3 Things to Know About Millennials

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to support a learning and development initiative for Federal senior executives.  I serve as an instructional designer for this program, largely coordinating subject matter experts to speak on everything from civilian-military relations to negotiations and the role of the media in federal initiatives. I learn immensely from this group when I support them each year.  This most recent cohort challenged me for one reason, their discussion of millennials.  Now, full disclosure, I am a millennial, just barely but technically, I am.  What was clear from this cohort and other boomers across my client base was that they didn’t actually know who millennials are.

1 – Not Every Younger Person is A Millennial.

My colleague Meg said it best, “Millennial has become synonymous with, ‘a younger person who irritates me.’” Millennials were born about 1981 – 1996, so the college intern in your office, the class of 2019 new hire, your teenage kids and their friends; they are not actually millennials.  They are Generation Z, born from about 1996 to the mid-2000’s.  Your 35-year-old colleague with two kids, a mortgage and increasing worry about their parent’s health and retirement, that is a millennial.

2 – Millennials – Stereotype vs. Fact.

Much of what is said about millennials, the big, broad strokes, has not been true in my experience.  I love data but the one challenge with data is it stamps out the individual.  Sometimes the reality is lost in the average.  So, people say that millennials can’t write, they don’t have loyalty to their jobs and they are time approximate versus time exact.  It’s largely unacceptable to speak in such stereotypes about a whole group of people.  For some reason, generations are the exception.  They shouldn’t be.  Telling me I’m young enough to be your daughter is not an appropriate comment just like me telling someone they’re old enough to be my mother or my grandmother is not an appropriate comment in the workplace (and rude even outside of work in my opinion). When working with millennials (and anyone really), it’s important to get to know the person and develop a perspective based on fact not who they should be based on stereotype.

3 – Remember that Thing You Know About Coaching and Mentoring?

We know that employee engagement, a culture of feedback, coaching and mentoring contribute greatly to an organization’s bottom line. People can tell when they are being tolerated. For a long-time, the diversity and inclusion space toted tolerance…tolerance was the goal.  And while the larger inclusion discussion has shifted greatly from tolerance to a sense of belonging, the way we feel about millennials has lagged.  There is training and a million articles and blog posts on how to “deal with” millennials.  Nobody wants to be tolerated, they don’t want to be dealt with and this mindset makes real engagement, coaching and mentoring impossible. I can’t build a relationship of trust with a manager, mentor or coach if they are just putting up with my presence.