David Blaine’s Friday Musings

I continually struggle to find common ground between my generation of employees (Gen X), which I will refer to as “we” and the current Millennials, which I will refer to as “they” or “them.”  On one topic, we and they are the same – we both think we are smarter than our bosses and want their job. However, our individual approach to reaching that goal appears to be very different. We had no problem starting “at the bottom” and outworking, outsmarting, and out-producing our bosses.  Success created both proof that we were better than our boss AND internal currency which could be used to (1) replace our boss, or (2) move to another company and get a promotion.  That approach motivated “us” to  do the best possible job and required little external motivation.

I contrast that with what I currently see on a regular basis. New employees also want their bosses’ jobs – however, they want them now. They, like we, believe they are smarter than their bosses. But they don’t understand why the rest of the world doesn’t recognize their belief without any demonstrated proof.  Believing you should be promoted and proving you should be promoted are two different things.  The list of problems created by this disconnect are many:

First, instead of being motivated, new employees begin their careers de-motivated because they feel they are not valued (if they were they would be the CEO right out of college).Second, employees who could spend their first year or two actually learning from their bosses often waste the opportunity by being bitter, looking for another job almost immediately, and/or inadvertently creating an image of a disgruntled employee (which further delays their progress to their ultimate goal). Finally, it perpetuates the stereotype that older generations already have of their new, younger coworkers, creating more distance between common ground.

So what can “we” do as managers and mentors.  First, have to convince them that we also believe in them, but that the world requires some measurable proof of their inherent brilliance and potential. Second, regardless of where they start on the proverbial totem pole, Millennials need to see a path (up front) of what they need to do to reach their goals (we actually have to follow through on regular performance reviews/feedback). Finally, we have to listen to “them” and try to relate what they are saying to feelings “we” as younger employees had (translating words from Gen X to Millennial). If we do that, I think we will find that their goals are not much different than ours, and us + them can = We.