Turn off that noise… . Get a hair cut… .I used to walk ten miles to school up hill, in the snow, uphill. Kids today… There’s always conflict between the generations. How could they not be when shaped by very different social, political and world events. The music alone, wow.
But the way Generation Y, or the millennial generation has impacted the workplace as they come of age is demonstrating the mother of all generational differences. The rift has inspired experts, studies, and events like ours to deal with it.
Keep in mind I’m no expert in this, what follows is what I’ve read and heard in the business community.
Why is the millennial generation so different?
When I researched my post on generations in the workplace I discovered the millennial generation has not had nearly as many world events shape their experiences as the boomers and generation X. Sources only cited 9/11. So what is it? There are two main reasons: 1) a huge divergence in child-rearing by their parents; and 2) technology.
You’re So Talented
The boomers grew up in a time of massive competition due to their shear numbers. It’s true they experienced one of the longest lasting economic booms in modern times, but they had to work incredibly hard to be prosperous, inventing ‘workaholism.’ By 23, they had houses, spouses and kids. We dress up as hippies in fun now, but if you think of everything else boomers fought for or against in their lifetimes: civil rights, women’s rights, multiple wars, etc., etc., etc.
Boomers simply wanted things to be easier for their kids, the millennial generation.
The kids of the millennial generation grew up in sports where everyone gets trophies, where you can’t fail in school, where everyone is so talented and receive a lot of praise. Their parents also did a lot for them that they may have had to do themselves. Many were able to buy their kids lots of stuff and take them on amazing trips. Gen Y kids were also included in family discussions and treated as important voices at home like never before. They got lots of positive reinforcement and not so much discipline.
I can appreciate the ‘make life easier’ sentiment, but perhaps it was an over-correct. The result is 20-30 year-olds entering the workforce five years later than their parents did, with less independence and problem-solving skills. In some cases they even bring their parents to job interviews or involve them in other ways. The millennial generation are known for being over-confident, having a sense of entitlement and a bad work ethic. All of these characteristics have a positive side too. For example, they’re intelligent and educated, they care about the world and may not work themselves to death so much. If we can get past the frustrations and see the positive side of the characteristics, we can harness them.
We Should Block Facebook in the Office
Where were you in 1994? I was just starting college. Computer technology was advancing faster than ever and the internet was pretty new (to non-geeks at least). The oldest Gen Ys would have been about 14. I didn’t even design my first website until 2000, but at 20 the internet would have been part of daily life for the millennial generation. Older generations joke about their six year-olds teaching them how to use their devices. Think about this boom in technology and how we use it every day in every aspect of our business and personal lives to communicate, access information, work and play. Think about how dramatically social media has changed the face of marketing. The millennial generation grew up with it. They are comfortable with it, they master it. They are driving it forward. They have seen the world for real or not, and know how to be a part of it.
In the workplace they are known for spending lots of time on social media and their mobile devices, and socializing a lot while they work. The work ethic seems wrong to employers but studies show they do better when allowed to be social. This is how they are hard-wired and they can process a lot more information at once than older generations may be. They don’t just learn to use it like we do, they understand innately the way the world is going and can perhaps help your company keep up.
Take the Good and the Bad
Every generation has sweeping generalizations, and each has members who are nothing like them. The characteristics of the millennial generation have led to huge and negative stereotyping in the workplace. Right or wrong, lazy or misunderstood, multi-tasking experts or ADD, worldly or spoiled, Generation Y is becoming the biggest demographic in the workplace and companies have to learn to deal with them.
There are two sides to every story. Learn how to get the different generations in your workplace to work better together, including the millennials at our first event April 10, 2013. Learn more and register online.