Listen, the challenge of parenting, educating, training, mentoring, and guiding young people has been around for thousands of years. Consider this quote attributed to Socrates, almost 2,500 years ago:
Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.
“But my millennials are so much more annoying than we ever were.” Got it.
Remember, millennials look nothing like the previous generations, and that’s why they annoy you. It’s a lack of understanding of and between different generations. The point is millennials are probably everything and nothing we say about them.
- Entitled, lazy, and won’t do what they’re told? In a poll of 5,000 workers by Jennifer Deal of the Center for Creative Leadership and Alec Levenson of the University of Southern California, 41% of millennials agreed that “employees should do what their manager tells them, even when they can’t see the reason for it,” compared with 30% of baby boomers and 30 percent of Gen Xers.
- Aren’t competitive? The Economist cites research by CEB, a consulting firm that polls 90,000 American employees each quarter, that 59% of millennials say competition is what gets them up in the morning much more than the percentage of baby boomers or Gen Xers that say that about competition.
- Only communicate digitally? That study by Jennifer Deal and Alec Levenson showed that more than 90% of millennials surveyed want face-to-face feedback and career discussions.
- Jump ship and are not committed for the long term, or really any term? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker stays at a job 4.4 years, and yes, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers, 91% of millennials expect to stay less than three. But beware of averages: Millennials may find it normal to job-hop faster than any previous generation, but when they find the right opportunity they actually are more loyal than the previous generation. The CEB study showed millennials put future career opportunity among their top five reasons for choosing a job, again ahead of other generations.
Simply put, when it comes to millennials, most of us have no idea what to believe or do. So we believe and assume the worst. Until we see this, the most powerful myths or assumptions that we have about millennials will continue to negatively impact our attitudes about, perceptions of, and relationships with them.
Get past the myths and realize that individual differences are more important than generational ones In the end, most millennials just want what we all should want: challenge, flexibility, purpose, engagement, collaboration, work-life balance, transparency, and authenticity.
They want bosses who care, set clear expectations, and are willing to coach—and who understand what they expect and need in the workplace. Are these things so unappealing or are they just not your story?
Don’t let generational differences be the problem. Lean in and consider millennials an opportunity to learn, connect, and kick more ass in your business using millennial power.
Need help getting started? For more on this, check out Busting Myth in Part Two of Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace TODAY.