Who comes first, the chicken or the egg? Which generation is which anyway?
Do you find yourself sitting in your office or a large cubicle just shaking your head?
I know I do at times. I have been working with this generation — the Millennials — since they were young, impressionable teenagers. I’m amazed that they still haven’t grown up or come to understand the “circle of life” when it comes to being on the job.
Or have they?
I was on my way to work recently when one of my direct reports asked if I could get her coffee on my way into the office. I almost wrecked my car by the mere fact that she was comfortable enough to ask.
As I took several deep breaths, I just had to step back and realize that Millennials are used to being nurtured, receiving individualized attention and people catering to their temperaments.
So here is my big question to those of us in leadership: should we shift to accommodate their way of thinking, or should it be the other way around?
Let’s look a little more deeply at what Millennials bring to the conference table.
If you are a Generation X manager, you are outnumbered by 20 million. In five years Millennials will account for half of the American workforce.
Millennials operate in a manner you probably wish you could have when your career began. They are creative, collaborative and fun, rather than stymied by the flat, hierarchical and strictly focused rubric we had no choice but to squeeze our way into.
As they are still young, many of this new generation of employees lack significant workplace experience. This bonus allows you the strategic freedom to mold your team the way you envision it. Keep in mind, however, that Millennials tend to frown upon grunt work and menial labor. As their manager, they will expect you to challenge them with engaging activities that will help them develop transferable skills. On the flip side, this does keep them innovative and creative on the whole, gifts they don’t hesitate to share with their team.
Initially frustrating to many Gen X leaders, Millennials often find direct communication inefficient, preferring to email or text instead. This might directly contradict how you learned to communicate on the job, as previous generations demanded a direct, one-on-one approach, and therefore strike you as disrespectful, but that is not the true underlying subtext at all.
I know this information may cause you some anxiety, especially as team member’s develop under your watch and then jump to the next, more profitable job. In truth though, Millennials are more concerned than we were with establishing a balanced work life, making sure to include community involvement and self-development, and should prove loyal to a workplace that provides these opportunities.
Here are the five ways in which deepening your knowledge of how your Gen X character and relates to the Millennial mindset of your direct reports will be key to maximizing your joint success:
- Millennials believe a team can accomplish more and with a better outcomes. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses will help you put them in the best positions for overall success, while meeting their need for personal identification and recognition.
- Recognizing that Millennials do not tolerate boredom means you should strive to ensure they will be challenged. If your team consists of several “thinkers,” provide them with job specifications that allow them sufficient time to get it all right. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Millennial “doers” thrive when allowed the freedom to choose amongst a variety of projects.
- Millennial employees want to have fun. Fun can come in a variety of ways. Whether it’s a team building activity, or volunteering, Millennials want to feel enriched in and out of the office. Joining with that healthy mindset will boost your satisfaction as well!
- Communicating on their level will help you become a better listener. As Millennials tend to be outspoken, they have no problem sharing their thoughts and opinions with you. In order to prevent this from causing conflict, it will take a measure of vulnerability on your part to grow comfortable informing your team how they can most effectively to speak with you about certain topics so that they don’t alienate you as a manage, and you don’t alienate them as a team.
- Finally, remember that your role as a manager is to prepare your team for the future. Sooner than you want to believe they will need to similar self-reflection tools in order to lead the generation after them. They are learning this from your right now, whether they know it or not.
If you feel challenged connecting with your Millennial team and need some support or training, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].
Photo credit: Flickr/pANFpr