We have awoken to a world and a work place that no longer reflect the environments and relationships of yesteryear. This new world is populated by a new generation of persons who share a new language, a new code and it is difficult to process that a bunch of youngsters will soon be running the world. If you are starting to say phrases like, "Back in my day," or "They just don't understand," or "I don't know how to get through to them," congratulations - you are now old.
You have a decision to make -
A) you can join the traditions of every generation before you and perpetuate a us (ie the good ol boys) versus them (these dang youngsters)
B) you can recognize that a single noun (regardless of how popular its use) does not define over two decades of persons who are now emerging in the work force.
The functional definition of a Millennial (Generation Y) is someone born in the 80's or 90's, more specific references state 1982 - 1994. This makes an interesting distinction, if you aren't quick with math, if you have an employee who is 21 years of age, as of 2016 that would put their birth date at 1995 which would technically classify them as Generation Z aka iGen (not as popular in our vernacular).
As a member of Generation Y, born right on the transition point from Generation X to Y, I am uniquely qualified to assist with whispering into productive relational connection points for those who sincerely want to expand their understanding.
Classification Is Not Realistic
The first step towards productively engaging Millennials is to understand that the term does not define the individuals. Already there is such a negative connotation around the word Millennial that mentioning it does not help you connect, it creates a barrier. Are you defined by your generational category? When you were coming up the ranks with your first job, your first promotion at a young age, your first assignment of positional importance - how were you treated by the generations before you?
Deal with individuals rather than define generations.
Connection Isn't That Hard
Are you so far removed from your professional journey that you cannot remember the generational obstacles you faced climbing the corporate ladder as a youngster? Do you remember those who opposed you just because of your age or your lack of experience? If you can tap back into that time in your life, you can empathize with your team members who are working to grow as humans and desire to be productive employees. Look past age and follow the effort. Who was the first person that gave you a shot or mentored you through your initial challenges as a young professional - it's now your turn to pay it forward.
Mentor through empathy to create real connections.
Categorization Is Not Productive
Every generation has their lazy slobs but they also have their shinning stars. Like your generation, you respect your peers who have worked hard and made something of their opportunities while you detest that older generations would classify your generation as this or that because of a few degenerates who made a bad name for the whole group. If you interact with hard working Millennials you will find that they are as upset with those of their own generation who are dragging their efforts into question. Millennials can be your greatest asset to understanding, engaging and empowering other Millennials if you can create trust within their core group.
Millennial Whisperer - Key # 1
Like most relationships, trust is built one small brick at a time. If you are able to create an open discussion with your team members, you will need to listen closely for the opportunities and make sure that you follow through.
Most likely you will be given small openings in the trust circle and you will be watched closely to see if you do what you say you are going to do. If you make a promise, you better make good on it.
No one can build or destroy your relationship with Millennials faster than you. With rising divorce rates, declining educational environments and political dissatisfaction, Millennials are used to being disappointed by authority structures. If you are overtly authoritative in your management style, you will not maximize your effectiveness in engaging the potential of your Millennial workforce. Engage the potential by creating an open culture in your organization and empowering all of your team members to input and own the solutions to the challenges your team is facing.
Step 1 - Stop using "Millennial" immediately
Step 2 - Empathize
Step 3 - Engage
Step 4 - Follow through. See above - LISTEN CLOSELY.
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Jon Isaacson has a monthly feature column with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled The Intentional Restorer