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Millennials to Their Bosses: You’re Doing it Wrong

Millennials to Their Bosses: You’re Doing it Wrong

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

Leave it to the Los Angeles Times to give us a new look at our millennial issues. And trust me, we have plenty. How do we recruit them? How do we retain them? How do we make sure we are preparing our future with them? tED magazine has done dozens of stories on the topic over the past 3 years. Our website, tedmag.com, has posted countless stories on the topic, including four stories in the past month to encourage you to send them to the NAED LEAD Conference this summer or nominate your young, rising stars for tED magazine’s “30 Under 35” Award.

And then the Los Angeles Times comes along and flips the field on us. The newspaper known for some interesting Op-Ed columns decided it was not going to talk with any more experts about hiring and retaining millennials. It was going to talk with millennials and how they are managing the consequence of having to work with Baby Boomers.

“Advice on how to attract and manage Millennial employees has become a fixture of business journalism and corporate reports,” the LA Times story begins. To be honest, we do our “Catching Up With the 30 Under 35” every Monday at tedmag.com to get their perspective on the industry and future of the supply chain. But for the most part, the LA Times is correct. We do use a lot of pages in tED magazine and a lot of space on this website giving advice to Baby Boomers about managing millennials. “Thanks to extensive research,” the Op-Ed continues, “we know that millennials come to the workplace with a sense of entitlement, a tendency to overshare on social media, and frankness verging on insubordination.” The LA Times quotes that part from a recent New York Times editorial.

What the LA Times Op-Ed piece then clearly explains is that your workplace is still dominated by Baby Boomers. Your culture. Your future vision. It may be led by your Baby Boomer culture, at least according to the LA Times. Can you imagine a business world with a lack of seminars on how to work with, mentor and train millennials? Because millennials are living in a world without seminars or research on how to deal with the old school culture, lack of future vision, disrespect for social media’s value, and fragile egos. They have to make it up as they go along. “Coping skills” is how the LA Times describes it.

The millennials the LA Times interviewed were all under 33 years old. They said it’s “important to never assume that Baby Boomer colleagues, born between 1946 and 1964, are unfamiliar with new technology. It’s far more likely that they’ve read about it, tried it once, and decided they hate it.” As a result, the millennials say when they are approached with a problem, they do not offer a solution that has a lot of technology attached to it. They are forced to use their new school minds to think old school.

When demonstrating new technology, Chelsea Reil told the LA Times, “NEVER say, “This is so easy”. The Times says it’s important to recognize that Baby Boomers have “a lot of fear and anger about technology” and don’t see any value at all in Instagram (which, by the way, is by far the most used social media by millennials today). Another millennial, Christina McDermott said, “There are people (Baby Boomers) who want to learn things like social media, but don’t have the confidence.”

So what do millennials like? Open communication with their Baby Boomer co-workers. The after-work happy hour. The coffee session in the middle of the day. “See what skills you can swap (with Baby Boomers) rather than chiding them for not getting it,” McDermott says.

Restraint is also a key for millennials. Do you think they like it when someone in the office announces that their kids are the same age? (They don’t.) How about the Baby Boomer manager who tells others in the office that the new guys looks just like he did 30 years ago? (They don’t like that, either.) Millennials are fully aware that the work environment that works best is the one where they don’t make a big deal out of the comments that annoy them the most.

The great part about the LA Times Op-Ed piece is, to date, it has received more than 400 comments. And Baby Boomers are angry. Many responded by saying they have a coding background or degree in technology, and left comments like, “sorry but us ‘baby boomers’ built the very infrastructure that allows so-called millennials to claim brilliance.” And that’s the point here. Do you really think the millennial you hired wants to work with someone who thinks this way? Do you really think the young man or woman that you bring in is going to be comfortable when the Baby Boomers in your office are looking down on them with a “we built this place” attitude that forces them to be silent and just fall into place? If you are scratching your head, wondering why this generation keeps leaving your company to take a new job in a parallel position to what you were already giving them, perhaps this will provide a little insight into the culture when you work.

So, the next time you are thinking about how you should be managing your millennials, also think about how you should be managing the rest of your employees to work with millennials. Then you might not have to worry about why millennials are leaving your company so quickly. And you might be a little more comfortable with how you have shaped the future of your company.


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