As we welcome 2016 with open arms, I propose you add another resolution to your list – “Be Nicer to Millennials”
In May 2010, The New York Post published an article called “The Worst Generation?” where it made sure to belittle the entire millennial cohort by using inappropriate adjectives to describe the leaders of tomorrow. Pretty bold…when you call 82M people lazy and entitled, especially when the youngest and oldest of the group would have only been 15 and 30 years old at the time. Fast forward 5 years, and millennials are still being called names. Granted, my generation has gotten some love too (appreciate it!), but for every positive reference, there is a stereotypical rebuttal. So, let me try defending my generation by translating the 2 most popular myths…and if I don’t do us justice, just remain patient till we SHOW you what we’re really made of.
Lazy (at the workplace)
I often hear “people your age are so lazy and never want to do any work.” And I usually reply by asking “what do you have them working on” (depending on who it is obviously). Most of the time, the work described sounds unfulfilling, boring, and easy. Well, odds are that your ‘lazy millennial’ has figured out a better, more efficient way to do the job, and that’s why he/she is surfing the net whenever you pass by, but this is why it’s important to understand the millennial mindset. Once you’ve unlocked this, you’ll be able to better manage your millennials.
So let’s replace ‘lazy’ with ‘not motivated’. How can you motivate a millennial? And trust me, it’s not through a game of ping pong, access to yoga studios, and free beer. We’re looking for more challenging projects, greater responsibility, open collaboration, and appropriate recognition. Immersing us in this culture not only shows us that your expectations are high, but more importantly, you value our growth and success. This will surely tap the “do not disappoint” voice in our heads. Along with what we’re looking for in the workplace, it’s important to understand how we learn and digest information (side note: this isn’t any different when managing non-millennials). We are more result driven than process-oriented, so tell us what the end goal is FIRST and the purpose behind it, AND THEN explain the process to getting there. Believe it or not, we can be very obedient when we know what the end game is. So it’s not that we’re lazy and unmotivated, we’re just looking to be engaged in a different way.
Let’s dissect why we’re ‘entitled’. Is it because we question the process, expect more from our employers, demand greater customer service, and prefer work/life integration? In case you haven’t noticed, we live in an ‘always-on’ world where technology allows us to be accessible from anywhere at anytime, and our expectation is that you reside in this SAME world. So before ‘lazy’, ‘entitled’, ‘coddled’, or ‘self-centered’ rolls off your tongue, consider that times have changed and the younger generation is ‘in with the new and out with the old’. Work doesn’t always have to happen between 9-5 in a cubicle, ‘new patient’ forms don’t have to be completed on clipboards (with those annoying pens) anymore, and local bank visits are totally unnecessary. If you think the millennial is demanding too much and it’s impacting your normal routine, then let me be the first to tell you, that their disruption will be the ‘new normal’.
In 2013, Time magazine published an article titled, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” where the author cited a study from the National Institutes of Health to point out 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism test in 2009 than they did in 1982 (note to self: google why we’re taking narcissism tests!?). So what does this test tell us? I THINK it tells us that we’re the most ‘narcissistic’, socially responsible, eco-friendly, family-oriented, volunteering, voting generation…oh wait, that doesn’t make any sense.
In short, I know every generation has their hustlers and couch potatoes, but before you begin labeling all 82M of us yet another year, I urge you to think about the times millennials grew up in (the economic recession, 9/11, war on terror, and technological advances) and all the influencers that shaped us (our parent’s over-the-top support, ‘anything’s possible’ motivational commencement speeches, and young global Nobel Prize winning activists).
So, in 2016, let’s try to be nicer to millennials – just think about your favorite Gen Yer and see if they fit the negative labels (I’m sure they will not).