If you’re not currently working with or directly managing people under the age of 25, you soon will be. Interacting with people outside your generation comes with a whole host of challenges. But there’s one serious problem with Generation Y, in particular, that you absolutely must keep at the forefront of your mind.
What is the problem with millennials? It’s the same problem that every generation has with other generations: their preconceptions.
Certainly, individuals born between 1980 and 2000 have had different life experiences than those born between 1960 and 1980, or 1940 and 1960. Certainly, younger professionals have grown up with a different workplace culture and a different worldview. Older generations did not have as much access to technology or opportunity for advancement, especially across racial and gender lines. And while all these are factors, they are not as significant as the most crucial factor of all between generations.
Prejudice is the Definitive Problem in Organizations
We have prejudice because we “pre-judge” people before we know them, and we make assumptions about what someone will do or not do because of their age, their background, or what others have said. We do this because it’s easier to figure we are right, rather than go to the trouble of finding out how we’re wrong.
That’s not to say that there aren’t facts that are more likely to be true about millennials, but that this information should be used to improve our relationships, not to stereotype. For example:
Younger generations have grown up with technology, which means they are often more comfortable using computers in a wider variety of contexts. That doesn’t mean that they want to be typing all the time, just that they can do things you may not know how to do. Ask them to teach you something rather than just to do it for you.
Younger generations have grown up with more diversity, which means they expect more people to speak up with more perspectives. That doesn’t mean they cannot respect authority, just that they are accustomed to hearing a variety of ideas. Accept that they strive to be accepting.
Younger generations have had, on average, more comforts and opportunities, simply by virtue of an ever-improving world. That doesn’t mean they cannot deal with scarcity, just that they might have had chances you didn’t have at their age. Instead of assuming they are not as tough, give them the opportunity to contribute.
These suggestions don’t just apply to millennials. No matter who you are working with, celebrate your differences. Avoid making judgments. Focus on inclusion. Seek to understand so that everyone can be productive, effective, and satisfied in the workplace.