Yep. You read that correctly. I’m an old guy, and I believe that millennials just may be one of the smartest and hardest working generations. But, to ignite their work ethic, it’s crucial to get their buy in and to be clear about the “why”.
As a certified old guy (I turned 50 last year), I can now say things like, “Those damn kids” and “When I was a kid, we…”. I’m not saying that I fully endorse all that the younger generations embody; many of them act entitled and whiney, have no comprehension of what previous generations endured, and struggle with grasping acceptable social norms. I don’t believe in participation trophies. I think manual labor in the heat of summer builds character. And I don’t have a problem with a 60 plus hour work week.
I hold these beliefs for two reasons: One, it’s fun to play the antagonistic role of the old curmudgeon. Two, I’m not a pushover – my beliefs of younger generations aren’t easily swayed. In fact, I think some slackers are in the bunch. It seems that it’s almost an obligation of old guys to complain about the next generation. Objections were pronounced from a generation that hated Elvis Presley because of his gyrating hip movements. There was the generation that cringed at the flower power hippies with their scraggly, long hair. Next, there was a generation that was disgusted at the sound and style of punk and grunge, snarling at those who worshipped Sid Vicious and Nirvana. Every older generation seems to complain about the new generation, proclaiming how everything’s going to hell in a handbasket.
The reality, however, is very different than the perceived generational decline. Each generation seems to figure it out; in fact, they seem to thrive, push the norms of thinking, and move society in a forward direction. Millennials need to know why they’re doing what they’re doing. Perhaps they’re questioning things in order to gain a clearer understanding of their role within the organization. When a millennial asks why something is done in a particular manner, I dare you to respond with, “We do it this way because this is how it’s always been done. Now quit asking questions and get back to work.” My guess is that the millennial will politely leave, head out for a craft beer, and have their mom call in to inform you that they quit. Instead of viewing them as ungrateful, entitled brats with helicopter moms, maybe we should take a step back to understand the reasoning and thinking behind their questions.
Simply put, it’s important to provide millennials with a clear vision of the organization’s goals and future. Give them specific responsibilities and explain how those tasks contribute to the organization’s greater success. Get them plugged in, engaged, and excited! By doing this, you’ll ensure you’re moving in the right direction. Take this a step further by reviewing and discussing the company vision during the hiring process. Seek out individuals who are energized about the possibilities of their contributions and those who are excited about having an impact on the company goals. You just may end up hiring a rock star employee!
I truly believe that many of the millennials are responsible, accountable, and hold a genuine desire to contribute. I know that compared to what I was doing when I was a kid, they’re much more reliable, responsible, and engaged…but they need to know the “why”.
The next time you become frustrated with managing a millennial, take a moment to consider that perhaps they’re asking the right questions and maybe you aren’t providing them with a clear vision. See what you can learn from these millennials – you might be surprised with the outcome of helping them understand why.
Kris is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon who loves working with senior business teams and leaders. If you or anyone in your network would like to learn, please reach out.