The other night I went to a mini reunion of a bunch of great fellow baby boomers from business school, and someone brought up the topic of the millennial generation at work. Everyone’s emotions were sparked, and they couldn’t wait to share their horror stories:
“Every time I look, they’re on social media!”
“They don’t respond to emails!”
“They want constant feedback!”
“They never want to do the grunt work!”
“One asked me to talk to his mother about how he performed at a presentation!”
“Their parents never let them solve problems themselves!”
And who, exactly, are these parents they refer to? Hey, I don’t doubt any of their gripes, but I don’t like to characterize all Gen Y-ers as a bunch of social-media-obsessed, positive-feedback-craving, mother-pleasing dilettantes. Just the way I don’t like to characterize my generation as a bunch of past-romancing, milestone-obsessed, status-observing fogeys. Well I do, actually.
Still generational differences exist, and we old folks can’t expect the young folks to conform to every old convention. Here are some suggestions for both sides:
Make sure that you explain the context of tasks so that younger members don’t think they're doing grunt work. Perhaps share the implications for client work and suggest ways that team members can get help get the whole task done.
Give positive feedback on tasks well done, then mention how certain behaviors negatively affected others, and talk about how to follow through in future situations.
Share stories of your successes and failures and what you learned from them.
Even though you may think “everyone does it,” don’t pick up your phone unless you first tell the people you’re with why you need to pick it up.
Return emails and texts quickly.
Remember politeness conventions: “please,” “thank you,” etc.; avoid: “dude,” “sup,” “laters.”
Keep your baby boomer parents away from work.
Peace out. Sorry.