It’s true the Millennials have caught some of us Generation Xers (ages 35 - 49) and Baby Boomers (ages 50 - 69 ) off-guard. Let's face it, Millennials are different and we do have the preconceived notion that every generation that comes after another is worse and much less clued in about the world.
There are some significant differences between the aforementioned generations; and might I add, some really great things that come with Millennials.
While we never want to stereotype a group of people, I think we can learn a lot about different generations by looking at what major influences they experienced growing up. Authors Rodney Deyoe and Terry Fox help us better understand these differences in their article, Identifying Strategies To Minimize Workplace Conflict Due To Generational Differences.
Baby Boomers: Their life experiences were shaped by the Vietnam War, Woodstock, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights Movements, the Cold War, the moon landing, the Kennedy assassination, and Women’s Rights Movements. They are idealistic, driven and willing to make personal and professional sacrifices. They live to work.
Generation X: Events that shaped their lives included Three Mile Island, the Iran Contra affair, MTV, AIDS Crisis, Challenger disaster, Desert Storm, Los Angeles Riots, and the Iranian hostage crisis. They are considered the latchkey kids as most of them had two working parents and they spent considerable time at home alone. Technology has been a big part of their lives. They are independent, disloyal and skeptical of authority. They ushered in work-life balance.
Millennial: Their lives have been shaped by events such as the Oklahoma City bombing, the Waco Branch Davidian Massacre, school violence, the digital age, Enron and other corporate scandals, reality TV, 9/11, the War on Terror, and Web-based social networking. They are fearless, have an inflated sense of self and believe they can achieve anything. They look at work as a means to have fun.
Our experiences have shaped us and that's okay as long as we are willing to move beyond our differences and try to see what we each bring to the table. We can also do a few things to help our Millennials fit into the workplace.
First, challenge Millennials because they want to do work that matters. Ask them their opinion, they are great collaborators. Give them a lot of feedback, they need to know how they are doing. If you're a Gen Xer and find that you feel you are constantly giving feedback, then pair them with a mentor or peer to help them see their progress. Remember to have fun with them. Millennials don't see work as having to be hard, they want it to be an extension of their life.
Finally, my best advice when it comes to dealing with Millennials who have a difficult time understanding deadlines, work hours and scheduling with others is to remember that you can't hold someone accountable for that they don't know. Teach them what you expect. Don't assume they understand why these things are important. They may not have a full understanding of what being professional means so teach, show, and give them feedback for what you expect.
All generations bring great things to the workplace. We just need to see our differences and appreciate them. Check out how you can better understand generational differences in the workplace by cultivating a P.I. Culture at the link below.