This title is satirical, playing off the inundation of articles we see about all the flaws of working with millennials. Rarely though, do we hear the perspective of a millennial in an executive leadership role or a millennial in business.
There are workers who aren’t driven, lazy, and incompetent in every generation. The specific qualities and stereotypes change, but there will always be “poor employees.” While I’m not claiming that the stereotypes of millennials are completely untrue, I feel they are often misconstrued. I hate feeling like I need to include a disclaimer, but my past experience tells me I need to: I by no means am claiming all millennials or all workers of other generations fall into this criteria, but these observations are made based on my real life experiences as someone who has been in the workplace for 14 years.
1. Take some initiative to learn new things
One of the most difficult things about being a millennial in leadership is our older counterparts many times, do not take initiative to learn new things (ESPECIALLY with regard to technology). Millennials were raised immersed in technology that has connected us to a wide world of information and learning. One of my favorite things about working with other millennials in leadership is, they will do everything in their power to learn about something new when needed. While being products of academia is often criticized, what it has done is created a culture of constant learning. I often joke, ‘hey it is called google, try it,’ but this is a very real issue. Information is so easy to come by, so why are you emailing me asking for a business’s phone number? Now don't get me wrong, I have been teaching and training for many years now which I enjoy and it is very necessary in some instances, but there is a very easy day to day solution for simple questions: google.
2. If you have the time to micromanage, you don’t have enough work to do
This gets back to my blog about cultivating leaders vs training managers. Micromanagement is poor for morale and doesn’t serve your employees because they will never learn to TAKE INITIATIVE. This issue of taking initiative goes throughout. We need a mentor and a leader, not a micromanager. We want as much transparency and accountability as possible. If you'd like to read more about cultivating leaders vs training managers, check out my blog post below.
3. We thrive in highly collaborative environments
I recently read an article about millennials in the workplace that said we are poor team players. This was probably the most ridiculous of the claims I have seen. Perhaps I have a different definition of a "team player," but I can see how always having to do the dirty work, being expected to be the first person in and the last person out, and never getting respect could tamper with someone's desire to be a "team player." We live in a world where we can reach people with the click of a button. If we can’t learn something new we are happy to find someone who is an expert to get help from. I have no desire to re-create the wheel. There is still a strong culture in business of holding onto to technology, projects, ideas, etc as your own. This makes no sense to me. It is far more efficient to collaborate and share ideas, plug people in where they fit, and work together.
4. Ask yourself: Why is it that we always have to learn how to communicate with you?
This fact always confuses me. Now I am not saying that both parties don’t need work because they do, but it always baffles me that I am supposed completely re-structure how I communicate to fit into the workplace (btw I do not do this). Millennials are the drivers of the marketplace and the workforce pool, so at what point do employers have to re-assess how they communicate? I don’t want to go to school; I spent 20 years straight in school. I don’t like sitting in long powerpoint presentations, I don’t like sitting in unproductive meetings, I personally do not like group calls at all (video chat or in person is best), and I am very selective about the conferences I attend. I want to be useful and involved in action. I am product of my generation and my language reflects that. I do however, hold perhaps the most valuable tool of all, I know how to reach and communicate with other millennials (^^^driving the marketplace). **Millennials, you need a lot of work also, but luckily this isn’t difficult (see my self-branding blog)!**
5. We need and want to fail
The straw on the camel’s back was an article that popped up on my LinkedIn feed called “What hiring managers wished millennials learned in college.” We are coming out of an education system that is all about success, grades, and other academic skill sets. What we need most now is to fail. Unlike our parents, we will not put our head down quietly and do what we are told for the next 30+ years at a job. Now let me stop and say, I have an amazing respect for the generations before us, especially my own parents for their amazing work ethic that millennials need to take notes on, but I also realize things need to change. The best thing you can do for a millennial is let them fail, within reason. This culture of perfection and subordination is unrealistic. We need help, but also need our independence to make mistakes and fix them in a supportive environment.
6. Our age is our greatest strength, not our greatest weakness
While being young is characterized by naivety (putting it a lot nicer than I have heard), it is also characterized by resiliency. We will stay for a long time when we believe in the work we are doing. Please for at least a couple moments of your day, stop judging us based on our age. I’ll never forget the page long email my business partner got from someone we invited into my office, while I was the CEO of the company, about me needing speech lessons because I had a Southern California accent and no one would take me seriously because of my age. Shoot, guess its time to throw in the towel!?
7. You will take advantage of us without knowing and we will burn out
Because millennials have such a broad skill set that the older generations do not, it is very easy to get taken advantage of. And since the culture of putting your head down and putting your time in is still the norm, we burn out very quickly. I don’t have 10 years to put in before my work is respected. Working till you drop is not healthy for anyone at any age and it is very difficult to return from burn out. While millennials are expansive and want to do new things, their mentors and leaders need to remind them of their "pay grade." Perhaps they have an amazing idea that another team can take on and they can serve an advisory role. A huge mistake I have made and I see being made is when supervisors allow millennials to go too crazy with new ideas and projects when it isn't realistically sustainable and if there is no room for compensation. It can be sad as a millennial to have to slow down, but it is better than the bitterness of feeling underpaid or under-appreciated. Be honest and transparent with us. On the flip side, if they do have a great idea you move forward with, they need to be given the proper credit and compensation.
8. We want to have an impact and make change
This is, I feel, the MOST important thing to understand about millennials. This is also very difficult for employers to understand because not all roles traditionally are seen as having an impact, but this is untrue. Every job can be seen as valuable as the next. I could not function without administrative support staff (literally I want to throw a fit when the copier won’t work), but everyone needs to be a part of the greater picture. Everyone needs to be at the table. Businesses and organizations need to include their staff in the overall visioning and goals. They need to create a culture of leadership, entrepreneurship, and be open to everyone’s ideas (back to that INITIATIVE comment).
This is a two way street. I am the first to admit that millennials have work to do, but the volume of criticism is quite amazing. This access to information we love so much is perhaps to blame, but I always wish that millennials spoke about millennials more often. I have sat in so many trainings and conferences where people are speaking on the troubles of working with millennials. So perhaps they aren’t used to having millennials in the room, but there is nothing I love more than being told how I think and feel in the workplace.
Luckily, all hope is not lost my fellow millennials because those of us in leadership roles tend to be thrilled to work with fellow millennials who are willing to learn and work hard. I love the creativity, vision, and expansiveness of working with millennials while also helping provide the operational background. I also love helping develop leaders because I certainly don't have all the answers and need help from people who do. At the end of the day, the workplace needs to ask itself, who are you going to hire after the baby boomers retire if the workplace never changes? One thing that is very prominent is that those millennials who are driven leave the workplace to start businesses to address the issues they tried to in their job. Can't we try and get some to stay and capitalize off these ambitions?? Yes, but it requires culture change.