Last night I was thinking about my favorite topics to ponder and write about. You may have guess it if you’ve been following my blog for some time – MILLENNIALS are my favorite topic.
Why’s that? As a Millennial, my thought process really differs from people I work for and can sometimes cause misunderstandings or even clashes. And I know I’m not the only.
In the times when I disagree with people I may work for or with, it helps to get an idea of the bigger picture. Do we disagree on transparency because of personal ideas or is it because our generations have different values and viewpoints?
What can I do to be more persuasive about things I value?
For example, how can I persuade my bosses that communicating more with people I serve is better than hiding the ball and working behind the scenes, like my boss is more comfortable doing?
What I’ve noticed is that Gen X, the generation that’s currently in charge, is different from me, and my peers. Their values are different from mine. They like to make decisions the same way the Baby Boomers were making decisions – in an authoritarian way. As a rule, Gen X’ers want things to remain static. Because they worked hard to get where they are, they expect us to pay our dues before they give us more responsibilities. They also don’t understand why we aren’t more grateful or why we ask so many questions, or why we ask FOR so much.
Bridging the Gap Between Cats and Dogs
As a rising leader myself, it’s important to bridge that gap to be more effective. I understand people my own age. I understand our values. And as someone who’s worked exclusively for Gen X, and been successful at persuading Gen Xers about making thoughtful changes, I’ve become more and more effective at being a generational interpreter.
I think hard about what motivates my Gen X bosses. I’ve also had to think like a Gen X to get promotions and move up in the world.
I can’t speak Millennial to Gen X’ers as much as a dog won’t get through by wagging its tail at a cat. Why? Because dogs wag their tails when they’re happy or excited, but cats swoosh their tails in anger and disagreement.
I’ve made the mistake of wagging my tail at my Gen X bosses, and believe me, they received it negatively because to them wagging your tail is a sign of aggression or entitlement. However, more often than not, I’ve listened to them first, asked the right questions, and communicated in their language. While it was slow, I earned Gen Xers’ respect because I did things their way.
But communication can’t be a one-way street. I also had to learn to communicate my values – even if I do that indirectly. I have to set up the stage now, so that when I do ask for something or suggest a new way of doing things, that level of trust is already there.
What makes it hard for most of us Millennials is that Gen X’ers have been used to things being a certain way for a long time. They learned from the authoritarian way of the Baby Boomers. And while Gen X’ers are a bit more accommodating than Baby Boomers, for flexible Millennials, their ways are too closed-minded. This attitude difference makes it really frustrating when Millennials perceive Gen X’ers to be unwilling to shift their mindset or be receptive to new things.
I’ve got news for you, Millennials: it’s our job to set the stage. It’s our job to inform Gen X’ers of the importance of change. We need to gently, but clearly get the message out that: things are changing – they’ve already changed. We need to make it clear that adapting to this is the only way businesses will stay afloat, engage Millennials and keep them a while longer to make a return on the investment of hiring us. And Millennials are WAY more patient than the incoming generation – if you think we leave quickly, the incoming generation is going to put up with way less and quit even faster.
Forbes magazine wrote last year that: “Millennials will comprise more than one of three adult Americans by 2020 and 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.”
Guess what? That means at 75% of people in the workforce want change. We need leadership to hear us, or else we’ll go somewhere else that will be more receptive to our values. And if we can’t find a new boss that fits our needs, we’ll launch our own thing and become our own bosses.
What’s scarier for a Gen X (or what they may not see yet) is that we’ll do what you’re doing better. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but we’ll persevere and overtake you sooner than later because we are in touch with what drives the market.
And guess what? Millennials aren’t even driving the market anymore – it’s the Boomlets or Generation Z who are driving the market now. What are Boomlets, you say? To read more about the BOOMLETS and all the other generations alive and well today, click here.
And if Gen X’ers are uncomfortable with the demands of Millennials, they’re going to be really have a heart attack when the Boomlets enter the workforce because Boomlets are Millennials on speed. If we’re dogs, they’re probably sharks. And you know what a shark means when it wags its fin, right? … Obviously not, if you’re a Millennial!
Boomlets are already entering college, so they’re close! They grew up with tvs in their classrooms and iPhones in their hands. They don’t talk to each other in person or use full words or sentences. They were born LOLing and sending Snapchats. They aren’t patient – they want it right now.
And guess what, they aren’t going to wait two years to get promoted in silence. They need their bosses to constantly communicate with them or else they feel isolated and confused.
They also want to be included in your decision-making. They don’t want to do what they’re told – they want to be part of the why and how. Now Millennials already want all of this, but Boomlets are REALLY going to leave you if you don’t hear them out.
Talk Dirty At Me: Let’s Speak Dog, Cat and Shark!
While coming to terms with this can be petrifying for Gen X’ers, who believe that their way of viewing things is the only one, it’s important for us to show them that there’s a HUGE opportunity for getting on the change bandwagon early.
And guess what Millennials: we are perfectly aligned to communicate this stuff to our Gen X bosses (if we even have them), and also prepare ourselves for the demands of the incoming Boomlets.
Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, it’s annoying to have to explain our values. But it’s well worth the rewards. Just as there’s a reward for Gen X’ers to understand us, and adapt, we too can reap huge rewards by taking the time to translate and keep adapting. Challenge accepted, I say!
It’s really important for us not to be intimidated by the changes that the Boomlets are driving, but to start understanding what they stand for so that we don’t get stuck like many Gen X’ers. Our way isn’t the right way or the only way, just like the way of the Gen X’ers is only one means to an end.
Instead of being barriers for Boomlets, how can we show them that we hear and understand them? How can we start preparing our own management styles to support and equip Boomlets to succeed, and to tap into the Boomlets’ skills so that we can all win in the end?
There’s Younger and Then There’s: Younger
Before I sign off, I recently found an awesome show that taps into translating generational values. It’s called Younger. I watch it on Hulu (because I cut the cable like my fellow Millennials).
As an older Millennial (eugh… that makes me uncomfortable to say) – I’ve been trying to learn more about younger Millennials and Boomlets.
I use the Snapchat (as my grandma says) to share terrible selfies with my bravest friends, and looking at tweets is part of my job. This show actually made me realize that there’s a lot of differences between mature Millennials and fresh ones!
Do you have any strategies for successfully navigating the Gen X and Boomlet worlds? Any downfalls or mistakes you’ve made, and what did you learn from them?
Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!
Featured image via.