L. Darryl Armstrong
Three Key Strategies to Minimize Conflict and Prevent Crisis with the M-Generation in the Work Place
“… most Millennials enjoy being coached and mentored – remember they had a unique relationship with their parents and teachers in this regard. Offer them pointers and tips on workplace etiquette. You will probably find that they are grateful for advice that will help them move up the professional ladder and achieve the greater responsibilities that they want. It can be a win-win situation.” – Lancaster and Stillman The M-Generation
You have hired, or if you run family businesses you may have “inherited” a member(s) of the M-Generation also known as a Millennial. You probably realize that it is essential you to better understand some of the behaviors, values and perspectives that this new hire may exhibit.
You may already have found some level of challenge and frustration. Let’s looks at the key criteria necessary to minimize conflict and enhance performance in the workplace when working with Millennials.
First, when recruiting and interviewing don’t promise more than you can deliver. When hiring a member of the M-Generation, be realistic about the work that he/she will do.
Present a potential M-Generation employee with an exact description of the job. You want to make sure that he/she understands that the job may not include conducting the weekly briefings or managing upwards, or running the company just yet.
Second, take advantage of the positive view of the M-Generation’s desire to do more and to tackle larger responsibilities. Take advantage of their eagerness and strong desire to be involved, and reward these traits whenever you can.
Some assignments by nature are off limits to M-Generation new hires. After all, with their need to share information and lack of understanding about confidentiality, letting them handle business sensitive information is probably not an option early on in their orientation. However, look for projects that require attention and with information that can be shared. Be clear and direct in your explanations.
Always give M-Generation employees specific parameters to work within, clarify what they will be held accountable for, what the schedule and deadline is, and then let them engage.
Finally, determine what “reward” is in the M-Generation new hire’s mind. What you and I perceive as “rewards” is often very different than what they see. It may be hard to for you to embrace the “level of praise” that has dominated Millennials’ lives. Remember that this immediate reward concept has been “hard-wired” and reinforced constantly and consistently in their young lives.
“I wish someone would have told me that there will be soul-crushing frustrations and soul-smashingly beautiful moments, and sometimes they will occur all at once. I wish someone would’ve told me that you will have to figure out your career, your finances, your current experiences, your childhood traumas, your relationships and your friendships all at once, there’s no one by one.” – Adunola Adeshola Contributor @ Forbes
For the Millennial, rewards don’t have to be big to be meaningful. A simple gesture will go a long way. Recently in talking with an Assistant Chief of Police, he told me his Millennials want to be called by their first names, asked about their family (yes, you will need to remember the wife’s name and the kids’ names), and they want to be praised for being to work on time.
Rewards for Millennials should be “personal and tailored” to the individual. For example, one supervisor told us that he had a new hire who was a Starbuck’s junkie. So he gave him a gift card to the coffee shop where he buys his morning coffee.
Here is a scenario suggested by the authors of the M-Factor. If your Millennial puts in long hours on the congregation’s fundraiser for a local women’s shelter, ask her to be the one to present the check to the shelter’s director. She will be very happy.
We have learned much from B. F. Skinner and Pavlov about Skinnerian approaches to behavioral psychology over the years. It is also true for Millennials. The closer the reward follows the work, the greater impact it will have on their future performance and behavior.
Baby Boomers and GenXers are often confused and bewildered by the simple things that Millennials don’t know about living and working as an adult.
Research shows that the most common problems include unfamiliarity with workplace etiquette, what are appropriate communication venues, and what boundaries should exist between professional, personal and private matters.
As an example, Lancaster and Stillman note that you might have a casual dress policy for your church office, and yet be disconcerted by your M-Generation intern’s choice of board shorts and flip-flops for the weekly staff meeting. He may truly think this is appropriate. You will need to tell him that it is not…in a tactful manner, write and communicate your policy on a regular basis. Yes, Millennials just like all of us will slip back into their old behaviors.
Or perhaps, you left a voice mail for Ms. Millennial expressing concerns about an upcoming project and asked her to call you as soon as possible. Instead, she sent a reply via text to your cell phone, complete with indecipherable abbreviations and emoticons. While you appreciate the fact that you can reach her quickly day or night by text or email, you wonder if she is a bit too relaxed about keeping the office hours that you agreed on. Plus you don’t know what the heck she is talking about in that text.
Millennials are “texters” often times because they don’t have the necessary social skills to inter-relate. Often you will find them jittery in meetings, always searching their phone, and texting when they should be listening.
However, our biggest concerns may be associated with the M-Generations’ use of social media. Often Millennials are not discrete about what they post on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The photos and comments they may put online after a weekend beach trip with their college buddies may cause you some alarm.
To deal with this behavior and not exacerbate the situation or create high blood pressure for yourself, you must learn to accept that is the new “norm” while learning how to negotiate a mutually acceptable working arrangement with these employees.
Does this mean we will just have to agree with such behavior? No.
Although we believe these “folks” should know this stuff already, they don’t. The smart thing to do is to understand the Millennial sense of what is appropriate. Then take the time to communicate the guidelines and rules – written and unwritten – for professional etiquette and interaction in your organization.
So, we recommend you start right now. Create your organization’s list of guidelines and rules. This will save time and aggravation later. You will not know what your M-Generation new hire doesn’t know until you see his/her blind spots and inexperience in action.
Each M-Generation employee is teaching you something about the assumptions that she and her peers are bringing into the workplace. This experience makes you better equipped to train her successors. Prepare now to do a lot of coaching as new situations arise, even though you can’t believe coaching on a particular point of etiquette is necessary.
The upside to all of this is that most Millennials enjoy being coached and mentored – remember they had a unique relationship with their parents and teachers in this regard. Offer them pointers and tips on workplace etiquette. You will probably find that they are grateful for advice that will help them move up the professional ladder and achieve the greater responsibilities that they want. It can be a win-win situation.
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