As a Baby Boomer, I hear my fellow business colleagues whining about the so called entitled, spoiled, coddled Millennials every day. “I don’t know what to do with these damn Millennials, they don’t want to come to work on time, they want to do everything their way, they don’t take instruction well, they are lazy and incredibly difficult to manage.” “They think I am here to serve them, like I owe them a job.” “They all spend so much time on the phone I can’t get any work out of them.”
As I listen to my fellow Baby Boomers complain about this generation it all sounds a bit familiar to me. If I substituted race, age or gender for generation in these conversations HR would be very busy indeed!
Scientific research seems to support and give validity to generational stereotyping. If all of these stereotypes are a result of scientific studies then they must be correct, Right? Well, maybe, but like so many other things in our culture to we tend to repeat the negative and skip over the positive.
As a small business growth consultant I work with Boomer’s, Gen Xer’s and Millennials every day. I prefer to never lump people into groups and make blanket statements about their traits and behaviors. However, I have heard so much negativity about Millennials I thought I would take a moment to take a real look at the Millennials I know.
Millennials as a group are the largest generation in US history and are the first group to grow up connected. As such, they will be a powerful force in changing the way we see our world. As they grow and prosper they will reshape our economy. They are educated, optimistic, opportunistic, entrepreneurial, informed, and aware. They are less concerned with ownership and more interested in access and sharing. They are more driven by shared reviews and intelligent buying than they are brand loyalty. They are global and socially conscious. They are confident; team oriented, and have a great capacity to share ideas. They are diversity driven, celebrating the value of difference. They are wellness aware, using technology to eat, exercise, and live healthier lives. Since they have been raised connected they understand global citizenship and how they can use technology to solve world issues. Lastly, they are closely connected to their parents. They seek parental advice and trusted relationships.
As I listened to my fellow Boomers decry their distaste for this generation, I thought yeah, but what can we learn from them? As a Boomer that isn’t too thrilled with the “me generation” label of greed and selfishness, I am interested in looking outside of “me” to see if these kids can teach me something. It turns out they are some of the smartest people I know.
As I talk to my Baby Boomer friends, I hear a lot of what I call, “leaning on the past.” In my last company we… or we were successful by… or I know what I am doing, I did it before and it worked so I am not going to change it now. Leaning on experience in business is smart; leaning on the past in business is not.
Millennials look to the future. As a generation raised with instant connection, global communication, and an acute awareness of their parents successes and failures, Millennials are uniquely positioned to use the past to change the future. They have the knowledge and tools at their fingertips through technology and social media to be more powerful than any generation in history.
So, my advice when it comes to Millennials is to embrace them. Learn from them. Listen to their ideas. Understand their perspective. Look through their eyes into the future. Cultivate trusted relationships with them. Look at their actual work instead of worrying about if they are on time. Give them space to be creative. Let them make mistakes. Allow yourself to grow by helping them grow. Give them responsibility and encourage leadership. Mentor them and allow them to flourish.
So, fellow Boomers, you can complain and whine or you can embrace and learn. For my part, I am passionate about working with Millennials. I am committed to using my experience to help them grow so that I may grow with them.
Hey Millennials, this is one Baby Boomer that can’t wait to see how your youth, passion, energy, creativity, and connected spirits change the world.
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