‘Don’t call me a child, uncle!’

A screenshot from Shiva, animated television series on Nickelodeon.  

If you want to understand a generation, go to its popular stories. Shiva, an ongoing animated television series on Nickelodeon, reveals much about the present one. A boy-protagonist in the series, he reflects the mind of the Millennial generation. There is one line he spouts regularly that is particularly revelatory. Every time a grown-up dismisses Shiva with a wave of his hand, calling him a child, he shoots back, “Don't call me a child, uncle!” With a hi-tech cycle as ally, Shiva will then go on to beat the living daylights out of this man and other workers of iniquity.

Child superhero complex

Millennials are as confident of their place in the modern workplace as Shiva is of his place in the world. They don't want their age — actually, the lack of it — to be held against them. Most of them see themselves on the same level as their superiors, and some of them see themselves a notch above theirs. It is a confidence bolstered not so much by technology as by the knowledge they have managed to tap using it. The Millennials are also known as the Google Generation. With the ability to navigate social media, some of them are serial entrepreneurs even before they step out of college. These enterprises would have been as short-lived as fireflies, but these kids have seen them glow beautifully, and they will never forget what they saw. So, when they enter a 9to5 job, they are entering it as embryonic bosses. They may also be looking upon themselves as child superheroes that the business badly needs.

Mentor material

In the animated series that we are using as an analogy, Shiva is out there helping Ladoo Singh, the inspector of the city, and he goes about this work with a rare sense of purpose and confidence. Using Shiva as the benchmark, child heroes of the past hardly come across as child heroes. They would stumble on an adventure and expose bad people with great difficulty, barely managing to keep themselves safe from dangers along the way. And they would be helped on the way by grown-ups. One can see this pattern in most adventures of Enid Blyton's “Famous Five”. In Shiva, there is a clear lop-sidedness in the distribution of power. Ladoo Singh needs Shiva and not the other way round. And, Shiva knows this.

Millennials want to see themselves as indispensable and they often tend to believe they are invincible. So, when a mentoring programme is chalked out for them, ensure they are ushered into it as equals. It should be a symbiotic mentoring arrangement where the process of learning moves both ways. By way of organisational learning, there is a lot the Millennial will have to offer the senior leader. Only that the senior leader has to bear Shiva's warning in mind — “Don't call me a child, uncle!”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 4:04:12 PM |

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