I feel like I should have some sort of non-discrimination attorney present as I write this, that’s how heated I feel this discussion has gotten in the business world.
My name is Jessie and I’m a Millennial. A Millennial with a strong work ethic, proven track record of success, passion for helping others, and all around positive attitude. I will be the first to admit that I would not be the positive, business-minded person I am today without the guidance I’ve received from my Baby Boomer and Traditionalist mentors. The experience that they are able to share with myself and other Millennials is invaluable and I try to tell them that all the time.
Now, I’ve got to put aside my “kitten mittens” and drop a few truth bombs here – because let’s be honest, there’s a lot of accusations flying around that I’m sure you’ve heard. Millennials all think they’re so special! Millennials don’t care about rules and only want to do things “their way”! All Millennials do is text or email or spend company time on their phones or on Facebook! Millennials have NO RESPECT!
Whoa whoa whoa! Watch where you point those unkind and frankly, untrue words! You know what Millennials truly are at their core, the only REAL thing you can say about us? Millennials are different. We are NOT Baby Boomers and we are NOT Traditionalists! I have a secret to let you in on though, you Baby Boomers. . . you’re not like the Traditionalists either! And you weren’t when YOU entered the workforce! Remember when you Baby Boomers had your first jobs and you felt the cold, hard sting of judgment from your Traditionalist superiors? It’s not a nice feeling, is it?
But fear not, my Baby Boomer and Traditionalist colleagues, I am here to help! I’ve compiled a guide to the Millennial Mind, How to Lose a Millennial in Ten Ways, so that you can equip yourself with this easy-to-follow list of what NOT to do to the Millennials in your workplace! Enjoy!
- Don’t show us the big picture
It drives us nuts to work on one tiny piece of the puzzle without knowing how it fits into the grand scheme of things. You don’t need to walk us through the entire assembly line, just take some time to explain how what we’re doing fits into the overall goal of the company.
- Micromanage everything we do
If a Millennial has shown competency in their ability to perform their work tasks then let them do their job, just like you would expect to be allowed the freedom from strict oversight in your own job! As long as a Millennial gets the job done right and on time, there really isn’t a need to micromanage them, is there? I’ve quit two jobs because of that horrible boss named Mike Romanager. Awful guy, that Mike, constantly breathing down your neck.
- Don’t acknowledge our accomplishments
Rumor has it other generations may be operating under the assumption that Millennials “think they’re special” and expect praise for everything. Yeah, because you taught us that! My Baby Boomer mom and dad taught me that I was special and they raised me with a healthy dose of praise (when warranted) so yeah, I guess I would have to say I do fall into that generalization. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing, when a Millennial performs above and beyond or solves a previously unsolvable problem, to give them the kudos they deserve! It will go a long way! Feeling like we contribute to something that matters, especially when we’ve worked our butts off, gives a big boost to job satisfaction.
- Stifle any and all forms of creativity
Millennials are used to solving problems creatively. We are not ok with the “This is how it’s always been done” logic because if there’s a more efficient way to do something we want to improve the process, for everyone (including the company/bottom line). Creativity goes beyond problem solving to cube decor (or perhaps try hoteling?) and even to the dress code. While I do not have any visible tattoos (ok, one on my foot if I wear heels, flats, or sandals) I do enjoy them and I do have a fondness for fun-colored hair. I work as an office administrator for an engineering firm and am fortunate to have proven my worth (and perhaps have a rather understanding, or at least permissive, Baby Boomer boss) so that I can have a fun pink streak in my hair. I don’t see clients, I have met our company’s CEO (whose son’s fiance also has fun-colored streaks in her hair!), I work in my cubicle relatively quietly, and I do a good job. Why should my having a pink streak of hair matter? It shouldn’t! So loosen up a bit and allow your Millennials to express themselves more freely (within certain parameters of course, see point 5 below).
