What would you say if I told you to jump?
When my oldest daughter was in high school, she asked me for a desk for her room. It seemed like a reasonable request, so we went out and got her one.
A few weeks later, I went into her room and found her in the middle of her bed, books and papers all around her, stereo on full-blast, and she was on the phone. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Studying,” she replied.
So I turned down the stereo, asked her to get off the phone, moved the items off of her desk, and sat down. “So this is how I always studied,” I informed her. “I put my book here, my paper there, and I took notes like this. I think you’ll find this is a better way to do it.”
She listened quietly to my lecture, but then my 4.0 GPA daughter asked, “What was your grade point average in high school, Dad?” I thought to myself, “What the heck am I doing?” I got up, turned the stereo back up, and shut the door. While her methods wouldn’t have worked for me, they were certainly working for her.
I’m reminded of this anecdote whenever I hear someone complain about Millennials. “That generation just doesn’t work as hard,” is a common criticism. “They can be difficult,” is another. Neither is accurate or fair.
As my story illustrates, Millennials work just as hard as other generations; they just work differently. They bring fresh perspectives, and they’re curious and inquisitive. When I was starting out, if my manager told me to jump, I’d ask, “How high?” That won’t fly with Millennials. You tell them to jump, and you’ll likely be met with a “Why?” or a “What’s the business case for jumping? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just walk around instead?”
Can that be irritating? It takes some getting used to. But fielding those questions really makes you think, “Well, could walking around be better?” If the answer is yes, they’ll respect you for acknowledging their perspective. If the answer is no—and you explain why it’s no—they’ll respect you for your experience and perspective. It’s a win-win.
So what’s your experience working with Millennials? And, if you are a Millennial, do you feel you’re unfairly categorized in the workplace?