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Millennials Managed – A Modest Proposal

Posted by | May 28, 2015 | Change, Communication, Coworker, Leadership, Teamwork, Workplace

Via LinkedIn : Generational gaps have always existed in the workplace and managing them is a perpetual topic of debate, concern, and learning. I often wonder whether we over complicate this gap and our conversations concerning it. The current conversation revolves around Gen Y – the Echo Boomers – the generation now formally known as Millennials. You do not have to look very far to find a fount of information, assistance, and commentary related to our largest generational population on the planet. Viewpoints, counterviews, stereotypes, generalisations, and of course the real truth claims of this ever-elusive generation abound. Are Millennials really so elusive and should our quest to “sort them out” be so unidirectional? No magic wizarding map or cynical Swiftian satire needed. My proposal is indeed modest and perhaps best stated as a simple and uncomplicated approach to bridging generational gaps and increasing our organisations’ capacity for individual and collective effectiveness.Via

I believe that the basic tenants of addressing the myriad of Millennial concerns that surround us are, at a root level, the same as they are for all the gaps preceding this moment in time and all those that will succeed it. Localised conversations aimed at seeking to understand. Not globalised, overarching conversations, that assume all 90+ million Millennials (or any generation) will act the same and expect the same. Rather conversations within an organisation, a department, a team to uncover what it is that makes those individuals tick.

Through my work for Impact I’ve been bringing together older generation leaders and Millennials for a few years now, to have robust conversations concerning the generational gap. Topics of conversation tend to be focused on debunking assumptions, exploring ways to work more effectively together and understanding leadership needs. The message and the learning I continually capture from these interactions is the need to engage in grassroots conversations that challenge and align perceptions. This serves to uncover the real motivation behind behaviours – the behaviours that end up the targets of generational stereotypes and generalisations.

The stereotypes and generalised advice approach will not solve our generational gap dilemmas. One size does not fit all when it comes to understanding individuals, no matter what their generation. An effective way forward, therefore, is a grassroots approach. Begin, support, and encourage the bringing together of individuals in your organisation. Want your different generations to work more effectively together? The solution lies in enabling these smaller dialogues to happen throughout the organisation, not from a focus on overgeneralised generational traits that we should fight against, or simply accept. Are there exceptions to the rule? Will we encounter shining examples of the stereotypes? Absolutely. More often than not, however, I have found that if we have these grassroots conversations with intent we learn far more about how we can work together better. Engage in intentional dialogue to explore perceptions and stereotypes.

A recurring example I experience is the perception that older generation leaders have of the Millennial tendency to ask lots of questions and have skip-level conversations.

Older generation leaders formulate assumptions that this behavior means that these Millennials are trying to climb the corporate ladder too quickly, that they are gunning for the leader’s job and that they have a general disrespect for authority. What these leaders discover through grassroots conversations is that the reality for most of these Millennials is that they are curious learners who feel that with more information and transparency they can be far more productive employees. Millennials are the socially minded eco-friendly champions of the sharing economy. It’s therefore no surprise that they want a seat at the table and want to be having conversations with the boss’s boss. Doing so without understanding the other side of the equation and without their own understanding of the leaders they report to causes trouble. When these two groups engage in conversation that allows them to explore these behaviours, desires and expectations they often realise that they remain dedicated to the same end game – quality deliverables and a healthy, profitable organisation. In discovering this common ground they set them selves up for greater understanding, collaboration, and effectiveness.

Will this solve all of our generational gap struggles? Will this address all of the nuances that the Millennials bring to the changing and shifting workforce of the future? No. Without this crucial approach though – I fear it will be a journey more difficult then it needs to be. Hopefully we can all find the courage to have these intentional grassroots conversations. To bring transparency to generation gaps and to challenge the differences we hold onto like a crutch supporting our often misguided and uninformed assumptions. Give it a shot. I’d love to hear how it goes and what you discover.

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