- Don’t give clear expectations
Millennials grew up watching Youtube videos and reality TV as primary examples of how to “adult” so it’s no wonder that we require a more direct approach to direction. If you want something done a certain way or you have certain expectations you would like met, make that very clear from the get-go. Millennials are not mind readers; just spell out what you want, when you want it, and if you remember point 1, give us a little piece of the why too.
- Communicate on YOUR TERMS only
I’ve heard so many people say that Millennials just don’t know how to use a good old-fashioned telephone any more. Well, that’s just a lie! We do use them; sometimes as vintage decor or to pose with ironically when running into a payphone out somewhere. I’m only kidding. The truth is, there are so many ways to communicate. Personally, in the administrative field where I’m talking to dozens of people about any number of topics, I use email because it’s a CYA deal where I have that email as a backup if someone asks me to prove I said this or someone did in fact send me that. At my company we have a communication system that includes a messenger application and I love it! Sure, I could walk over to So-and-So’s desk to ask a question (or more likely just shout over my cube wall to them), but why do that when I can shoot them a quick message? Sometimes a phone isn’t the best form of communication (I even have internet backup on this one). Also, meetings are usually a waste of time. This is based on extensive research that I’ve performed (happy hour conversations with many friends from various different companies) so it’s pretty much a fact. The other generations seem to LOVE MEETINGS! But us Millennials are over here working on ways to more efficiently communicate the ideas. Creative problem solving in action!
- Don’t ask us questions
If you’re a Baby Boomer or a Traditionalist and you find yourself wanting to learn more about Microsoft Office applications or anything on the internet, WE CAN HELP! Millennials love being useful and technology is our specialty so please make use of our skills and allow us to help! I heard a Baby Boomer colleague say they don’t have texting on their phone and when I investigated further I ended up showing them that they do in fact have texting and gave them a mini tutorial, Texting-101. I’ve also helped the Baby Boomer and Traditionalist members of my business women’s group to learn how to use Facebook to keep in touch with their grand kids. It was so nice to share something with them that I actually had MORE experience with after they’ve mentored me on so many facets of my career.
- Create an atmosphere of fear/hostility
I once worked in an office where the boss yelled frequently, causing my coworkers and I to break out in tears more than any employee ever should at a job. It was a horrible work environment but that angry boss did pay well so a lot of people had been with that company for several years. I lasted less than a year. Millennials don’t see a point in staying somewhere that we are unhappy. Life is too short to cower in your cubicle every time that mean boss storms by, or to stick around when the majority of your coworkers are Debby Downers and office morale is into the negative digits. We’re the generation of social media so is it any wonder we want to encourage office morale?
- Don’t challenge us
Despite popular belief, Millennials are hard workers. This generation has come into the workforce ready to prove our worth. We want to be an asset to the company we choose to work for so don’t just give us a “job”, give us a challenge where we can contribute our unique skills to solve a greater problem, something they can strive for. Try to find a way to view a position in a different light. I work with numbers all day (I hate numbers) but when I look at them as a puzzle I need to solve they become a challenge that I can achieve.
- Treat us like we’re inferior (and talk behind our backs)
The worst way to start any relationship is with a negative impression. Millennials, like all other human beings, can tell when someone is judging them. If you want to have a positive, reciprocal, relationship with a Millennial simply treat them as an equal. Yes, you likely outrank us in years of service and experience, but if you show us that we’re no different than someone of your own generation in your eyes, you will have our trust and respect. I strongly advise against talking badly against Millennials, which I have overheard so many of the other generations do, even within earshot! How do you expect me to want to work with someone who openly badmouths my entire age bracket? Keep your judgments to yourself!
Each generation comes into the workforce with different challenges and a unique set of skills to address them with. It’s up to the more experienced generations to help the young whippersnappers to succeed. I’m calling upon our Baby Boomers and Traditionalists to be mentors, not anti-Millennials. Complaining will only make you look like a jerk but if you volunteer your expertise and a little of your time, you can help us Millennials (and in turn, your company) to grow and succeed. Perhaps you didn’t have that kind of good fortune when you were starting your career, but is that any reason to withhold it from Millennials? No!