There is a big problem with millennials.
Simon Sinek shares the big concerns in a video, discussing the belief that millennials are tough to manage, entitled, narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused and lazy.
This is a big problem.
However, this isn’t the biggest problem with millennials.
The biggest problem, and the uphill battle facing millennials, is the way we are stereotyping and labeling the entire generation.
I’ve seen tough-to-manage, entitled, narcissistic, self-interested and lazy workers in offices across the world, regardless of their generation. It’s not just millennials. Worldwide, only 13% of employees are considered engaged, of which, about 40% are millennials.
It wouldn’t even matter if all millennials were “A” players. Statistics show it would only be a matter of time until they check-out, like the majority of Gen X and Baby Boomers who are biding their time until retirement.
I have worked with just as many high-performing millennials as I have any other generation. My millennial colleagues and employees have been some of the most innovative, driven and resilient workers I’ve collaborated with.
Perception is reality. If you have preconditioned labels bestowed upon you, people will tend to collect evidence to reinforce those beliefs. It happens all the time and if you are on the wrong side of it, it will work against you. Check out Adam Alters’ article if you want to learn more on the dangers of labeling.
Any time you drop a nasty label on someone, it essentially removes their ability to change (in your eyes), it negatively impacts your ability to help shape them and it creates barriers on the path to collaborative high-performance. Benjamin Whorf, a linguist, writes that the words we use when describing others, aren’t simply idle placeholders – they actually determine what we see.
What do you see in your millennial workforce?
It’s not about playing nice and coddling your employees, it’s about doing what a leader should do. Take accountability for the current status of what you have, inspire change and develop the people your organization needs and wants.
Below are four areas to consider when developing your workforce:
Neuroscience shows us that our brains are plastic, meaning they can change. This is why you can develop new skills and habits. Notice I didn’t write break bad habits. We can’t just forget bad habits – we have to develop the conscious patterns to gain new ones. It takes structure and commitment to do it. If you want to support behavior change of individuals on your team, help them create a clear road-map to engage and track their progress. We like to incorporate game mechanics to accelerate the shifts you want. The brain likes it.
Just like a muscle experiences pain on the path to growth, both you and your millennial team will likely have to experience some discomfort to get to where you want to go. You don’t show up at the gym hoping for things to be as easy as they can, right? You go to create change in your body and that takes work, commitment, repetition… and yes, some pain and sweat. Learn the collaboration skills that will help you take on a ‘coach approach’ to provide real and timely feedback, build resilience and enhance the organizational fitness of the people around you
Model the behaviors you want. Be deliberate with the words you speak to your team and distribute inside your organization. Done right, these, over time, will spread like a virus. Consider yourself a walking advertisement that shows people how to survive in your culture. For better or worse, people will emulate many of your words, actions and behaviours. Do your actions and behaviours drive people away and contribute to the degradation of employee engagement? Do you course correct, support and continually point people towards the vision and values of your organization?
As a leader, you are responsible for the conditions of your environment. Your culture invariably provides both deliberate and unintentional feedback mechanisms. We are all products of our environment – if there is anyone to blame for the expression of that environment (like a lack of leadership pipeline), it’s the ones who created the problem.
The bottom line with millennials (or anyone else in your organization):
Collect evidence that supports your ability to grow others. Find reasons why YOU can develop the behaviors and habits needed in your organization and don’t fall prey to the descending spiral of negative stereotypes and generational excuses.