Millennials Revisited

At Change Strategists, Inc., after we have completed the strategy building systems for our clients’ multinational corporations, we spend a good amount of time in sorting out difficulties that are the result of Millennials in the workforce. I don’t dwell on this fact, as a normal thing, unless journalists call to solicit information about “Millennials in the Workforce.” About 3 years ago, it was a topic of high interest because much of generational differences research had just begun to be released by researchers focused on the topic. By this time, interest in Millennials has gone the way of much of the popular press concentrations – given way for other “sensations.” However, a recent incident brings the topic back to mind in its full glory. I was running errands last weekend and stopped by our local Sprouts market to ask about getting an organic turkey to prepare for Easter Sunday. The two Millennials (behind the meat counter) that I talked with told me forcefully, “You don’t have turkey for EASTER; only for Christmas!” At that point, I left the store – what more was there to say? However, not to be deterred in my quest to find a turkey for a family who LOVES turkey (at any time of year), I checked with friends and was told that the “meat guys at the other Sprouts are much more accommodating – try them.” Which I did – yesterday – again out doing errands for the weekend. And, much to my surprise, I didn’t even have to check with the meat guys – there was a BIN of turkeys for sale. Clearly they hadn’t gotten the memo from their Millennial counterparts at the other store! Which brings me to the point of Millennials and their often bizarre behaviors. Who, other than someone of the Millennial generation, would tell a customer what she was to eat, when. Totally amazing! Those with whom I have shared the story, look at me open-mouthed. Granted these people tend to be of the Gen-X or Boomer Generations, showing once again that there is indeed a gap between the generations. What we have discovered from our long work in this area is that, typically, Millennials come without a buffer switch – there has been nothing built into their make-up that allows them to distinguish between socially/culturally appropriate behaviors and the converse, inappropriate behaviors and actions. To Millennials, the only thing that typically is of importance, is what they think and feel, at any given moment. They’ve been treated throughout their lives -by their parents and others- (as a professional friend puts it) “as though they are the last popsicle in the desert.” And, as their schooling has consisted of strong praise and an absence of commentary on what could be done better, they have come to believe themselves to be the absolute authority on . . .well, just about anything! As witness, my directions about what to serve for Easter Dinner. The question always arises: So, what do we DO about it? In the case of Millennials in the workplace, we spend a great deal of time giving them feedback – daily when at all possible – so that they can rebuild those missing pieces in their psyche. The Millennials are somewhat akin to “only children” who often lack a full repertoire of social skills – Millennials have the same lack, but for slightly different reasons. “Only children” (OCs) tend to lack the skills because they’ve been treated as adults by their parents, included in social events and other family matters as an equal to the adults. Consequently, OCs tend to be deficient in dealing with their age cohort. The case of Millennials is even more far-reaching, however, as both their schools and their parents have tended to treat them differently from generations in the past. Just about the time that Millennials were beginning their schooling, the education systems decided that it was “unfair” for there to be winners and losers (although that’s precisely what happens in life) – and thus schooling became a constant stroking of little egos along with the handing out of trophies for everyone – “participation trophies.” So, one can begin to understand their frustration and, even, rage when they reach the workplace and there definitely are winners and losers! However, the problem will persist until the work situation places special emphasis on re-preparing the Millennial generation to face up to life’s realities. This often takes a while – no behavioral change comes without effort and a sincere desire to change. And, so, my Easter wish for you, in your workplace, is that you can take the time and effort to re-train your Millennial employees – they generally are smart-enough, professionally; just not smart enough, culturally.

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