Business books are notorious for this. They create more pain in an effort to make a need for their solution. Just run to the bookstore. You will never feel more inadequate in your life…you can’t sell, talk, think, write or manage correctly.
Emerging from the pop-business media dust cloud is a hot, new source of pain for business leaders – the Millennial.
There are organizations devoted to understanding millennials, managing millennials, politics for millenials, conferences devoted to millennials and ideas about how this group is going to rock the political structure of the United States.
My Gawd! It appears they will soon take over the world. Somebody alert Homeland Security.
So, what the H-E-(double hockey sticks) is a Millennial?
According to my trusty “Internet,” a Millennial is someone born between the years 1980 to 2000. Others have ’82 to ’97. Basically, it is anybody right now from the ages of 8 to 28.
I’m sure that if we got all those folks in a room that they would have the same views on politics, religious tolerance and work ethic. Yeah, right. I have a 9-year-old. When all of his friends of the same age get together, they can’t even decide on what movie to watch.
Here are some of the things that were so eloquently (do you speak sarcasm?) outlined about this generation on a recent 60 minutes spot:
- Tech-savvy. They like their iPods and Facebook. At times, this is associated with a lack of emotional intelligence or face-to-face human interaction. Really? Hasn’t this been true of every generation? Isn’t the next set of whippersnappers a bit irritating because they adopt and use technology? Try this one, though. Go to your local mall or airport. Everybody is on a cell phone, Crackberry or something…most of them are in their 30′s and older – not millennials.
- Lazy. They want to set their own work schedule and have a family/work balance. They may be pushy in asking for this. They won’t be in the office at 5:30 or looking at emails at 8pm. Really? Good for them. Somebody had to do it. Would we rather them encourage companies that want blind, open-ended allegiance? I thought we were past that. Just because they may not work 60-plus hours a week does not qualify a person as lazy. Have we forgotten about the “slackers?” Didn’t depression-era adults view their kids as lazy? I see a pattern here.
- Narcissitic or praise-hounds. Blame Mr. Rogers. He told them that they were special. Now, they think everything should be handed to them. They need constant praise and attention. Really? What is more narcissistic than pointing out narcissism in younger people? Young people need immediate feedback, praise and attention. That is the name of the game. If you are not prepared for that, then you should not be in the business of raising children or managing employees. They want to learn the ropes and they need good mentors who understand.
- Environmentally conscious and religiously tolerant. These folks care as much about how a company or a group does business as much as what it does. The how is important. People need to be authentic and welcoming to all people. Really? This is partially due to the fact that the world has not beaten it out of them yet. Don’t worry. They will lose hope soon if we keep on telling them that they fit into some manufactured generational bucket.
Here’s the problem: They may want your advice on business or life questions, or they may disdain your advice. They may IM their parents in the middle of a meeting, or they may not even know who their parents really are. NEITHER of these situations makes them of a certain generation. All of them make them human and in a Western culture.
Generation Y.2.0 or Millennials or People-Who-Lives-on-the-Interwebs are not unique…not any more so than anybody else in your organization. For the time being, they are one thing – young. People of a certain age have certain concerns in their effort to create happy and productive lives.
Much of my cynicism at the whole division into generations has to do with the fact that every generation in my family falls into some kind of gulf. I was born in ’78. My father was born in ’54. Where is our category? We have nothing with great or boom or x in the title. Maybe I just feel a little cheated. Can I make one for myself?
Really want to know how to relate to the younger people on your team? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you remember what it was like to be young and unsure of things? Who did you turn to?
- Do you remember when your friends and parents were important? How did that feel?
- Do you remember the wonder that used to surround your life?
- Can you understand an individual on an individual basis?
As soon as we look for the ways that we are similar and not how we can separate, I think that we will come to a better place as humans.
As I said, there is a great amount of creativity that goes into creating ways to sell books, conferences and other materials. What if you took that same amount of creativity and found ways to understand people on your team as people? They have fears, values, joys, etc. As a leader, your role is to grow in understanding of people, and, not to buy into half-baked ideas on how to neatly categorize them.
Jeremy Nulik, Creative Energy Officer (CEO), St. Louis Small Business Monthly