Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get along at work? Imagine if we never felt like our bosses were outdated and stubborn. Hard to do? Now try to envision today’s college grads coming on board without a single streak of impatience or entitlement. That’s usually a lot tougher! I’ve had quite a bumpy journey with Gen Yers in my career, but I’m convinced we should try harder to improve how we work together. It’s time for embracing Millennials at work!
The longer I’ve been in the workforce, the more I’ve realized how difficult it is to work with people who are in different generations than ourselves. Amongst all the actively working generations, I think Millennials have it the roughest right now because there are so many bad stereotypes out there working against them.
These misperceptions and a lack of understanding on all sides has created unnecessary conflict between Millennials and older colleagues. Like it or not, Millennials are a crucial part of the workforce and we all can use some tactics on improving how we work with them.
Wait, Are Millennials The Same As Gen Y?
First, to clear up any confusion, yes Millennials are actually the same age group as Gen Y. These terms are synonymous, although many in this age group prefer the expression Millennials because it’s unique and doesn’t make them feel inferior or overshadowed by following Gen X alphabetically or in age. I think this preference of nomenclature is a great example of how Millennials think and view the world.
One of my first tactics on working with and embracing Millennials is simply better understanding who the are and how they think. This is really helpful if you’re a Gen Xer or a Boomer. I used to be very frustrated working with Millennials until I took the time to delve into their psychology and philosophies. If you’re a Millennial, I also think you can benefit from learning more about your own generation so you can utilize your strengths to your advantage and also identify areas for growth.
How Old Are Millennials Now?
So far we’ve established that Gen Yers are the same as Millennials and that they prefer to be referenced by the latter. So just how young are they? Millennials make up roughly 36% of today’s workforce and growing. They are the recent college grads in their early 20s and up to the more seasoned workers who are in their very early 30s.
I fall near the divider of Gen X and Y, but identify myself more as a Gen Xer with some Millennial traits. As much as I wish I could say I’m still in my youthful 20s, those days are now behind me. But on a positive note, I’m happy to say our 30s are better than our 20s!
Keep in mind there is no precise age range for each of the generations. Demographers tend to use different variations of the age groups, usually within a couple of years up or down. So stats you may see from the census, Pew Research, PRB, Princeton, etc. will vary and won’t be exactly like for like, but they’re close enough for our purposes.
Here’s a rough outline of the three main generations that are actively in the workforce now (2014).
- Boomers, aka Baby Boomers: 50s – late 60s
- Gen X: mid 30s – late 40s
- Millennials, aka Gen Y, Gen Next, Echo Boomers: early 20s – early 30s
(Gen Z is up and coming btw, they’re currently tots – teens)
Common Characteristics Of Millennials At Work
Millennials are often depicted as impatient, disloyal, delusional, narcissistic, entitled, and lazy, but stereotypes tend to be blown out of proportion and it’s our job to break them. While I’ve seen some of those negative characteristics in Millennials before, they definitely aren’t the norm. We can’t let a few bad apples spoil the rest of the barrel.
Because I’ve worked with a lot of Millennials, I know that they’re certainly not all alike. Hopefully you recognize that too. Even though I’ve come across a few Gen Yers who fit the negative stereotypes like a glove, I’ve learned not to let that cloud my perceptions of the entire age group. There will always be people in the extremes, and we have to remember they’re the exemptions not the norm.
Putting stereotypes aside, here’s a more realistic list of attributes from my own observations that many Millennials have and bring to the workplace:
- Energetic and upbeat
- Desire regular feedback
- Confident with high self-esteem
- Prefer flexible work hours
- Have a tendency to challenge things
- Education and certification focused
- Want to add value and help others
- Racially and culturally diverse
- Support volunteerism
- Tendency to have short attention spans
- Easy go lucky attitudes
- Want to work with smart people
- Set high goals and aren’t afraid of failure
- Unattached and open to change
- Always looking for better solutions and opportunities
Expectations Go Both Ways
* Understand what they want & clarify what you expect. Another one of my tactics for working with and embracing Millennials at work are understanding what their expectations are on the job, and being aware of what you can expect from working with them.
* Millennials want to be treated as equals. They don’t want to be given any less respect than Gen Xers or Boomers just because they’re younger. This is challenging for Boomers and Gen Xers like myself to understand because unlike Millennials, our parents engrained us with admiring authority, respecting our elders, and staying loyal to your boss and company for as long as possible. Even though they have an open attitude towards equality in the workplace, Millennials aren’t trying to be rude to older colleagues. They’re willing to be respectful if they are treated well.
* Provide balance and outlets to have fun. Millennials also tend to value work life balance and prefer not be in high stress environments. They work hard when they like what they do, and they’re not afraid to prioritize finding a job that fits both their interests and career needs. Millennials want untemplate lifestyles that allow them to live and work in ways that blend with their unique aspirations. They’re not afraid to let their personalities show in the office, and thrive on laid back office cultures with lax dress codes. I’m with them on all of these things! I’ve found most Millennials also enjoy joking around and finding ways to have fun on the job, which makes for a lively and upbeat environment.
Millennials Have A Lot To Offer
* Millennials dislike inefficiencies and want challenging work that is important. Fortunately, having employees who want to make improvements to business operations is a very good thing. It can be a bit overwhelming as a Gen Xer or Boomber to relinquish some control to them, but it’s definitely worth it to give Millennials a fair chance to make changes and get their hands dirty. I’ve had a lot of great results letting the Millennials I’ve worked with brainstorm ideas on how to speed up processes.
* They need to do more than punch buttons. The flip side of their strength at efficiency is that Millennials can get bored easily and will always want opportunities to learn new things. Instead of just punching buttons, Millennials want to feel that they’re constantly adding value as well.
* Millennials thrive on feedback. Receiving regular feedback and recognition for good work is also important to them. And they want to have strong mentors who trust them and allow them flexibility and breathing room. This may seem daunting if you manage Millennials like I do, so focus on the benefits. Having frequent meetings and assigning projects to them helps improve communication and also takes work off your plate!
* I’ve also found Millennials to be very technically savvy and curious. They’re often independent and eagerly want to work towards more responsibility. Their skills in technology however can make them restless and impatient, so it’s important to keep them actively challenged. They constantly crave information, and will often turn to surfing the web out of habit as soon as their essential tasks are done without checking first if others need help.
How To Work Well With Millennials
Working with Millennials can be a lot of fun. Their energy and open mindedness are perfect for brainstorming, and they’re great at thinking of ways to improve processes utilizing technology and automation. If you can facilitate training, listen to their ideas, demonstrate your own knowledge and skills, you’ll both benefit!
I’ve also found that asking Millennials about their frustrations and struggles goes a long way. Millennials want to contribute and work with people who are willing to collaborate and let them contribute to positive change.
Showing you’re organized, attune to the day to day happenings of your business, and are open to improving efficiencies will be well received. Coaching Millennials and helping them break down lofty goals into smaller steps builds strong relationships too.
I’ve learned it also helps to explain why things need to be done a certain way when you’re working with Millennials. They don’t want to do something just because you said so. They want to know why. Encourage them to explain their reasoning when they disagree with something too, and challenge them to come up with alternative solutions if they think your way is outdated or too slow. Their creativity and technical expertise may very well surprise you!
Untemplaters, which generation are you a part of? Do you work with Millennials? Have you experienced tension and clashing at the office between different age groups? What are some of your tactics on working with Millennials that benefit everyone?
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