“The Coddled Generation”, “The Tethered Generation”, “Generation Why?” No doubt the Millenials have had their share of negatively connoted euphemisms, but are they getting an unfair rap in the workplace. I think they are, and as a GenX-er, I’ve had my share of bumps with them, so this is not a message in self-defense, nor is it simply an article in advocacy. It is just time to look at Millenials for what they bring to balance out the workplace, instead of how they are not like “us”.
First, a comment about stereotypes versus generalizations. This article discusses generalizations of a group but it is not meant to be used as a tool to pigeon-hole someone of a certain age. Generalizations used to help us be more effective can be beneficial, but stereotyping someone “they are this way” is a negative use and tends towards a downward spiral of relationship tensions.
Each generational peer group has positives and negatives. The World War II generation tends to be very loyal, steady, and reliable. Baby Boomers tend to be very personally accomplished and experienced, they have seen and done a lot with a great deal of focus. GenX has the largest percentage of entrepreneurs of the 4 generations in the workplace and tend to be very independent and adept at change. Millenials tend to be very inclusive and are great networkers and multitaskers. But the flipside of all these positives are the negatives. Those in the WWII generation can be perceived as technologically averse, and inadaptable to change. Baby Boomers are perceived as seeing credibility only within their peer group and resistant to those who have not “put in their time”. GenXers are seen as organizational trouble-makers always looking to challenge authority and break rules. Millenials are perceived as scattered and overly reliant on instructions.
See, we all have our positives and negatives. Rather than judge Millenials for what we perceive to be negatives, recognize where it comes from and perhaps there can be understanding instead of judgment. Millenials are enormously creative if provided safety from a “wrong” answer. They can balance a number of tasks if given clear expectations and freedom to manage their time (lest we forget they managed school, ballet, volleyball, homework, and hanging out with friends in any given day.) Instead of expecting them to be more like us, search for what they need to be more successful. It may start with more guidance (frustrating for a GenXer), or mean including them in a strategy meeting (difficult for Baby Boomers), or being okay with them using slang or TXTing language occasionally (difficult for WWII generations).
Millenials bring a lot of positives to the work place and they are still finding their way. They are a part of your team, include them, ask their ideas, give them some rope to explore, and the freedom to manage their time. They will thank you for it and prove to be a more engaged part of your team as a result.