Everybody should help to bridge the generation gap at workplace
By Michelle Perez Patel | BusinessMirror |
THE office is one place where millennials and Gen Xers come together. But differences in perspectives can make the workplace a battleground, filled with frustration and confusion. How do millennials and Gen Xers see themselves and each other?
Let’s first define who the millennials are. Anyone born between 1980 to 2000 are part of this generation who were brought up with the Internet. The Generation X (Gen X) would be people born in the 1960s and the1970s, who have seen the transition from life without the Internet and social media to the digitally connected world we live in now.
I made a quick survey among my clients, colleagues and friends from different industries, and their experiences provided insights on how we can finally close this generation gap in the workplace.
Sense of entitlement. A person who feels entitled believes he or she deserves some privileges, which other people may not necessarily agree to be the case. I’ve heard Gen Xers refer to millennials as “entitled” often in my work as a customer experience consultant and researcher. In my survey, a Gen Xer from the banking sector says she works with millennials who use their passion to contribute positively to the team. She said, “you will be surprised at their ideas!” However, there are millennials who are entitled just because they think they know a lot. “They want to rise up the career ladder so quickly but have little expertise.”
A millennial working in the real-estate industry agrees there are millennials in her workplace who feel “they own the world.” But there are also Gen Xers in their 40s who she found to have a sense of entitlement as well, because they are tenured in the company. A millennial I interviewed from the government sector shared the same experience in his office, the older generation believe their opinion matter more because they have been there longer, which equate to more experience.
Hearing these experiences, it seems that this so called sense of entitlement cannot be charged against one generation alone. According to my millennial friend from the real-estate industry, she attributes this false entitlement to the upbringing of the individual and not really because of the generation he or she is from. She could be right, we are often quick to judge and form our biases based on a few people we meet.
Aggressiveness. Millennials I have interviewed are proud to be described as aggressive. They say they are “always on the go” and “willing to take more risks,” compared to their Gen X coworkers who are more calculated and conservative. One shared that it’s harder to push the older generation to do things, which could be possibly due to them having less drive, compared to the millennials they work with. Homer Nievera, a GenXer and CEO of his own digital media company, where 90 percent of his people are millennials, shared that the younger generation are usually driven and ambitious. Though they respect authority, “they like to test the waters in terms of doing what they think is right in accomplishing their tasks.” Given this, he made a rule that “everyone is encouraged to fail, but they have to fail fast.” Homer said this has helped his team of millennials think and rethink their plans of action, and they started seeking advice from the Gen Xers in the office. He was able to successfully close the generation gap!
Different way of working. A millennial working with a tech start-up shared that just the other day, they were going around the city looking for an office space for their company. Their requirement is an office building operating 24/7. Unfortunately, offices they have visited close by 10 p.m. She shared that millennials like her want a work environment that is flexible and they usually start work around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., and they don’t mind ending work late at night. They even had meetings ending at 4 a.m.! I could relate to this experience. I used to have a millennial manager in my team who would go to work at 10 a.m. almost daily for two years. I tried different ways to try to make her come to work at exactly 9:30 a.m., if not earlier. An extra 30 minutes of her time was all I asked for. My argument was: “I want you here at work while the rest of us [Gen Xers] are here.” There’s no reason to stay until late at the office, when we could all finish our work and leave by 6 p.m. It took me a long time to fully understand and accept that millennials have their own way of doing things, which does not make it a bad thing. The work environment is already evolving into a more creative space, where cubicles are a thing of the past, and an eight to five job is not what the younger workforce aspire to have.
High risk, high reward. A Gen Xer who is in charge of marketing for one of the mall chains in the Philippines shared this insight. He said that his millennial team have a mentality that they are meant for something big. There is a need to become “world changers.” The downside is they tend to have an inflated expectation of themselves, and when disappointment hits them, there is a tendency to change jobs frequently. He said he was able to work well with his team by making it clear with them that “greatness and changing the world starts with the small and dirty work, one task at a time.” He said you won’t be able to motivate your team if you don’t have credibility and the track record to inspire them. Another Gen Xer who heads the marketing team for one of the top consumer brands in the country said, millennials “need clear directions, and a leader they can look up to who takes care of them almost like a parent.” They may not have the same perseverance, which shaped the Gen X worker, as the millennials would rather “start fresh and they’re not ashamed to say it.” She’s quite happy to be working with her millennial team, they are “highly intelligent and capable! The level of education they have coming into the work force is leaps and bounds over the Gen X.” Another interesting Gen X point of view was shared to me by one of the best creative minds in our advertising industry today. He said millennials need to be challenged every day or they get bored easily. “They tend to look at how more than the why in doing things.” The tendency is not to see the bigger picture, as they focus on the details. He said this could also be a good thing. Millennials take more breaks, they reward themselves frequently, while Gen Xers work and delay gratification.
Ownership. It is important for the Gen X boss to give his or her millennial team ownership for the projects they do. Give them room to be creative, no matter how small the task is. And honest communication is integral in closing the generation gap. One of my clients from the hotel industry shared that we should “recognize them as individuals and not as numbers or designations.” As an expat general manager of a well-established hotel in the city, he works with hundreds of millennials across ranks. He also said that “old workplace rules don’t make sense to them, having task-oriented systems are better.” This will help both the Gen Xers and millennials working together in teams have clear expectations on what their output is supposed to be and how their performance will be measured.
Employee engagement is critical now more than ever. If we take the time to understand the strengths of both generations, accept the differences in the way we see and do things, and focus on collaborative work, Gen Xers and millennial together can make amazing things happen!
Michelle Perez Patel, a customer experience expert and speaker, is a cofounder of SatisFIND®, a customer experience company established in the Philippines in 2005. For more information, questions or comments, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org visit www.satisfind.com. Like this story online via the BusinessMirror Millennials Universe (BMMU) Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Millennial-Universe/435594193285671. Follow BMMU on Twitter via @millennial_U or Instagram (type Millennial Universe). E-mail comments or story email@example.com and the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.