Part 2: How to deal effectively with the M-Generation
In Part One of this series, we gave some general behavioral insights into the M-Generation, the people born between 1982-2000, who are currently entering the work place. In this article, we will look at the common characteristics that further define this generation and how to effectively deal with them.
As Baby Boomers and GenXers, our parents invariably worked hard and often long hours to provide us a better life. Parental involvement was limited, and our parents trusted us to our teachers and coaches, pastors and Sunday school teachers.
Parents came to ballgames, plays and special events. We knew that if the principal or teacher called our folks because of our unruly behavior during or even after school, we would suffer the consequences, and, yes, there would be some parental involvement at that juncture! This parental involvement did not include blaming any one else for our misdeeds. We were expected to accept responsibility for our behavior or accept the consequence.
Enter the “Helicopter Parent”
However, in the last 30 years, we have seen a major shift in the parental role as parents have become more involved socially and educationally with their children. As a result of this era of “parents being the child’s friend”, the parent is no longer in a role of authority in their children’s eyes.
Millenials became their parents’ “colleagues” and “associates”, and with the proliferation of the cell phone, the kids were never far from the “nest” of the parents. So, enters the “helicopter” parent, and the parents, in many cases, enjoy this relationship because psychologist say it “gives them more meaningful lives” and therefore they don’t choose to or want to “push the child out of the nest.”
The Millennials are fine with this because they are not seeking or striving for independence in many cases. Educators and others have observed this trend for years. Yes, it is the M-Generation that chose to live in their parent’s basements as long as possible while finding themselves and their calling whereas the Baby Boomers fought for and sought early independence from their parents the Millennials prefer the security of the nest.
Teachers, and counselors in some cases, have appreciated more parental involvement, if it was not “too much”. Employers, on the other hand, frankly have little to no interest in parents “helicoptering” their Millennial employees.
“Sadly, it is increasingly common for employers to receive phone calls from a parent wanting to discuss problems or a disappointment their (adult) child has had at work says.” Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman, authors of The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” (Harper Collins, 2010).
Employers have even reported that Millenials have told them they have asked their “Mom or Dad as their colleague” to review their work or even do it for them. Just like they did in school and sadly, in this author’s opinion, many parents do so. These same parents maintain even more control of the M-Generation often by paying their bills, buying them cars, food or clothes and taking care of their children because after all these children are the “grandchildren” the Boomers and Gen-Xers always wanted.
Lancaster and Stillman note that one of the bigger surprises experienced in the work place is when the new hire millennial shares some feedback from a parent, who happens to be a senior vice president at a similar company. This feedback about how the parent could do things better, if they were in charge, is not solicited or appreciated by the employer.
Simply, the M-Generation view their parents as valuable resources whose counsel and input will be as vital for their work life as it was when they were students. When you hire a millennial, you will get the parents as part of the bargain, whether you like it or not.
Initially, I thought this was hyperbole or outrageous complaining until I actually observed such behavior from a member of my own extended family. Since I left home at age 17 and paid my way through college, I found this enabling behavior to be an antithesis to my idea of maturity, healthy self-reliance, and productivity. I would dare to say that much of society feels the same way. But then, apparently there are a lot of helicopter parents who do not.
However, based on my own observations and research, I recommend that you forget about trying to change this perspective, or debate with the new hire (or their parents). Whether this perspective and behavior is appropriate, healthy, or mature is irrelevant to them. The reality is you must accept the fact that this “parental helicoptering” and the M-Generation’s social behaviors are now at least 20 years into solidification, and you are not likely to change that perspective anytime soon.
There are strategies, however, that can be deployed to deal with this M-Generation behavior. One is to articulate and clearly establish boundaries up front in the working relationship regarding your feelings about parental involvement.
For example, personnel records, including performance reviews, are generally considered organizationally confidential and are not open for discussion with anyone other than the employee and her supervisors. This is a distinct and most appropriate boundary that you should clarify to a new hire in case his parent wants to explore his child’s experience at your company.
However, some researchers say it might also help to understand the close relationship Millenials have with their parents by viewing it the same way they do – as an asset when it comes to “reflection” on work place issues.
Remember these Millennials are products of parental engagement. They have been sharing and processing their experiences with their parents from the earliest of ages.
If your new M-Generation employees seemingly have this kind of relationship with their parents, encourage them to involve their parents in reflection on their profession, roles, responsibilities and chosen vocation. Do not, however, allow them to think that you and the parents will be having this kind of relationship.
Remember that Millennials don’t readily grasp the concept of confidentiality, especially in conversation with their parents. Therefore, it is important to provide them clearly articulated and well-defined guidelines on what kind of information is inappropriate for such conversations.
Lancaster and Stillman note that a Millennial’s relationship with his parents is the template for interaction with other older adults and authority figures.
If you can objectively observe or ascertain from his comments how a Millennial interacts with his parents, you may uncover clues on how he hopes to relate to you as an older colleague.
If your new hire sees his parents as a perpetually available resource, he may expect the same from you. If he is open to their counsel and coaching, he may readily accept the same from you as his mentor.
Accept the fact that you will have to spend extra time and attention on the Millennials, which can be burdensome at times. However their enthusiasm for your input may leave you feeling more gratified than grumpy.
Next: The single greatest complaint about Milleninals from employers
Sources: The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010)
PWC.Com – Millennials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/assets/reshaping-the-workplace.pdf