For Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers: Here’s Why Working With Millennials Is Hard

Writing blog post - my advice

For Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers: Here’s Why Working With Millennials Is Hard

Writing blog post - my advice

Every time I speak about working with Millennials and I open up at the end of the session to answer questions, the floodgates open up. So many people want to share their stories about working with Millennials and the frustration it causes them. It hasn’t been as easy to answer these questions during online presentations – perhaps because it’s impossible to see “who in the room” has the same questions and issues, which tends to fan the flames of discussion.

With that in mind, I’m sharing here some of the typical questions I receive about why it seems so hard to work with Millennials.

  • They just don’t work the way we do – so how can I work with them?

Yes, that’s true! They don’t work the way older generation do. That’s your reality. Where do you go from here? This is hard and challenging because you’ve been able to make assumptions in the past about where your colleagues and hires come from, how they think, how they work, and what will and won’t motivate them. And even if you were wrong about some of these individuals, it wasn’t a big enough problem for you to notice; those who didn’t fit in either left or got lost in the bigger machine of work and companies.

Why not celebrate the fact that Millennials (and Gen Z, close behind) don’t work the way we did? In fact, think back to when YOU started working. Weren’t you just a bit frustrated with how the old guard worked? How they treated you? How they addressed people, problems, and work? Now the tables have been turned and YOU’RE the old guard. Instead of complaining, be pro-active and learn how younger workers tick so you can engage them. Once you do this, you’ll have amazing people working with you and for you!

  • How do I work with people who are lazy? They want to do the minimum amount of work and use apps all the time.

Really? You have a problem with people wanting to find short-cuts to do work more efficiently and effectively? I’m not sure that they’re the problem here. Consider it a gift if you can find someone willing to put in the time and effort to automate a process that’s previously been labor-intensive or has taken more time in the past. They’ve just improved your operations! If anything, you can be a bit envious of how easy it was for them to do it.

On the other hand, if you’re upset about an employee not wanting to work additional hours or on the weekends, that’s another story. Did you tell them up-front when you were hiring or promoting them that there would be additional hours? Did they agree to this? If you didn’t set expectations up-front and make the job description clear, it seems to me you’re resentful of how they’re sticking up for their rights as employees.

Finally, if you’re confused and bewildered about the fact that they won’t work extra hours to impress you, or to be promoted, or to show off, it’s time you look at your own expectations. Did you have to do this to get ahead? Did it work? Then that’s great for you. But know that this generation has different priorities and values. And addressing those differences at the outset, setting expectations for them and for you, is more important than ever.

  • I’ve tried everything I can think of – why isn’t it working?

Ah, the final hands up in the air, I give up moment. I hear this all the time. The answer is this: you’ve tried everything YOU can think of. And it hasn’t worked because Millennials think differently. They don’t approach work the same way you do. Maybe you haven’t included them in the process but have talked at them rather than working with them.

But I’m the boss!, you say. Yes, you are. You’re the leader. So, as a leader, find out what it is that motivates these workers. Get out of your comfort zone and be an explorer. You can even think of it as an interesting anthropological study, observing them and learning how they tick. In the end, it’s worth taking the time to educate yourself about them in order to lead them. Or, if you can’t, someone else will take the helm and do it instead – perhaps even one of them.

Still not sure how to work effectively with Millennials and Gen Z? Reach out to me and let’s talk; I’m happy to learn more about your situation to see if I can help.

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