Some of you know my work as a behavioral psychologist and a public involvement consultant. What you may not know is that I have known for some time that the day would come when I, as a “Baby Boomer” (born 1950), would have to figure out how to work with the M-Generation. I realized this as I witnessed the M-Generation evolve into the complex people they are, and I foresaw the trials and tribulations that lay ahead for all of us
We typically think of this generation as being born in the early 1980s through about the year 2000. Had I had a child, he/she would have been of this generation. I have often wondered if I his/her Mother and I would have passed along our values and work ethic. Would we have succumbed to being the “helicopter parents” that so many of this generation have, or would we have focused more on our own values from our generation where we had to “pay the dues”?
In my forthcoming e-book, you will find my research, my observations, and my explanation of what you can expect as you behaviorally work with this M-Generation or “The Millennials”. I believe that there are significant trials ahead for all of us, yet I remain optimistic.
Now, before any of you condemn me for my directness in my assessments, let me note these are general characteristics. No one set of traits applies to all members of the M-Generation, just as they did not all apply to the Baby Boomers of the “Love and Peace” era. Also, I note in sidebars research that some individual cases contradict some of the basic generalizations. You choose to use the data and observations as you wish as you develop your own path to learning how to work productively with the Millennials.
Many of you Baby Boomers and GenXers are going to find, as I did, that we have quite a task on our hands when it comes to integrating this generation into our workforces. The challenge is on both sides of the proverbial coin, and we must agree amongst ourselves that we will meet these issues and deal with them effectively.
It will not be easy because Millennials will need to understand that they also will have to adapt to our expectations and learn from our experiences.
Whether you are a Baby Boomer or a GenXer, I recommend that you learn to work smarter by understanding the M-Generation and by understanding that we will not change their some of their relatively fixed and permanent behaviors and traits.
They were raised this way. Some of us must accept some of that responsibility. We thought the idea that everyone should get an “award” for just showing up, even if it was not on time, was a good thing. We were seeking to eliminate negativity in their lives and promote feelings of self worth. But the pendulum maybe swung too far. As Pogo, the famous cartoon character once famously said, “We have met the enemy, and they are us!”
On the other hand, most Millenials do want to feel that they are doing good work. Although many of them grew up with constant positive reinforcement, we don’t have to give praise when praise is not due. What we can and must do is communicate with them early and often. Clearly articulating our expectations (in writing and verbally), as well as the consequences of not meeting them, is “where it’s at”. Constructive feedback consistently given can help them understand that we want them to succeed just as their parents did, but we will not coddle them.
We must choose our fights and be willing to negotiate with these young people. We will have to be up front about where are willing to negotiate and where we are not willing to negotiate. Listen to them, learn from them, but insist that they give us the same courtesy.
It’s important to define sensible, well articulated, and mutually agreed upon boundaries, standards, and expectations for these new hires to live up to and abide by. If we do not do this, they will flounder and even fail. No one wins in this scenario.
However, if we learn how to adapt and get what we need from the M-Generation, they can be productive and contribute to our workplace.
Once we negotiate a balance between “challenge” and “accommodation,” we can negotiate with the Millennials to focus on releasing the exceptional gifts and talents that their generation can bring to the workplace.
- We must keep learning, observing and rewarding as Dr. Phil McGraw says, “the good behavior.”
- However, If they come into work late, we must have negotiated on the front-end with them the consequences of this behavior and then enact the “negotiated corrective behavior”.
- We will be challenged to stay resilient and flexible in our management.
- When they question our expertise and experience, our instructions or focus, our understanding of internal organizational politics, we should ask their opinions and listen to learn and understand. Yet we should ensure they realize that we have no obligation whatsoever to take their advice or counsel.
- We must make sure they know there are consequences to going over the chain of command.
- This generation will not hesitate to go to the CEO or President without your approval or counsel. They “feel” entitled to advance their perspectives and agenda whether you agree with it or not, especially if they “feel” they are “right,” “just” or have a “better way of doing things.”
- We must maintain a sense of humor.
- Listen, didn’t every Baby Boomer and GenXer also think and feel we could change the world? Some of our “fresh” and “new” approaches were at times humorous, if not even ridiculous, because we did not understand the organizational processes or politics. Being able to laugh at the absurdity of our own life experiences can help us keep our perspective.
- We must find a way to center ourselves and remain calm. “Keep calm and carry on”, as the British say. It worked in the second world war!
- For our own sanity and well-being, we must decide the best way to stay sane in this process. After all, this generation is caretaking us in our retirement!
We will announce the release of the new e-book in a few days. Stay tuned.
L. Darryl Armstrong – June 2017