Now, I’m guessing this title got your interest and that is why you are reading this article. ‘Millennials’ have been vilified, labelled as difficult to manage, derided as sensitive snowflakes, entitled, etc, etc (see this Simon Sinek video). I have news for you – the problems this generation are having aren’t unique, they are just at the forefront of change that will eventually effect us all. We, as the older more experienced generations, need to step up to the mark to help all our employees, not just the youngest. This generation are the future of our businesses so it is embolden to us to work with them and not against them. If you can bring yourself to consider it, they actually bring a lot of positive benefits to their employment.
I strongly feel that the negative characterisations that go with ‘Millennials’ are deeply unfair; they are all individuals like all of us and all different. Though as in most stereotypes there is a kernel of truth, it is how you see and therefore apply your biases and judgement to the situation that makes the difference. Labelling someone with a negative connotation encourages stigma and hatred (cf. politics in the USA). I worked, briefly, for someone who only saw their youngest employees as snowflakes and derided them for this, expecting them to melt when under pressure. Were these employees supported by this manager? You can bet every dollar they weren’t and so was it any surprise that the manager saw these people as failing? He set them up to fail in his own mind so it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have not met any snowflakes. Please lose the judgement and challenge your beliefs about this generation.
If you think about it, Millennials have everything stacked against them; political turmoil and uncertainty, rising costs of living with stagnant wages, global financial recessions, and a planet headed for climate melt-down. No wonder this generation is scared for the future; in those terms I am too! Perhaps this has contributed to the significant increase in poor mental health and has created a difficult environment for younger generations to flourish and fulfil their potential.
Currently we are the ones failing this generation. They are bright, they can use technology like we can’t (I got my first smart phone 18 months ago, previous to that I had a Nokia 3310), they are super connected globally, they’re sensitive and compassionate, supremely passionate, they know what they want (even if they sometimes have trouble verbalising it), they’re emotionally intelligent and more likely to oppose injustice. But they are leaving this profession along with vets of all ages and the suicide rates and mental health stats are scary. Things need to change. We need to overcome these challenges to help all our people.
Society is currently in a period of intense societal change, moving more and more towards to an individualistic culture with veneration of the individualistic self. Boxing people and labelling their needs by their generation or their background is not helping businesses so the bigger picture of what all their employees need to be engaged and productive. We have far more in common than we have as differences. I think you’ll find that the expectations of Millennials are becoming the expectations of society as a whole, just the super connectedness of younger generations means they can see what is possible. They are young so natural risk takers to try something different and with society changing, they are more likely to go against the status quo.
We all want to feel valued and significant. We want to feel inspired and passionate about our purpose in the world and that includes our jobs, which is where we spend a lot of our time. We want to know that our employers care about us and we are not just a cog in a machine. We want to feel like we have some control over our lives.
So you see the secret to ‘managing Millennials’ and keeping them happy at work is not about Millennials at all. It is about managing all your employees and team members, to increase employee satisfaction and engagement across all levels and generations. It boils down to growth, support and flexibility in working for everyone.