This year, more than 3.6 million Baby Boomers are set to retire and more than 1/4th of Millennial workers are expected to become managers. Our current workforce is comprised of 4 very diverse generations, each bringing their own set of life experiences and lessons to the table.
Millennials represent the youngest of these generations, which brings its own set of challenges to the workplace culture. It can be a tough pill to swallow, answering to a manager half your age and professional experience. Each age group has their own way of doing things, and each tend to view their way as the “right” way. These different viewpoints offer new and exciting opportunities to
organizations that are willing to tap into that potential. And, the reality is, the Millennials are our future, so it is more beneficial for individuals to embrace these opportunities and evolve with the times.
It is human nature to make quick judgments about people and their motives, particularly when we feel our livelihood is being threatened. And this up-and-coming generation has been judged more than any other. A closer look, however, reveals that the characteristics typically used to describe the Millennials might be more about misinterpretation than reality. Keeping an open mind is likely to reveal incredibly adept, fearless leaders from whom each of us could learn valuable lessons from.
Let’s examine some of these misinterpretations and what we can do to turn them into lessons that will make us all better leaders.
Millennials Are Largely Misunderstood
There are countless news reports and articles on the subject of Millennial characteristics. A vast majority of them have a negative undertone, if not flat-out critical. Like most circumstances in life, however, these negatives could be turned into positives.
Millennials are entitled. This is the criticism we hear the most. This generation seeks out ways to make a difference, constantly looking for ways to be a part of something special. They recognize that hard work pays off and are unwilling to settle for anything but success. Because of this, they are able to tackle workplace challenges with tenacity. Rather than viewing this drive as a negative, we should use it as inspiration, vowing to never settle for mediocrity.
Millennials are narcissists. As part of their commitment to success, the Millennial generation puts 100% into everything they do; and they expect the same from those around them. They also realize, however, that empathy and flexibility are critical components of achieving success. This doesn’t make them narcissistic, it proves their drive.
Millennials are impulsive. Life changes quickly. In business, it’s important to make swift, yet well-informed decisions. Technology has opened us up to new opportunities, allowing us to stay constantly connected and informed; and the younger generations have never known life any other way. Their actions are less about being impulsive and more about maintaining a consistent, high level of understanding that allows them to make decisions on-the-fly.
Millennials are disloyal. Sometimes being a leader means making difficult decisions for the greater good. On their quest to contribute to the cause, they are continuously evaluating the situation to identify where improvements could be made. This doesn’t make them disloyal; it makes them fiercely loyal. They are willing to face potentially uncomfortable situations to achieve organizational success.
Being successful in life is about being able to compromise and be flexible. If you’re still not convinced about this new generation of leaders, try a few of these tricks to get on the same page and avoid conflicts with your fresh-faced Millennial manager.
1) Accept the Situation
Sometimes life situations are out of our control. What defines us as individuals is how we handle it. Make the best of it and make a commitment to yourself to learn and grow from the experience.
2) Recognize Your Boss’s Strengths and Weaknesses
We are all human, with both strengths and weaknesses. In the workplace, those who find the greatest success identify how to utilize each other’s strengths for the greater good of the team. This also means recognizing what you bring to the table and where you could stand to grow.
3) Be Their Mentor
Your Millennial boss made it to this position through hard work and past accomplishments. But that doesn’t mean they know it all. You have experience under your belt that they don’t and they are looking to you for advice and support. Talk to management about setting up a mentoring program that pairs younger and older generations. This is an opportunity for the generations to come together for the benefit of the company.
4) Stay on Top of Technology
Technology has firmly planted its roots in the business world. Work at achieving a level of comfort with social media and other mobile options of communication. If you are sitting behind your desk waiting for a colleague to respond to your voice mail, you could be waiting a long time.
5) Communicate and Offer Feedback
Employees often find it difficult to talk openly with their superiors. But Millennials have grown up in a world where communication was at their fingertips at all times. Not only do they accept feedback, they yearn for it. Remember, the overall success of the enterprise depends upon your willingness to be open, honest, and flexible.
Part of what makes the world such an interesting place is the differences and similarities from one person to the next. It is important to shift our mindset from lumping people into one category or another, and begin communicating with each other as peers, each with something valuable to contribute. Once we accomplish that, the possibilities are boundless. Remember, we are only limited by our own thoughts and fears.