Jacobs

Author Kathy Jacobs reads from her most recent book at the Montgomery Public Library.

Throughout the past year, I have experienced – firsthand – what it’s like to work side by side with a millennial. It’s quite revealing, a bit troubling, and more than challenging. And yet, I am hopeful that, in time, understanding – mutual understanding – of differences might be gifted. We’ll see.

As first one situation and then another presented itself for reflection, I eventually found myself spending time with my good friend, Google. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why working with millennials presented its own unique set of challenges, but I knew Google would help me chart that course to discovery. And Google offered more food for thought – much more – than I ever knew possible.

Let’s start with the facts: Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, with post-millennials following right behind them. One of the common denominators, after reading article after article, in working with millennials is that they have developed work characteristics and tendencies from “doting” parents, structured lives, and contact with diverse peoples. They like to work in teams. They want to be friends with their colleagues. They need feedback – frequently.

They like variety, and unequivocally believe they will accomplish every task they undertake. They want flexibility in their work schedule and a life that is not defined by their work.

They are the most child-centric audience in history – and, they don’t hesitate to let their parents’ generation know that they were the ones who created them into thinking that they could do anything and everything.

They love to network electronically, and they are more than comfortable with the term ‘tech-savvy.’

Above all – or at least equally-important to the millennials – they want to have fun at work.

In 2015, they became the majority of workers. They are here to stay, so all of us might want to pay attention.

Millennials seek adventure over money, are very willing to speak their minds, and like to be “left alone” with their technology. And these varied differences in mindset are what eventually causes friction in those from other generations working with millennials.

Lindsey Pollak is a workplace consultant, who specializes in millennials. In a report in Forbes, she states that the friction is “happening everywhere.” She points out that while older managers can help to reduce this friction, she is also quick to point out that millennials might be wise “to accommodate traditions of their older managers.” I’ll repeat that point: Millennials might be wise “to accommodate traditions of their older managers.”

Millennials are concerned with how they will advance in their career and succeed. At the same time, they don’t want their job to define them. And while they might emphasize living a healthy life, going on adventures, and making a difference in the world, they are also eager to buy the perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood (or perhaps a bit of acreage in the country), and get to where they’re going in style.

It’s an intriguing balance – and one not easily attained without a healthy paycheck.

The Forbes report, written by Alyson Krueger, went on to point out that millennials are not shy, having been asked their opinions on just about every topic from just about everyone: Parents, teachers, coaches. “But sometimes,” Krueger suggests, “they come across brash and in a way that’s seen as disrespectful or overstepping. The key is for millennials to be sensitive to how and when they express themselves.”

Perhaps the most obvious element missing for millennials in the workplace is their apparent lack of empathy.

What’s interesting is that when the tables are turned, often times millennials will become over-sensitive and retreat back to their child-centric comfort zone. So, by constantly reassuring them that they are doing a good job and that their concerns are being heard, don’t be surprised if they are not willing to do the same. And, too, while they are more than willing to speak their minds, they may not be as willing to hear you speak yours. And that’s the part that may prove to be their biggest downfall.

Jacobs, an author of books for young readers, lives in Charleston. She is a former resident of Charlton Heights and a graduate of Gauley Bridge High School.

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