Well, maybe some of the trolls on Twitter are, but, for the most part, they’re harmless. For some reason, whenever they’re mentioned in the workplace, someone inevitably rolls their eyes. Not to give away my age too much, but let’s just say Destiny’s Child (3 member version – not the 4) was singing “Survivor” when I was accepting my undergraduate degree. Therefore, I sit right on the cusp of being both a Generation Xer and a Millennial. When I first started my career in Human Resources, I read studies conducted on the interaction of Baby Boomers (born 1946 -1964) with the Gen Xers (1965 – early 80’s) and attended seminars on how the two will coexist and how we can all just-get-along. This was a major area of study during that time. Now, the hype is around the Millennials (early 80’s – mid/late 90’s) and how this Uber loving, Snapchatting generation is going to take us all down (that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the point). In my line of work, I’m often privy to people’s birthdates. Believe me, the first few times I saw 199x as a birthdate of a new employee, I thought we were hiring high school student workers. I couldn’t fathom that someone born in nineteen ninety-anything was old enough to have completed college AND entering the workforce. After all, I’m barely out of college (not really, but I still feel young). However, they’re here now, so let’s get over it.
I completely understand the feeling of no longer being the young starlet. It wasn’t that long ago I would give people my title, and they would say, “At your age?!”. Or, they would find out my age and could not believe the position I held. Now, I tell people my age and/or title and they respond, “That’s nice.” It’s a hard adjustment; especially if you’re a person who’s been a high achiever your entire life and now you’re no longer the child prodigy. You’re actually at a place in life where you are going to be held accountable, and no one is going to cut you any slack because of your youth or inexperience. Hopefully, you’re at a place in life and career where you’re okay with that.
Now, back to the Millennials – they’re here and here to stay. And unless there’s an Instagram apocalypse that wipes all of their users off the face of the earth, they’re not going anywhere. So here are four tips for coping with these newbies in the workplace.
1. Mentor: It wasn’t that long ago you were in their shoes. You remember what it was like to be new, smart, excited and still no real clue of what you were doing. You’re young enough in age to relate, but old enough to have wisdom too – don’t be stingy. Share what you’ve learned, the good, bad and ugly. We all need coaching, and it’s nice to know that someone is in your corner and can help you navigate your way through your career and professional life.
2. Teach (very similar to mentoring): I realize we’re talking about work and, for the most part, we just want to get in, do the work we’re hired to do and leave. However, whether you have Millennials who report directly to you, are peers, or even supervise you, this is your opportunity to share what you’ve learned with them. You don’t have to limit teaching to job specific tasks. Teaching can involve introducing someone to professional associations, guiding them through the nuances of the organization, or simply serving as a sounding board for ideas.
3. Learn: While I’m sure you’re wondering what you could possibly learn from someone who has never taped a song from the radio. There is much to learn from a person who has grown up in such an insta-society. Their perspective is different, and it presents new ways to look at the world and possibly at the work.
4. Embrace: Again, they’re not going anywhere. Instead of being the old person who sits around the water cooler complaining that the new girl is wearing yoga pants to work (btw, this is rarely okay). Help guide her into the role of the young professional she is capable of becoming. Also, maybe she can teach the marketing department how to cut the advertising budget by using social media outreach.
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