Ask anyone over the age of 50 who they think of when they hear the word, “Millennial”. They will likely respond: Justin Bieber, Johnny Football, their unemployed 28-year-old son that still lives with them, or the pink-haired, heavily-inked barista that made their coffee this morning. Next, ask them what words they would use to describe a Millennial. They might say: young, inexperienced, single, irresponsible, or impulsive. It is very typical of people in more seasoned generations to assume that the entire Gen Y cohort is reckless, entitled, was born with electronics in their hands (or attached to their heads), and is a general drain on society. Admittedly, the above descriptors do accurately portray some Millennials, but what about the rest of us?
I too am a millennial. I am a married, 32 year old mother of one (soon to be two) who has paid for my own college education, has a positive (and growing) net worth, and has no idea how to work a DVR or SnapChat. Not exactly what you were picturing, huh? I argue that there are just as many Millennials like me out there as there are in the Johnny Football/pink-haired barista category.
Unless you work at Facebook or a graphic design firm, odds are that your manager is a generation or two above you. What do you do when you are a responsible, contributing member of society, but your employer (and the rest of the world) puts you in the same category as Justin Bieber?
- Don’t speak or write in hashtags or say things like “totes adorbs” (which translates to totally adorable) or YOLO (shorthand for “you only live once”). This just makes you sound immature, young and frankly, ridiculous.
- Don’t hide behind email or text messages. Quick written messages may be your go-to communication method, but many members of the Baby Boomer and Gen X era prefer a phone call or a face to face meeting. Take the time to understand the preferred communication style of your co-workers, managers, and clients.
- Put yourself in their shoes. When a baby boomer thinks of going to work, they might picture putting on a suit and tie, leaving the house, clocking in, having some meetings and clocking out. They may not understand what you mean when you say that you can “work from home” or that you can conduct a productive meeting via Skype. If they can’t physically see you working, they might assume that you are not working at all. If they see you typing on your phone, they may assume that you are texting a friend or updating your Facebook page, not doing something work related. Don’t leave these things open to interpretation – communicate what you are working on, where you plan on doing it, and when it will be completed to be sure that everyone is on the same page.
- Show respect. Experience should always be respected. Just because there are more efficient ways of doing things now, doesn’t mean that we should discount the way that they were done in the past. There is always something to be learned from those who have paved the path before you. Work together to see how their experience and your youthfulness can benefit the company and clientele.
- Prove your value. How do you add value to the company and how can you continue to add more? Illustrate how you are making your superior’s job easier and why they are better off having you on the team.
Let’s remind the older generations that Gen Y is also known for these positive attributes:
- Being tech savvy
- Having a desire to do work that matters, not just working for the sake of work
- Believing in the greater good
- Collaborative nature
- Good at multi-tasking
- Desire to learn
- Innovative thinkers
- Charitable mindset
There will always be generational differences and biases (back then there were hippies and now there are hipsters). Before you know it, you will be complaining about the “crazy hooligans” in Generation Z and the “lazy yahoos” in whatever generation comes after that. Try to understand the differences and values of the generations that you work with and learn how you can complement each other in the workplace.
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