Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why the Optimism About Millennials?

As a student of generational differences, the popular culture offers a rather negative view of Millennials, the twenty-something’s that are flooding today’s workplace. At 75 million strong these tech-savvy, multi-tasking, texting experts have some negative press to overcome. Stereotypically this generation, also called Gen Y, is often referred to as entitled, tattooed, narcissistic and expecting too much, too soon.
Like all stereotypes, there can be seeds of reality, but our research and work paints a much different picture. Millennials are smart, perhaps the smartest generation to enter the workforce, as they have not known a world without computers and Internet. They know how to maximize social networks, how to quickly obtain data, how to collaborate and how to solve problems. Millennials are inclusive, not typically judgmental about race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference. As they have been educated by working in groups and teams, working collaboratively comes naturally. Millennials view themselves as global citizens and care deeply about their communities, the environment and the health of the planet.
Millennials, raised mostly by Baby Boomers who often viewed their offspring as trophy kids, never let their children fail and set the clear expectation that praise, feedback and kudos were part of the environment. The upside of this is a generation who think they can, with clear direction, daily feedback and clear parameters, do the job you want. As teens and young adults, Millennials are better behaved than, their parents were at the same place in life. Drug use, teen pregnancy, suicide and violent crime have all declined as this generation comes of age.
Take another non-stereotypical look at the Millennials on your team. Look past their tattoos and embrace the great skills and qualities they bring. The best way to lead them is to engage them. Ask a Millennial to "Partner Mentor" with someone on the team who could benefit from their tech savvy expertise and in exchange they would obtain some important tribal knowledge from someone who has been working for many years in the company or the industry. The result of this mentoring might just put you on the path to Millennial optimism!
Diane Spiegel, Principal at Sage Leadership Tools invites you to share the optimism by reviewing the tools and workshops at