Thousands, maybe even millions of research articles flood the web on how Xers and Boomers are trying to understand what millennials really want in the workplace. After all, this is the generation taking over our organizations. With all of this information at your fingertips on how you can engage this sector of the workforce, there seems be too little to no rhetoric spelling out how Millennials view our Xer and Boomer colleagues. This brings me to question, how can you expect engagement initiatives to be successful when you have no idea how we view you?
We think Gen X is cynical
Generation X (1965-79) is one of the most skeptical generations to date, having grown up in an era when many of the institutions built by veterans (1922-1946) and improved upon by boomers (1946-1964) were torn to pieces. We agree it can be discouraging watching companies like Enron and WorldCom crumble and being fed lies about faulty products, but understand that your cynicism stifles the innovation that we are longing for. A check and balance system in the workplace is good but when very idea that spews out of our millennial mouth’s is met with your skepticism, we naturally do want to run home at 5:00 and apply for any other position on Monster.
All you see is the corner office
The Greatest Generation raised Boomers to ensure they would never miss out on their youth the way they did. A noble cause. What parent would not want to give their child a great life? It became all about what they could do for themselves and their families. “Don’t let anything stand in the way of what you want,” Boomers taught their Xer children. This has created a stigma, whether just or not, that Xer are willing to do whatever it takes to get to get ahead. They put their head down, work 60 hours a week and finally land their prize – the corner office. The problem with that for millennials is many Xers do not seem to be inviting us to their marathon to success, quite the opposite. We view your hands-off, because I said so and never take a sick day approach to leading as nothing more than an oppressing attempt to keep us in our entry to mid-level roles. Our goal is not the corner office, but the entire company with a budget for Corporate Social Responsibility.
Boomers and Xers, more so than others, tend to use the generation labels much more than millennials or Zs (1995-2012). Yes, I know that seems like an oxymoron considering you are reading an article about generation labels right now but please humor me. No matter who you are you do not like to be pigeon-holed into categories. The rise of individualism is not new nor did it start with our generation. It is simply better documented due to more sophisticated technology. Only a third of millennials say they are millennials. While we will always have categories in place to better organize everyone, Xers and Boomers could relate to us more if they simply stopped using the “young and dumb” approach. I know Xers have spent years trying to live up to the Boomer’s expectations only to have them creep back in to the workforce (Thank you Great Recession) but putting all the ideas you deem naïve in a box and labeling it millennial will never build successful organizations. We are all in this together.
You are on our pedestal
This has and will continue to be one of my biggest flaws. I put my mentors and leaders on a pedestal. I am chomping at the bit to conquer the world and all I need is someone in my corner cheering me on and calling me out when I need it. When my cheerleader cannot find the pom-poms or stifles my innovative idea with negativity, I am heartbroken, confused and angry. I take it personally to the point I almost cannot learn from them any longer. I do make sure I do whatever it takes to prove them wrong though. Maybe they use it as a form of motivation? Millennials as a whole inspire to be incredible people that will make the world better. You do not need to be Steve Jobs or Mohmmas Yunus but you do need to try and get on-board with that.
No matter where you stand in the conversation around generations in the workplace, one thing is certain, we are not going away. 53.5 million millennials are expected to be in the workforce by the end of this year. While I understand some of the stereotypes around our endless texting and job hopping and proven true in some cases, overall, many of us simply want someone to lead us.