Part 3 – The Greatest Complaint – The Millennial Sense of Entitlement

Cheerful guy sitting in front of desktop computer

 “Yes, I am entitled to apply for a vice president’s job. I was a community organizer for two years and have been here a year already”!

What is the singular greatest complaint leveled against Millennials?

Many employers would say that this generation sees each new undertaking with a “sense of entitlement” that is entirely out of proportion to their age and experience. After all, as the M-generation sees it, shouldn’t they at least be allowed to apply for a vice presidency of the company where they have worked for one year? After all, a community organizer can become president.

They are not taking into consideration that this president had a law degree and was a law professor for 12 years before he was a three time State Senator, and a U.S. Senator for two years  before he ran for the office.

Simply, from childhood the M-Generation has developed a reputation for “being overconfident and spoiled”. They expect praise (even coming to work on time to them is an important recognition) long before they have earned it. Also, remember they probably have no understanding or appreciation for the reporting and accountability hierarchy in an organization.

As the authors of “The M-Factor” say, “This generation shows signs of being far too impressed with their own value and importance”.

Now, before you beat me with the proverbial wet noodle of indignation, I acknowledge this trait is tempered by individual personalities. While one Millennial may exude “cockiness and arrogance” that turns off even his/her peers, another one is a model of humility.

Authors do say that anecdotal evidence, along with the general trends, suggests that at some point you will shake your head in disbelief at the unreasonable expectations you have just discovered in your new employee.   Despite their intelligence and competency in many areas, the Millennial has a lot to learn.  But, in a different time in a different way, didn’t we all?

Let’s examine a few generalized expectations you may encounter so you will be prepared:

Millennials may expect to advance quickly. Once they have mastered their current responsibilities, they want to be promoted to higher positions or greater responsibility NOW.

They often have a very low tolerance for the mundane work that usually falls to the lowest rung of the workplace ladder. They don’t understand the concept of seniority, and to them that is an anathema of their value system. They value capability over experience and believe that a fresh, young perspective is always more valuable than the tried and true methods of the “old gray heads”.

The ideas of “doing your time” within a role and job and “paying your dues” just do not make sense to them and are at odds with their expectations.  The kind of work and status that M-Generation new hires are likely to encounter in any job may not be to their liking.

Many employers, when they encounter the M-Generation employee’s high expectations and impatience with their low status, are tempted to conclude that he/she is just plain “spoiled rotten”.

As a path to understanding, let’s consider how we acted out our own social norms of the 1960s and 70s and were complacent to “climb the ladder” appropriately by gaining experience and education.  The M-Generation new hire and his peers are simply acting out the social norms and experiences and examples that have thus far shaped their lives.

Many behavioral psychologist and sociologists have concluded that one prevailing norm for the Millennial has been the constant availability of choice. Simply, in all aspects of life, at home, at school, in extra-curricular activities and even the marketplace, they often could choose their experiences. Everything from what playlists they might load to their I-pod to what reading list they preferred in high school or college was a personal choice. For them, their world has been easily customizable.  It is going to be a shock to some of them to find out that life is not always that way.

In my mind, members of this generation can be overly-sensitive. This can certainly be a factor in their  employment lives. For example, there were college students who were appalled at “chalk drawings of presidential candidates” on the sidewalks. Few employers are expecting or prepared to deal with an employee reduced to crying over inanimate objects and even fewer are going to provide “safe spaces”, cookies and hot chocolate when something upsets one of their new hires.

Let’s remember that many of the parents of the M-Generation believed and practiced that praise and self-esteem were the first priorities in parenting and teaching realms. The child learns that if you play on the little league baseball team, you get a trophy for showing up. Turn in your homework, and get a gold star for turning something in with your name on it regardless of the content.

While effort is important and trying your best is important, life, and certainly the business world, does not necessarily hand out trophies for these worthy attributes.

Millennials often hear “You can accomplish whatever you want in life” hundreds of times by the times they are adults The flip side of that coin is that hard work, perseverance and some luck are usually the prerequisites.  And, even with all that in place, there is still no guarantee.  Millennials may have a hard time grasping this.

Granted it will be difficult to alter the high expectations about choice, and the need for quick and constant affirmation, of the typical Millennial.   Many employers may see it as impossible!  But fear not – there are ways to approach your new hire’s expectations that will minimize conflict and frustration while utilizing their potential.

Next: Part 4 – Minimizing conflict and crisis when dealing with a Millennial

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

 

 

Part 2: How to deal effectively with the M-Generation

Stress - woman stressed with headache. Female stressed and worri

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

 

Solve problems by involving those who have them

In 1973, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a position at what was then the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Land Between The Lakes. I had been a newspaper reporter and editor up until then, and I was excited about working in the field of “public relations.”I was chosen to be the Reports Editor, a title that really meant nothing. Reports Editor is one of those arcane titles that the federal government uses to “hide their real intent.” I was in this position from 1973-1979.Looking back, I would say that this job probably taught me more than any of the others.Local people in western Kentucky and Tennessee have feelings that run deep even to this day about TVA. Those people, especially the ones who were forced from their homes for TVA’s national demonstration area in outdoor recreation and environmental education, will never get over it.However, when I was 23, I saw this opportunity as a great challenge. I decided from day one to reach out and engage all members of the public who had an interest in the project, especially the former residents and the business community. I sought to develop working relationships among diverse groups.More than once, management questioned why I spent many extra hours attending meetings of the tourist associations, chambers, economic development committees and the various state agency public hearings.

