Even the NFL is having to adjust to a millennial workforce

Posted On April 2, 2019

All kinds of businesses and industries are having to adjust to the increasing numbers of millennials in the workforce. Some are quicker to adapt than others.

It’s curious that an industry with a workforce dominated by millennials would be one of those more resistant to change. But in a business like professional football, where toughness is the greatest virtue, my-way-or-the-highway has been the accepted management style.

For a couple days last week, the biggest story in the NFL was the news that new Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury planned to give his players “cell phone breaks” during lengthy meetings.

“You start to see kind of hands twitching and legs shaking, and you know they need to get that social media fix, so we’ll let them hop over there and then get back in the meeting and refocus,” Kingsbury said, according to espn.com’s Josh Weinfuss.

Now, what kind of reaction do you suppose that got?

“Go and take your break so you can get on Twitter. You’ve got to be kidding me, man!” the famously bombastic Stephen A. Smith reacted on ESPN’s First Take.

Several others posted gifs of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick laughing and various predictions of futility for the Cardinals.

On Twitter, mind you. Many during working hours.

Some other sportscasters and former players pushed back, however. “The attention span of youth in America now is shorter,” former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi told Smith on that same First Take segment. “In the educational system and also in coaching football, it happens. Players need breaks and you need to teach them in bursts sometimes. It’s just the way things are changing.”

“What if he called them ‘breaks’ and it’s understood the players leave the room to look at their cell phones,” former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz added on Twitter. “That’s been happening for years.”

Most of us, no matter the generation, take breaks. Baby Boomers had the water cooler and the smoking area. Gen-Xers had the break room and the vending machines. So millennials have their smartphones and social media. Is it really that much different?

Are we going to act like we all don’t visit social media from time to time at work? Like we don’t sneak glances at our phones during long meetings? Yes, these are multi-million dollar athletes who we expect to take their jobs seriously. But aren’t we all expected to take our jobs seriously?

And if taking a few breaks helps Kingsbury’s players maintain their focus when they’re in the meeting room, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Tell the truth: You didn’t get through this post without checking your Facebook or Twitter page, did you?

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials, Work, Workplace