When it comes to younger employees in the workplace, I’m fascinated by the resistance that so many managers are experiencing. I was at a conference last week where we heard a great presentation by a Gen Y woman about Gen Yers. She was dressed with jeans, a cut off T-shirt and a short, informal jacket. Not your regular business attire but very appropriate for the issues she was discussing: “Gen Yers are different; they don’t dress like their older colleagues; they don’t think like you, so deal with it!” She was very vivacious, smart and funny and brought home various ways to get along with this generation that outnumbers the two previous generations of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
After the 45-minutes long presentation about why the Millennials are the way they are and how to best deal with them, you could sense a distinct split reaction in the audience. Some of us loved the presenter. Some disliked her so much they wished they could wipe the grin off her face and, while they were at it, wipe the grins off the faces of all the members of this new generation that they don’t understand.
However, if many in the audience could actually hear some of the points that this woman raised regarding the creation of this generation — namely that they’ve been raised by over-indulgent Baby Boomer parents who provided everything from Kindergarten consultants to Math Summer Camps and volunteer opportunities in Guatemala, bought them every electronic gadget under the sun starting at the tender age of three, and encouraged them to be inquisitive and stand up for what they believe in — maybe they’ll identify with those parents and realize they bear some of the responsibility for the outcome.
And if they could step away for a minute from their “I’m right; you’re wrong” way of thinking and hear the presenter’s wise observations regarding how to manage this generation (among some of her tidbits she emphasized explaining why things need to be done in a certain way, allowing for work flexibility, offering Gen Yers the electronic gadgets they consider vital to functioning, and understanding that they welcome coaching and guidance from adults), perhaps they’ll learn some strategies that will help them better deal not only with their employees but with their kids as well.
It’s always difficult for one generation to welcome a new one in the workplace. But the Millennials have so much to offer in terms of creativity, energy, social entrepreneurship spirit, intrinsic understanding of technology, and leveraging the power of a flat world that we should all make an effort to help them transition into the workforce seamlessly and to develop the skills that are still necessary to succeed. They are inheriting a less than ideal world with plenty of major crises to attend to, none of which they helped create. I, for one, want to make sure they are well prepared to deal with what’s facing them.