Millennials, particularly their work habits, have become a hot topic in business news. If you are like me and were born between 1980-2000 you fall into this category. Unfortunately falling into this category also leaves you vulnerable to many millennial stereotypes. I am currently a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder and even though I am currently employed, come this may I will be moving. Moving means not only will I be packing up my ikea furniture but also my well established presence in my current office. I will once again have to prove myself to a new employer and that although I always like to have my cell phone in reach, I can still be a competent employee and an asset to the company. Millennials can be a valuable asset in any work place. A writer for the New York Times Tom Agan does a beautiful job explaining how to embrace the millennial mind set. Although it might be readily apparent to most millennials why their high expectations, and firm grasp on technology, should be seen as an asset many employers need a little more convincing.
A few months ago I was sitting in the break room of my office talking casually with a fellow employee. Offhandedly I mentioned that I left my phone in my office and stood up to grab it. He then responded saying “You guys can’t go five minutes without a phone. Typical.” My first reaction was to tell him how rude his comment was but instead, I considered what caused him to make this comment. The man I was speaking with is several decades older than I am. Meaning, he grew up without the same crack-berry attachment I have to my phone. This interaction reminded me of an article I read in Forbes that describes the baby boomer vs. millennials stereotypes and how despite the fact they are largely untrue; they exist and we need to be aware of them. Although for many of us millennials this comment is common and undoubtedly annoying, it tells us a lot about the way we are perceived. millennials are often perceived as needing constant communication but not necessarily meaningful communication.
It is important in a work setting to make sure that you can communicate well with everyone, not just people who communicate the same way you do. In an article in the Huffington Post write Tyler Mahoney talks about the importance of recognizing the generation gap. In the workplace it is unlikely that all of your colleagues will be close to you age. For those of you transitioning out of college and into the work force this will likely be a big change. I experienced this recently when I updated the work schedule and made it available on Google Drive. To me, this made more sense than printing tons of copies and coordinating with everyone in the office to find out their exact schedule. However, my boss was not familiar with Google Drive or even how to access it. In short, this method was extremely frustrating for her and in fact did not make it easier in her eyes. While I was a tad irked to find out I had to re-do the entire schedule, and once again do monthly check-ins to find out when someone would be absent, I realized that getting to know people in the office face to face may be more time consuming but it also provided valuable connections. Although my boss may not be well versed in Google Drive there is a reason she is the boss. She is extremely good at what she does and in the world of event planning (my particular field) it’s important to make face to face connections. After speaking personally with people I began to learn when the woman in accounting likes to take vacations or the guy in HR coaches’ soccer. The schedule then became more intuitive to me and reverting to the old method actually made sense.
Although it might be easy to dismiss someone as “out of date” learning to function as part of a whole, rather than constantly working against the grain can be extremely beneficial. I’m not making an argument that workplaces shouldn’t be progressive but rather that sometimes we try and push ahead rather than learn from the experienced people around us.