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Being on the leading edge of the Baby Boomer generation, I recall vividly the descriptions and objections to our iconoclastic tribe by those of our parents’ generation. They called us disrespectful, lazy, dirty, weird, good-for-nothing bums. This list of awful adjectives and nasty nouns could be much longer, but you get the idea.
We, however, didn’t get the point of all that criticism. How could they not get that things weren’t right?
And that dual dynamic is in play right now with Millennials, X-ers and Boomers. Only the choice of descriptors has changed. Some.
Much research has shown the obvious, that each generation is different, has its own traits, behaviors and values. I’ve heard it said that there are five generational types and that they simply recycle. Regardless, it is an exercise in futility to think that as a leader you will change a generation of people to conform to your world view and comport with your style. It is extremely unlikely that you’ll get even a single individual to do that. There is a better path.
Start with some understanding. For example, instead of criticizing Millennials as lazy because they leave work at the stroke of 5;00PM, recognize that they value their social time and will put in the extra work at home later that evening. That is to say, they aren’t lazy; they just wear their work ethic differently than you do. It’s a style difference, not one of substance.
Understand that if you don’t give back to the community, they they see you as stingy and selfish and they won’t give you their best. They will go online and check on you and they may refuse to even interview for a job. Get, too, that we have trained Millennials to expect little loyalty toward them from corporate America, so deal with the fact that they won’t stay forever.
This generation cares about human values and to the extent that you embrace them and what they care about, both you and they will benefit. They aren’t about to change, though, so you better. They’re going to stick to their guns and they’re going to outlast you. So, once again, follow Fully Alive Leadership Practice #7: Deal With Reality.
For more on Millennial values, read John Calia’s excellent essay here.
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