – something their seniors managed to do successfully all their lives irrespective of the level of difficulties.

Karmic Theory goes for a toss when it comes to them and ultimately ‘karma’ doesn’t get even a fair chance!

2) ‘Use technology and love people’ OR ‘love technology and use people’?

I casually asked one of my millennial managers, “can you name three people who you trust?”, and told him/her to exclude parents, siblings or spouse/gf/bf in the list. The manager thought for a few seconds and after a long pause said, “none”!

I have always believed and advocated that “Work (or any other platform) is just a reason to start a new association. You should aim to develop lifelong relations as these are the greatest asset one can develop.” I have found some of my best and life-long friends in my ex bosses, peers and reportees.

I was lucky to make many fantastic friends in the early 5-6 years of my entrepreneurial life. However, this clearly stopped during the last 4-5 years.

In his fabulous book called 'Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success', author Adam Grant talks about various categories of people: givers, takers, matchers and even fakers (givers in the guise of takers). I have always been a giver though at times a matcher too given the increasing number of takers around us!

Millenials that I have met were not just ‘takers’ but much more! Given my natural disposition to give and help, I have gone out of the way for so many of my millennial reportees over these years. While they accepted all that was being offered, many of them completely changed once the purpose was served. Some of them even unfriended and/or blocked us on social media for completely un-fathomable reasons. While the millenials have re-defined ‘brevity’, their one word answers to your long & friendly messages on WA, generally after they have left your organizations, often leaves you feeling hurt & bitter. It’s difficult to fathom what do they do with their saved minutes when you are paying the cost in the long term in the form of lost or deteriorated relationships!

Over a period I realized, this is how the generation thinks. They love technology and use people. No wonder many of them are messed up on relationships front. Since 80% of our happiness is derived out of the quality of our relationships, many of them have messed up lives.

3) Commitment, dependability and so on – ye sab kya hai??

The following are a few of my recent experiences (within last six months).

I was helping one of my millennial ex-colleagues to find a job of his/her choice after he/she quit our organization without a job in hand. Since the current CEO of Café Coffee Day is my SIBM classmate and a close friend, amongst my various attempts to help this person, I arranged his/her interview at CCD-Bangalore. Additionally, I arranged his/her personal meeting with the CEO for career guidance. To most professionals at an early stage, this would be a super valuable, never-to-be-missed opportunity. Interestingly, this person MISSED OUT on BOTH the commitments w/o informing!! I was left shamefaced when my friend asked me about his/her behavior!

One of my millennial managers used to manage our Wakad center. The person had a history of underperformance, negligence, and several blunders. However, owing to a combination of our constraints, the person’s good nature and his/her repeated assurances to improve, we continued this person for close to two years (despite being on the verge of being laid off a few times!). The last straw on the camel’s back proved to be when I visited our Wakad Center around midnight as a surprise check. To my surprise the facility was not locked! On probing deeper in the following week, I discovered that the center has been without a lock since a few months! Once pointed out, the person got the lock fixed in a few hours. This unimaginable negligence obviously costed the person dearly.

Our prior accountant had a history of blunders too. While the skeletons kept popping up now & then, all the skeletons tumbled out once the person left the organization. Amongst many, we discovered that the person had stopped entering cash transactions in the excel tracker since October, something we couldn’t correct ever as there was no audit trail left.

I promoted (with a pay hike) one of my millennial managers, who showed at least some promise (compared to peers) despite umpteen challenges too, with a commitment from him/her that the person will no more look for a job outside. Unfortunately, with the help of a close friend who runs a recruitment firm, I monitored this person’s activity on and discovered that the person not only had an active profile but also updated his/her profile daily and of course entertained job related calls too. This was just a few days after he/she made the commitment and accepted the associated rewards.

There are loads and loads of such instances in the last few years which not just scream out the poor quality of work and outcome but also of their lack of will & intent, negligence, lack of commitment and lack of dependability.

On the closing, we have dealt with people from all the age groups, but never has any generation attracted so much of an attention, obviously for the wrong reasons. This is sure to prove costly for these youngsters in the long run as it can be extremely difficult to change deep rooted perceptions.

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