I may not have been able to articulate it then, but now I realize what the answer to this question was. If you truly want to solve a problem, you must involve the people with the problem in the solution. You must develop meaningful and sustainable relationships with them based on trust.

I took my responsibility of being a “public servant” seriously. I believed then, just as I do today, that all government employees have an obligation to engage the taxpayers (the very people who pay taxes to provide government employees’ salaries) in meaningful discussions to find appropriate solutions to difficult problems.

Many of my colleagues thought and felt, as they expressed to me, that I was wasting my time trying to develop relationships with the very people who wanted TVA to take the proverbial hike.

They were wrong then, and government agencies that still play at public involvement and engagement without meaningful intent are even more wrong now.

Since the taxpayers’ money pays government employee salaries, the taxpaying public has the right to be engaged in helping agencies make the best possible decisions.

Allow me to give you an example.

Recently, I was asked to facilitate a series of public meetings for a federal agency. I quickly determined after the first meeting, a nightmare for all involved, that two things were readily apparent:

– The federal agency didn’t really want a facilitated meeting. Facilitated meetings in my world are set up to bring all the people to the table and keep them there, no matter how long, until an agreed upon path forward is determined.

– The agency really wanted a traffic cop or a moderator for these meetings. The second meeting we moderated, even though I thought it unwise to do. The meeting went well although I voiced my professional opinion, something I rarely do when I am conducting a meeting.

I told the public that we had advised the agency that its meeting model should be changed to a more educational and involvement model rather than just an informational model. An educational model would allow for significantly more public involvement and, at the least, shared assessment of the problem, if not some shared decision-making.

Needless to say, the agency and my former contractor have decided they “really don’t have the funds to have a facilitator.”

Frankly, I am glad they came to that decision. I was going to be forced to walk away from the project anyway, something I have done in the past when agencies tried to fake public engagement by applying only the necessary rules and regulations.

This leads me back to the need to solve the problems by involving the people directly affected.

There are six steps I recommend to truly involve the people directly affected, whether it is a small business or a government agency manager:

– Ask those involved to share the information they want to share, not just the information you want them to share. Be prepared to keep your mouth closed and your ears open.

Ask open-ended questions like, “What else do we need to know that is important for you to share?”

Questions like these not only enable the customer or the member of the public (stakeholder) to vent. It also allows them to be involved in the assessment of the problem.

– Ask them to prioritize information they have shared. Because they are venting, this is their therapy, and you will get a significant information dump. Have them help you figure out the really important information they have shared.

It annoys people with a problem or complaint when you assume you know what concerns them most.

– Ask them for their advice or opinions.

Oh, I know foresters, fishery experts, nuclear specialists and government managers all know what they are doing more so than the public does, However, they (read taxpayer here for government agencies and customer for small business) do have opinions and advice to share.

Being willing to ask for advice and opinions does not mean that you will necessarily take it. This should also be stated up front. However, when you understand their priorities, their values and their viewpoints, a solution can often be created which meets the needs of all parties involved.

– Offer them alternatives.

People are more committed to decisions that they help make. Not only are they committed, they have a stake in the decision and, as such, will help defend the decision, if need be.

In addition, if you are a small business person, you will demonstrate to the customer that you are taking that extra step to satisfy the complaint or meet the request.

When the request can’t be met, for whatever reason, be prepared to offer alternatives.

– Determine the minimum need.

Ask the customer or the stakeholder what he or she would like you to do immediately. This helps to diffuse their anger rather quickly. If this is not done correctly, especially in the government world, outrage can and often does result.

When members of the public become outraged, it often results in unwanted political or media involvement. Don’t believe this? Did you watch the public outrage over the shooting of the unarmed minority teenager in Florida? Or, perhaps you recall the “Occupiers” movement in the larger cities?

By taking some action, you gain some additional time to take care of the greater problem.

– Ask them to provide you some alternative solutions.

Be direct in your request. If you are a small business person say something like, “Ms. Jones, I’m stumped. I’ve offered you all the alternative solutions I can. What kind of solution would you propose?”

Often this makes people realize they are being unreasonable, or at the very least, it lessens the tension and re-engages all parties toward working to a mutually acceptable path forward.

You probably have figured this out by now. Underlying all these actions is your intention to build workable and meaningful relationships.

When you have built meaningful and sustainable relationships, and you have demonstrated that your behaviors match your words (you walk your talk), then your chances of building workable solutions greatly increases. Your willingness to involve the people impacted can make all the difference in solving a mutual problem.

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at drdarryl@aol.com or 1-888-340-2006 or www.ldarrylarmstrong.com