Smokey Bear is Mocking the Millennial Generation

smokey bear


Remember Smokey Bear’s classic safety warning?

“Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Well, our furry friend has a new approach — exclusively for Millennials — that should leave every young person burning up inside.

Congratulations, twentysomething, for not sparking an out-of-control forest fire. Let me give you a hug to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

The Ad Council, which created the campaign, wants to “reward people who are acting safely with fire.” Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of The Ad Council, added: “After all, who doesn’t want a hug from Smokey Bear?”

I don’t and you shouldn’t, either.

Fire safety is critical — a campfire in Utah recently torched 4,517 acres — but the way Smokey Bear now delivers his message really has me ablaze.

Older generations have decided the only way to get through to Millennials is to celebrate our achievements. You know, a trophy at every turn. Bosses figure we require a pat on the back, round of applause or bear hug for just about everything — even the stuff we’re supposed to do like not torch 1,000 acres of cedar and pine.

Yay for Millennials! A special prize for handling a life and death situation. We’re the best.

Put Smokey in His Place

A career is one big game of managing expectations. If Gen X and Baby Boomer bosses think they need to handle us with care, then imagine their pleasant surprise when we:

- take criticism in stride, refrain from talking back and say “thanks, you’re right”

- never expect a compliment for a job well done

- don’t need someone to tell us “it will all be OK” after a tough day

Management would much prefer Millennials who can endure a stressful day or a few bruises to our egos. As it stands, many believe we’ll up and quit when things don’t go our way.

That’s why bosses feel compelled to coddle us, embrace us, hug us.

Smokey didn’t spark the “trophy” mentality towards our generation, but his new ad campaign is letting the idea smolder. Face it: older folks think Millennials are soft. Again, that’s why expectations matter — and why we have the upper hand.

How to Come Out on Top

The next time the job gets hectic or the boss calls you in to pick apart your work, go the mature route.

Instead of stewing on this thought: “I don’t need this guy lecturing me. When I’m back at my desk, I’m going straight to Craigslist.”

Say this out loud: “Thanks for the critique. I’ll definitely work on that from now on.”

Then, reach out and give a firm handshake.

A hug won’t get you anywhere.


2013, Danny Rubin


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