I’m fascinated with the ever-evolving conversation over generational differences and classifications. On the one hand, I’ve read many articles that are downright amusing in their definition of generation characteristics. On the other hand, some of them are just downright true.
I’m a Millennial. I was born in the late 80′s. And I’ve grown up in this age of constant change–especially technologically. As a disclaimer: I’m a tech nerd. I love digital communications and thrive in my assigned generational range. However, the discussion is interesting to me on the strengths and faults of baby boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. I recently read an article in Cosmopolitan Magazine of all places (I know, I know–guilty pleasure okay?) discussing how to navigate different generational personalities in the workplace. One of the reasons I’m fascinated by this is because it’s interesting to be a 20-something, just starting out in your career, trying your hardest to work hard, stand out, and, ultimately, be taken seriously amongst a team of individuals more than likely many years your senior. And with that seniority, an unbeatable amount of knowledge and experience.
According to the article in Cosmopolitan:
These days, the workplace oftentimes has a mix of Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y/Millennials working together. Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) are typically competitive, hardworking, experimental, and truth-focused. Gen X-ers (born 1965 to 1976) are typically self-reliant, practical, independent, and rule-breaking. Millennials (born 1977 to 1997) are typically immediacy-obsessed, i.e. the Google generation, tolerant, confident, rule-following, and mentor-loving.
So I have pros and cons to classifications such as these. First of all, none of those personality characteristics are set in stone with any one generation. Second of all, this places us all in a mold that, if recognized in the office, will be hard to break out of. In my opinion–and this is directly stemming from the fact that I myself am a Millennial–Millennials are a unique, interesting, and innovative group of individuals. Generally speaking, we’re social media, or digital/technology, focused and believe more in the notion of “perfessional:” the idea that our personal lives are no longer a separate entity from our professional lives, in that we use our personal lives and platforms as an extension of our professional goals, aspirations, and focus.
So how do we form a cohesive team of generational gaps in the workplace? Here are some tips:
-Get personal (albeit, selectively): sharing that you volunteer, or mentor, on your personal time can reflect positively on your colleagues’ and boss’ impression of you. Note: sharing your drunken escapades or the latest fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend and/or best friend does NOT fall under the ‘good impression’ category.
-Ask about extras: A lot of individuals think Millennials expect overly flexible workloads or hours. Prove your team wrong by looking for extra projects, workshops, or mentorships.
-Respect the chain of command: Yes, this still applies today. Going to the President of your company with a problem and skipping your direct supervisor makes everyone look bad, yourself included. There is still something to be said about paying your dues and respecting those individuals that have already paid theirs.
-Make it about them: Another negative stereotype of Millennials is that they can be demanding and need too much guidance. This may be true in the overall sense of the notion (a lot of us are just starting out in our careers, after all); however, a way to achieve the feedback we want without overwhelming your managers is to set a meeting with them to cover all questions and concerns, rather than the continuous questions.
I’m almost 25. In no way am I even remotely close to an expert, or a veteran of experience. Nevertheless, some of the above comes from closely listening to my peers, especially those more mature in age and experience than I am. And the rest comes from personal experience of mine.
Like I said, the mix of generations in the workplace is interesting and unique, but it’s also exciting in that today we have the opportunity to idea generate from a wider range of mindsets.
My peers knock me sideways daily with their creativity, innovation, open-mindedness, and pure gumption. I do love Millennials.