Managing the Millennial

At almost every step in life, we meet with young men and women for whom we anticipate wonderful things, yet after much and careful inquiry, we never happen to hear another word. The effervescence of youth and passion, and the fresh gloss of intellect and imagination, endow them with a false brilliancy, which makes fools of themselves and other people.  As with a new white carpet or fresh strawberries or perhaps certain chintzes, they show finely in their first newness, but cannot stand the sun and rain, and assume a sober aspect after washing day.

I contend millennials differ essentially not at all from previous generations in how they can and should be motivated, managed, directed, and/or trained. While nurture changes with the times, nature takes many decades to present noticeable changes. Heck, not decades, more like centuries. Our forty-six chromosomal make-up is static. People’s core nature changes slowly even as environments change rapidly

As an oft-used and trite example, millennials text all the time. That is because that is how they grew up, with a cell phone in hand. I’m north of 50- if I’d grown up with a cell phone I’d make less business calls and text more also. That does not make me a millennial.

My point isn’t that habits are similar over the years; it is that the essential elements of effective partnership are not changing.

Millennials hopes, dreams and desires can be tapped just as all previous generations. Their basic motivations align with their forebears. A colleague or boss does them a disservice by expecting less. Expect less from anyone and you will get less. Don’t expect less from today’s graduates. Even if those around you do. They are wrong.

The differences many ascribe to various generations for the most part can be explained through confirmation bias. If you are not familiar with this concept, you’d do well to become familiar with it. If you see something happen even occasionally, and if it corresponds to strongly held beliefs, then even these rare presentation act as powerful reinforcements.

If you do not orient yourself to confirmation bias, you set yourself up to be frequently wrong, even though rarely in doubt.

Confirmation bias is often found in the most cocksure amongst us.

Often the ones yelling are the ones you can’t believe. Liars shout; truths can be whispered.

The concept of a McJob has taken root in our society over the past several decades. This topic has gained traction as children of the depression era have lost workplace influence. Those folks, born in the 30’s or even early 40’s, were taught at the knees of their parents the value of a job; the dignity a job provides, and the implicit honor one brings upon oneself for a job well done.

Can there be a spiritual quality in your daily activity. Can the life of the long and busy day — spent in occupations that might so easily take a squalid and ugly aspect — be made pleasant, and even lovely, by the spontaneous grace with which these homely duties seem to bloom out of your character; so that labor, while you deal with it, has the easy and flexible charm of play. Angels do not toil, but let their good works grow out of them.

I suspect many will read these words and silently harrumph, but think more on it. Have you met others who DO that? Who bring dignity to mundane tasks? I have and it gets me amped.

As a superior, as a colleague, or as a subordinate, can you bring dignity to the work of others in your work orbit?

2600 years ago Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said that with the best leaders, when the work is accomplished, the people will say “We have done this ourselves”. That is how to lead. It was true in 600 BC and it is true with millennials.

Set high standards, teach the value of listening, praise in public, criticize in private, teach the value of operating below your means, and share information professionally and eagerly. Take these steps with millennials and they will respond just as past generations have. High quality management skills never go out of style.

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