I was born in the early 1980s and am, by definition, a millennial. However, the Colorado sun and the lack of quality sleep that accompanies parenthood has made me look more like a leather briefcase than I should. As a result, I am privy to much of the millennial shit-talking that happens in the professional circles of which I am a part without others knowing I am in fact one of those “entitled, lazy, and coddled brats” of which they speak.
Ironically, as little as you might think about us professionally, we are the future of your company. We could end up on your Board of Directors or managing your retirement savings. And as horrifying as this sounds, you might even end up working for us someday.
In other words, as little as you might appreciate us now, one day you will “move on” and there will be one of us taking your place.
Maybe you won’t care what path your organization takes in your absence, but if this future is something that concerns you, you have a stake in it and the personnel who define it. Therefore, you would be wise to understand and to mentor us in the years and decades before Scottsdale comes calling, rather than talking about “those millennials” as if we don’t –and never will– bring serious value to the professional sphere.
To provide some of this understanding and improve the stigma that tends to follow us throughout this journey that is adulthood, here are few maxims that pertain to those of us straddling the transitional years between our 20s and 30s.
We need buy-in. You’re bound to have bad employees, i.e. those hires who take more than they bring to the table. No matter the generational moniker, there will be shitty personnel within any organization. However, if you want to keep the best and brightest around, it is on you to create buy-in.
Unlike previous generations, millennials require a significant level of purposefulness and must feel that what we are doing matters. We should feel that our individual additions matter and that the organization for which we work is adding positive value to our community and our world.
This may sound a bit too granola so I’ll clarify: It is not that I need you to come to by my cubicle to thank me for the fantastic database audit I just completed; I need to feel as if that badass audit added value to your company, your non-profit, or your random initiative that ought to be doing the world a service.
Think about it this way: The organic food industry isn’t becoming economically-viable simply because people want to eat foods void of controversial pesticides; rather, organic food producers are not screwing up the environment in the way monolithic food producers have for decades. Millennials are down with organic foods because we have bought into a greener, cleaning world and take pride in adding to this initiative through our purchases.
As an organization, convey to us the good being done and that we play a small role in making that good happen, and you have buy-in. And the bottom line for you is that it keeps the next remarkable and innovative employee from leaving your company and taking her talents elsewhere.
Work-life balance matters to us. A lot. Our friends, our kids, and our hobbies play bigger roles in our lives than maybe they have yours. This does not make us lazy; it means that we were raised in households where our parents had to miss soccer games because of business trips (those participation ribbons you loathe helped ease some of the pain) or that we simply experience more joy in leaving work early to imbibe a happy-hour beer with some friends than we do staying late to finish a project that can easily be completed on the train ride to work in the morning.
Don’t make us feel bad for working to live and not the other way around. Trust that we are wise and mature enough to know when something needs our attention and that we are responsible enough to complete high-quality work before deadlines. And stop judging us for not making these projects and deadlines the things we have nightmares about after binge-watching Workaholics.
We are irreverent for a reason. It has been a while since there was a generation-wide distrust of power, but rather than “sticking it to the man,” we have seen established power fuck up so many times we’re numb to it. Two wars, all manners of predatory lending, and the anticlimactic era of “Hope” and “Change” have us paying over-priced rent (or living with our parents) not because we want to, but because we have no other options.
Our irreverence isn’t militant; it’s apathetic and you often evaluate this as laziness. Most of us aren’t lazy. In fact, a lot of us are exhausted because of things like smartphones, which never let us forget the TPS-report cover letters you need done ASAP. As we are finishing those reports, we have no faith they will do anything good because the decision to create them felt more like a random choice by people in positions they don’t deserve or aren’t smart enough to improve within.
If you want respect for the things you do and the things you tell us to do, legitimate your decision-making. Because we don’t trust the choices authority figures have made for decades, you would be well-advised to articulate the “whys” of your process instead of just sending an unnecessary email explaining the “how.” We aren’t getting more than two sentences into the latter before we delete it anyway.
These three things are only a start, but if you can leverage this knowledge, I assure you will be able to start reaping the value any motivated and intelligent millennial has to offer. If you need help along the way, give me a shout; not only am I millennial, but I have a decent bead on the peculiarities of Generation Z, i.e. our pesky younger siblings texting at the dinner table, as well.