If ever a generation was denigrated in the mass media, it’s those born between 1980 and 2000. To many of us, these are our kids, our relatives, our doctors, our mechanics, our teachers, our cpas. our pet’s veterinarian, our co-workers. In real life, few people are willing to bash millennials face-to-face, simply for the sake of when they were born, yet some members in the mass media, craving ad revenue and clicks, promote millennials in a bad light when many are actually shining a light on how to improve many aspects of our world, including in the workplace.
How Millennials Challenge Assumptions
Every generation challenges their elders. Generation X (born 1965-1980) brought fierce independence and individualism to the workplace. Born during the Civil Rights era and second feminist wave, Gen X knows the value of hard work to create radical change. Workers in Gen X largely introduced and carved out the concept of work-life balance and employer flexibility.
But the millennial generation is the one that’s giving the greatest challenge to the status quo. Here are a few ways millennials are effecting positive change.
- They expect transparency; open and honest communication with their co-workers and company leaders.
- They are team players. While millennials do continue the trend of individualism embraced by Gen X, they are more than willing to collaborate as part of a team possibly because of their regard for others in society.
- They are civic-minded. No matter where they fall on the political spectrum, millennials want to make a difference. They’re mission-driven and dedicated to be the change they want to see in the world.
- They’re highly educated digital natives. What new millennial hires lack in experience, they likely make up for in education and technical skill. Millennials work best when their leaders set clear expectations and remain open to ideas for making processes more efficient or valuable.
How Millennials Challenge Leadership
Most of the organizational problems we help solve at Venture Up start at the top, with leadership. This can be hard for successful business owners to hear. We present it as constructive criticism and an opportunity for change that businesses need.
- Are you stereotyping your employees, or viewing them as individuals? While generational differences do exist, don’t assume all people in the same age group have the same qualities. Aside from running the risk of an age discrimination complaint, you miss out on important facts when you generalize. Many millennials frequently relocate, but the millennial standing in front of you might want nothing more than to settle down.
- Are you accepting of differences, or do you see them as a problem to be solved? Some differences can’t be resolved in an organizational setting. For instance, if two board members want to take the company in completely opposite directions and there’s no middle ground, one of them will have to break away or fall in line. Alternative perspectives provided by different employees should be welcome, but are often hastily dismissed. If leaders are locked into a traditional way of doing business, that leaves little room for growth and creativity. When some employees stray too far from tradition, and fail to fit the mold, they, too, can be hastily dismissed, leading to a loss of organizational cohesion and productivity.
- Are you mentoring your younger or less experienced employees? When you were starting out your career, whether at an after-school job or in your first professional position, you needed mentorship. Somebody had to tell you how things are done in the business world, what sort of etiquette comes with professional territory, and what expectations apply at your company specifically. It’s easy to take business etiquette for granted if it’s engrained in habit, but new rules may apply to the younger, less formal generation.
Venture Up team building covers business etiquette, diversity, leadership, company culture in programs designed help resolve the tension between millennials and their bosses. When you break through the tension, listen past the media buzz, and really engage with your employees, you may find that age is really is just a number when you’re all on track for a common goal.