The Millenials and You.
I come from a relatively diverse workplace, as I am sure many people do. We have young people, old people, tall people, short people, skinny people, jolly people, fair skinned people and olive skinned people. But what more often than not for me, as a young person in the workforce, is evidenced, is the stark difference between young and old within my workplace. There's nothing rude, or malicious, or nasty in my saying this, but there just seems to be a noticeably practical difference to generational divide when it comes to work, and this is part of the work journey that I am currently on, and that I want to confidently say I navigated well.
So, what does the world have to say about Gen Y?
"Although they are better educated, more tech-savvy, and quicker to adapt than those who have gone before them, they refuse to blindly conform to traditional standards and time-honoured solutions. Instead they boldly ask, Why?" - Eric Chester, "Employing Generation Why?"
"Boomers have given them the confidence to be optimistic about their ability to make things happen, and Xers have given them just enough scepticism to be cautious...if you want to remember just one key word to describe Millenials, it's realistic" - Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman, "When Generations Collide"
Oh, we just sound perfect don't we?! We are motivated and driven, educated, optimistic yet cautious, innovative, creative, bold, realistic! Why on earth wouldn't we be the perfect employees? Well, the truth is that all of these great characteristics of millennials are based in our upbringing, we are the generation that because of our parents have confidence, but because of our older siblings have scepticism, because of the global events of our childhood, such as 9/11 have a strong sense of community, and banding together to bring justice. We've never experienced life without computers but this makes the world a much smaller place, we can dream big because the world is only a click away. Because of our drive for success we are curious and place value on flexibility and being the room to explore and adventure. So how does this translate into a workplace filled with a variety of different generations, and how can we bridge the gaps to make for peaceful, energetic and nurturing workplaces for all? Whilst all of these characteristics of millenials can be great, how do they reflect to other generations in the workforce, what is the flipside of all of those great characteristics?
1) Drive = impatience. I love that our parents have instilled within us a confidence and an optimism that we can achieve and strive for great success. But what I learnt really quickly stepping into a leadership role at work, especially where some of my staff are old enough to be my grandmother, was that being driven doesn't always look like a good thing. We have to remember that our older counterparts worked long and hard to get where they were, and for them loyalty was rewarded over merit or talent. For me, I had to be mindful that my drive and vision for my career didn't overshadow my perceived respect for my current position. On the flip side, I think what our older colleagues have to be mindful of is that we are loyal to our work, we work hard where we are getting satisfaction and fulfilment, and it might take us a go at a few different roles to continue satisfying that, and that's not because we're flighty or disloyal, but because we are on a path of self development, to be our best us!
2) Innovation = a power struggle. I like in the quote above, where it talks about millennials just not saying conforming to age old structures and processes, but being bold enough to ask why, and potentially even reinvent things. I was a part of a project at work in which we were trying to train out an old process, and just make sure we were doing things as efficiently as possible and it was a really tough project to manage. Our older colleagues, who were the subject experts, were so resistant to our training and my big ideas on how things looked, and what it came down to was that they felt like I was trying to take away their expertise and their power, when it had nothing to do with my wanting to be in control, but my commitment to the quality of the process. You'll be pleased to know all is well now, but it was quite the journey to come to in communicating with them, we young people aren't chasing control or glory, but we want our time to be worthwhile, and sometimes old ways of doing things don't utilise the technology we know so well.
3) Solid Resume > Loyalty for Loyalty's sake. I like this one, because it really identifies a huge gap in attitude and thinking. As I said earlier, we millenials are on a journey of self development, we want to be our best us. And staying at the same company doesn't always satisfy that within us, so we may jump around, from job to job, chasing that fulfilment and challenge. What workplaces can't do, is deny millenials the opportunity because they don't think we will stay for long. One thing that is common amongst our generation is hard work, but when we are connected to something we are interested or passionate in. Just because we may not stay for long, doesn't mean that the time we give you won't be our best, it just means it may not be for 5 or 6 or forever years, as is customary.
4) We can't be tricked. Now, I say this cautiously, actually, as I do my entire post. When I was doing my reading, proper research, into the science and behavioural theory on this topic, what I came across frequently, was the affirmation that, we are the generation that has been brought up on over-saturation of marketing and marketing techniques, and our older siblings have given us enough scepticism to not take everything we see read or hear as gospel, but to discover truths for ourselves. Now, this can make us look un-trusting, or even arrogant, but in reality what it is, is a commitment to our own integrity, and we are a generation that can pick our authenticity and don't like being tricked! We appreciate genuine actions, and don't easily have the cover pulled over our eyes.
I don't believe there is a magic wand, or a silver bullet to making workplaces a dreamy, cross generational place. But from my experience, what is needed more than anything is a tolerance and acceptance from all generations, that people are wired differently, regardless of their age! But that there are commonalities between generations and the reasons that they think and act the way they do isn't just because they are horrible people, but that the experiences of their generation add to their whole being.
Someone's age should never be used as a crutch or justification for bad behaviour, and there certainly isn't one generation that make for better workers, but I found that acting openly, honestly and calmly has helped my team address these issues in a civil manner, and everyone can work together happily. *cue rainbows and lollypops*