Tale of the Overconfident Millennial

Blog Post created by mala.grewal Advocate on Jun 10, 2015

One of my favorite parts of my work is coaching millennials to their highest performance in the workplace. They come to me with well-developed imaginations and problem solving abilities, which helps them feel confident in their work. Unfortunately this confidence can be perceived as hubris, or exaggerated belief in their own value.


This perception became a reality for a friend of mine a few years ago. He had recently graduated and accepted his very first job offer at a public relations firm in San Francisco. The agency was sexy, overlooked the bay, and full of energetic twenty something’s. Three months in, he began to dismiss many of the business processes as “outdated” and “unsophisticated” and had no problem telling this to his older coworkers (who questioned his credibility due to his short tenure in the industry). He began developing a relationship with the founders and realized he had the brains to re-invent the agency’s shortcomings. As he went about identifying issues and vocalizing ways to solve them, he failed to take into consideration the hard-won experience and reasoning behind the way things are done. While his ideas were brilliant and bound to transform the organization, he shared them without realizing his managers had stopped listening due to his arrogant delivery style and “too much, too soon” approach. A short twelve months after signing his offer letter, he was asked to leave the agency.


This experience was a painful one for me, as I watched one of the brightest people I know operate without self-awareness and as a result, be grossly misperceived to the point where it cost him his first job out of school. His ego was crushed and he’s been working to re-build credibility ever since.


I study millennial behavior in an effort to prepare our most educated, globally diverse generation (who by 2030 will make up 75% of our workforce!) to successfully lead our organizations. One of the many promising characteristics of this generation is their incredible focus on setting themselves up for success.


Here are some pointers from FranklinCovey that my millennial clients have found helpful to succeed on their professional journeys:


Remember your contribution is a two-way street: align your expectations with those of your company and understand how you can best contribute in your role, don’t expect to be rewarded no matter what

Set realistic expectations: write down everything that’s expected of you in your role and see if you can match your own talents and abilities to each expectation, and how you could truly succeed in that role

Get crystal clear on how your organization handles rewards: rather than expect guaranteed raises, promotions and bonuses, take a close look at how your organization rewards to know what to expect

Watch how others excel: if you want to advance in your organization, look for someone who currently holds your dream role and find out how they got there (how long did it take, what accomplishments and education did they have, etc.)


The more we can help millennials curb their hubris and better recognize their value we can leverage our collective skills to successfully lead our organizations to a future beyond what we’ve ever imagined.