In my opinion, generational differences in the workplace are caused by two main issues: lack of understanding and being unwilling to challenge “the way it’s always been done.” They are not caused by the opinions or characteristics of a single generation. What intrigues me about these two issues is the double standard in the way they are applied.
For instance, I was recently talking to a conference attendee about Millennials. He remarked he felt Millennials were lazy and most definitely entitled. He went on to explain why he felt this way, very passionately. I definitely respect his opinion, though he quickly contradicted himself. He went on to tell me about how his son was working very hard at an internship while in grad school and had exceeded his employer’s expectations by completing a project ahead of schedule. Here’s the contradiction – his son is a Millennial. If his son is accomplishing all of this, how can all Millennials be categorized as lazy and entitled?
That brings us to the million dollar question(s). Why is it okay to encourage our kids to challenge the status quo and admonish employees that do the same? Why do we encourage our kids, constantly providing feedback, and complain when the new hire asks how they are doing three weeks in to the job? Ironically, the people I hear complaining most about Millennials are raising (or have raised) Millennials.
There is the double-standard. We raise our kids to reach for their goals, take initiative and be willing to stand up for something they believe in. Most treat their employees in the opposite manner – don’t cause issues, get the work done and do things they way they have always been done.
Perhaps we need a slight change in perspective. The next time you find your Millennial employee’s actions frustrating, step back and think: “Would I have been proud of my son/daughter for taking that initiative?” By reframing your perspective, hopefully the actions of your Millennial employees won’t seem so frustrating.