A few days ago, a story appeared on Ragan.com by Denise Baron called “Talkin bout my generation—and theirs.” Denise describes seminars and conferences that teach baby boomers how to work effectively with other generations. She said as a manger, she’s been advised on how best to deal with the needs, idiosyncrasies and behavioral characteristics of members of X, Y and Millennial generations.
“Here’s what I suggest to those newcomers: How ‘bout learning how to deal with me” she says.
She continues to describe the values of the baby boomer generation, like working your way to the top, respecting elders, and pining for a Barbie-like dream life. Her advice to younger folks:
“So, if you’re not quite older than dirt and find yourself reporting to someone you suspect might be, here are some tips on how to get along with us and—ever so important—avoid getting on our nerves:
• Forget the B.S. and lose the attitude.
• Don’t expect the world to be handed to you; we’ll expect you to work for your rewards.
• Learn what impresses us, and do more of it; learn what bugs us, and stop doing it.
• Don’t miss deadlines, and do show up on time, all the time.”
Wow. Who gave Denise hater-ade to sip on in her morning coffee?
I’m a Millennial, born in 1987. I’ve dealt with a constant stereotype about my generation my entire life, particularly in the workplace. I can’t help but take this personally, and be nothing but disappointed in Denise’s monumental oversight.
Yes, it is true that members of my generation value instant gratification, after all, we’ve grown up with the Internet and information available with the click of a button. Yes, it’s true that members of my generation are multi-taskers and work best in environments that foster flexibility and creativity. Yes, it’s true that members of my generation want to be successful early on and want to take on as much responsibility as possible to prove ourselves.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t care about basic manners and requirements of a job. And it sure as heck doesn’t mean we don’t want to work hard to do a good job for our bosses and companies. A good employee is a good employee, no matter the age.
Attitude problems have nothing to do with generations. If you carefully interview qualified candidates and check with their references, you will get an idea of the type of person and worker your candidate is. A pain-in-the-butt at age 20 usually grows up to be a pain-in-the-butt at 50. Ages change, difficult people don’t.
Don’t punish young people for being ambitious. Do you know any baby boomers that lined up for unpaid internships? I didn’t think so. In today’s PR industry, it’s expected that college graduates have at least one, but often, several internships before getting entry-level salaried positions. I would argue that this generation works even harder to get to the jumping-off point baby boomers enjoyed in their early 20s. Long gone are the days of working for a company for 35 years and retiring with a cushy pension. Millennials do not take jobs with the same sense of security many baby boomers enjoyed.
Be clear about your expectations, and hold your employees accountable. This goes for any employee in any generation. If you’re a manager or supervisor, be clear in the beginning about what you expect and the way you like to work. The quicker you find a positive dynamic with your new young employee, the quicker you are going to have a contributor to your department. Don’t just expect your intern or entry-level associate to figure out what to do on his or her own. That’s just setting the situation up to be a failure.
Consider being flexible with scheduling to maximize a young person’s peak hours. There are very few young people who can sit in a cube from 8-5 and be productive and focused the entire time. By offering some flexibility in work schedules, you’re going to get better work, more often from your young employees.
I asked my Twitter network what stereotypes or beliefs about Gen Y/Millennials they believed to see if Denise’s feelings were the norm. Here’s what I found out:
@tshepard: I’m a Gen Y myself, so I have a positive view. Hard workers, tech-savvy, creative, educated, up on the latest news/trends/media.
@aribadler: I support the Gen Y efforts to cause change, but I often have to remind them that you can’t turn the Queen Mary on a dime.
@jlknott: Millennials=multitaskers, expect media and demand to be heard and have some entitlement issues. They are also very much of the driving force behind all of the new, prolific social media and open content movements. As a generation, they are more willing to demand what they want, something Gen X and Gen Y is hesitant to do.
It seems to me that the key to everything is a balance and an understanding that everyone is different, no matter the age or generation. If everyone is willing to spend some time getting to know colleagues and learning the best way to work with each particular individual, wouldn’t working environments be so much better? There’s no need to get caught up in the “generation” characteristics a new employee may or may not possess.
I understand that Denise may have meant that young people need to make more effort toward working in a way baby boomers are comfortable with. But, she seems to ignore the fact that there is an incredible generation of young people that just might need a little guidance learning what that is.
If a manager believes negative stereotypes about me because of my age, then how can I expect to learn anything from that person? I believe my generation is full of creative, savvy and intelligent people that will change the world. I just hope others can learn to feel the same way.
What generation are you part of and what stereotypes about your generation bother you? What do you think the keys to successful inter-generational working relationships are?
Image credit: The Mason Gazette