Millennial professionals are talented, ambitious, creative, and ready to give their all to (most) employers. Unfortunately, even the most talented millennials experience the dreaded Baby Boomer Boss who makes it their responsibility to act as a parent, rather than a leader.
First, let's take a look at some common offenses of what I'm calling, parent-bosses.
- Mistaking creative out-of-the-box ideas from your millennial employees as idealistic, "pie in the sky", and overly ambitious.
- Nagging, reprimanding, criticizing, and any other form of condescending communication that reminds us of our parents.
- Constantly reminding us that we're too young to understand, along with any other reference to our age.
- Not allowing us to lead special projects or initiatives. Instead we're always second in command to a more senior employee.
- Tainting our positive outlook with your jaded perspective on business and life.
- Constantly reminding us how long you've worked here, how much experience you have, and how much social capital/clout/tenure you've earned over the years.
What Millennials Actually Want
Millennials and Baby Boomers can work in (almost) perfect harmony if our more seasoned counterparts, the Boomers would just let us have a real seat at the table. What table is that you ask? The POWER table. We want to be a part of the decision-making process. We want to buck tradition to try new ways of doing things. We want to have a voice, but somehow we're kept at arm's length over at the kiddie table eating chicken nuggets and fries. Our palate can handle chicken cordon bleu and those fancy potatoes pictured below...
Steps Baby Boomer Bosses Can Take to Get Out of Parent-Boss Mode
- Get to know your millennial employees on a deeper level. No, you don't need to sit and do 21 questions, but make a concerted effort to get to know more about who they are and what they want to accomplish while at your company (because they won't be there for long... trust me on this).
- Put your action where your mouth is. Instead of listening to suggestions from your millennial employees, try listening and actually taking action to let them know that their concerns/ideas/priorities matter to you.
- Let us get our hands dirty. We want to show our leadership skills. Give us something challenging to do. Show us that you trust our judgment and ability to make smart decisions.
Boomers, I'm done with you for now. I'd like to have a private conversation with my fellow millennials in the next section. It'll only take a minute. Be right back.
An Honest Sidebar From One Millennial to Another
I'm speaking strictly to my millennials here. I'm advocating for us. I know that we deserve a seat at the POWER table, but I would be remiss if I didn't have a discreet one-on-one with you right now about how you behave at work. In order for these Baby Boomer Bosses to start treating us like adults, we have to show that we're worthy of sitting with the "adults". What does that mean?
It means not falling victim to any of the millennial stereotypes that are out there. I know you've heard what they're saying. Much of the world thinks we care more about our social media profiles than life itself. They think we're self-absorbed. That we're entitled know-it-alls who don't want to pay our dues to get ahead... Make sure that you don't fall victim to any of these stereotypes. Don't get caught slippin'! (as we millennials would say).
One Solution to Bridge the Gap
What's next for our multi-generational organizations? I'm not 100% sure, but I know that many companies are being smart and investing in their millennial and non-millennial employees. Creating cohesive, high-performing teams doesn't happen by itself. Leaders must take the time (that they often claim they don't have) to invest in their most valuable asset... their employees.
Career development is the new professional development, and today's professionals want employers to invest in their career success.
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