Liz Selzer, PhD, MA, MDiv
The term millennial seems to bring up a certain frustration from earlier generations. Since this is taking up valuable energy in our organizations, here is a quick look at the issue.
What is the malaise?
Sentiments voiced in frustration about millennials…
“I just cannot handle how entitled she acts! She thinks she is inherently deserving of some sort of special treatment!”
“I don’t understand why it is so difficult to just take responsibility for the work that should be but isn’t getting done.”
“He acts as if hard earned positions and titles have no value. There is just no respect for our hard-working tradition and history!”
“Why can’t they put their phones down and have a real conversation?”
Have you heard these sentiments voiced in your work community? I know I have. While individual Millenials may exhibit some of the above behaviors, the entire generation is not stuck fulfilling a non-productive stereotype. Moreover, complaining has never rectified a situation. In fact, it only seems to create an environment where discontent grows.
There is a positive side to the members of this generation…Where do they excel?
People usually go to the easy answer that Millennials have a strong understanding of social networking and other technical solutions. But there are additional attributes to appreciate. Millennials are one of the most creative generations. They not only come up with the “third door” option, but the fourth and fifth door option as well. They are optimistic about their ability to affect change, and act on their passions for social and ethical causes. They have a robust understanding of how to work in groups as great team players. Millennials have much to offer the business community.
Taking it a step further…
One problem in recognizing and highlighting differences of another generation is that it often encourages judgements of right or wrong; better or worse. I have found that instead of talking about the differences between generations, it is much more productive to start at a place of agreement. Once we can see where we are on the same page with certain aspects of our lives, we move forward on that foundation, instead of from conflicting perspectives. So, what are the similarities we can embrace?
•The value and importance of family. While Millennials do not solely identify blood relatives as family, the concept of familial loyalty is a priority. Family matters, and time spent with family is significant.
•Supportive workplace culture and feeling valued. We want to know what we do matters, that we are contributing in an important way to what our organization does. This is common to all generations.
•To be recognized and appreciated. While millennials typically like receiving feedback more frequently than older generations, being recognized and appreciated is an important factor in keeping all generations inspired and engaged.
•Career development. Seeing a path for development is key for motivation. While millennials do not always see that path as vertical in an organization, personal growth and advancement in skill matter.
•Flexibility…if work is still accomplished. While flexibility may look different to Millennials, our current fast paced world demands more flexibility for all of us. We just need measures we can all agree on to ensure the work is getting done.
Focusing on what we have in common, and using this as a place to begin conversations about the work we do, will help us move forward in the mission of our workplace and promote business success.