My alternate title for this blog post was, “If you bring up the research that says I’m lazy and self-entitled, I’ll scream.”
So, yeah, I’m a millennial.
Hi, nice to meet you.
I can’t speak to any of the “characteristics” of my generation or others, but I can guarantee* all millennials have sat through a meeting, conference call or presentation in which our generation was brought up, analyzed, discussed – all without an acknowledgement that we are in the room.
Please don’t do that – to any generation (or any “group” of people, really). Come on, I’m sitting right here!
Anyway, it’s pretty frustrating when that happens. In fact, cross-generational interactions can often be described as frustrating. This is particularly true for people that don’t interact regularly with colleagues from other generations.
But we can’t let ourselves be frustrated – the generations need each other. (Institutional knowledge, experience and expertise, digital savviness, fresh ideas and energy – etc., etc.)With that in mind, here are five tips to get past these cross-generational frustrations and move on to having regular old work relationships (it’s possible!):
- Don’t talk about the other generation like they aren’t in the room. I already mentioned this above, but it is worth repeating. For one thing, it’s rude. For another, it isn’t productive – bring millennials into the conversation instead of having the conversation about us.
- Please avoid bringing up your children or your grandparents. I do not have an opinion on whether your 7-year-old daughter should be allowed to have Lisa Frank school supplies. (What? Lisa Frank isn’t a thing anymore? See how old I am!)That was a dramatization. I understand that children or grandparents may be our only experience with another generation. I do think it’s kind of demeaning though – I am pretty sure you aren’t taking me seriously when you associate me a child. Similarly, my grandmas are awesome, but I don’t think you’d appreciate it if I relate you to them. Which brings me to my next tip…
- Keep one-on-one conversations focused on work, mostly. Work is likely the area you will have the most in common and it is therefore the safest of topics. I am getting crushed by student loan debt so I really cannot relate to your month-long vacation at a luxury resort in the Bahamas.As with any other human interaction, once you have a solid relationship with the other individual, you will find more areas in common, but stick to work at first. Or, you know, the weather.
- Feel free to ask my perspective on something work-related “as a millennial.” I’ll do my best, but know it’s probably just my opinion I’m giving you. It’s easy to forget a generation isn’t monolithic – it’s really made up of a lot of individuals. Yes, many of us pesky whipper-snappers grew up on social media, but it doesn’t mean we’re all the same (it just means we can post photos on Facebook in our sleep). If you really want pesky whipper-snappers’ opinion on something, you probably need to talk to a lot of us (which I definitely encourage).
- Above all, treat each other like colleagues, not aliens. This should be pretty straightforward. I have a lot of value to add, you have a lot of value to add – see how that works?
“Great advice! Now what?” I can hear you saying in your head. You’re in luck. Here’s what you should do: If you can’t name 10 people from another generation that you work with regularly, go expand your network accordingly. I promise this is in your best interest. It’s a proven fact* that the scariness of millennials decreases in direct proportion to the number of us you meet.
So, hi, I’m a millennial – and it’s nice to meet you.
*I cannot actually guarantee this, but it’s probably true.
*OK, fine. It’s a hunch.