The assignment: design an eLearning module dealing with Millennials in the workspace. “Easy enough,” I thought. “How hard is it to teach a Boomer the PC way to tell a twenty-something to get off social media and pay attention?” But, there was a catch… the module couldn’t be in any way insulting to millennials.
This assignment just got a whole lot harder.
To say that I had a low opinion of the Millennial Generation is an understatement. To be blunt, I couldn’t stand the little %$&@s. Their entitled attitudes, consistent tardiness, and know-it-all approach to chiming in on every topic left me annoyed. Why do the adults in the office have to wait until almost noon to have our “morning meeting” because this kid doesn’t feel like showing up at 9am? And now he expects a trophy? I didn’t even attempt to hide my disdain. I’m Generation X: We grew up not ever knowing what a “participation” trophy was because our parents dared to let us play on teams that kept score. Like the generations before us, we worked hard to get to where we are; we didn’t just expect it to be handed to us.
I think you can see where this is going.
When I began to research millennials, I mostly came across posts and videos that mocked what it’s like to work with this generation, cementing my earlier opinion. Sure, I found plenty of facts and figures about the generation that already rules the modern workforce, but stats aren’t going to build empathy in my non-millennial audience. How was I going to convince people like me that Millennials are a workforce we should embrace and empower? Perhaps I was looking at it from the wrong angle.
I began reading blogs and articles written by actual Millennials where I learned about their values and what drives them. Turns out they care about the world around them and wanting to make it a better place. They embrace technology and work smarter because of it. Millennials think differently than the generations before them. And that’s a good thing.
When I was just starting out, I would never have had the courage to approach the big boss. Whereas, Millennials see no issues with sending leaders a casual email with their latest ideas for the company. Why would they? And why wouldn’t leaders want to hear ideas from the entire workforce? I certainly don’t want a work culture where the best ideas might not get heard because of an old-timey-time workplace hierarchy. Or, worse, hubris on the part of us Xers and Boomers.
I began to realize that this module wasn’t about how to get Millennials to be more like us. It’s about unlocking their mindset and, in turn, changing ours.
by: Lee Christopherson
Photo Credit: David Rzegocki