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Team-Building: Working With Millennials, Part 3
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Team-Building: Working With Millennials, Part 3 - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Working With Millennials, Part 3

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Working With Millennials, Part 3

In our exploration of working with Millennials, our approach was first to compare some of the ways Millennials are perceived by their more seasoned colleagues with how Millennials see themselves, paying specific attention to their desire for regular feedback, their eagerness to collaborate with others, and their appreciation for diversity and inclusion. We then took a look at the tension between the specific (often technology-related) talents they bring to the workplace and their apparently generational differences in attitudes about attire, appearance, and casual communication at work.

Acknowledging the specific needs and tendencies of Millennials is an important step, but what can be done to workplace culture itself in order to welcome and nurture our up-and-comers without sacrificing the character of the company we’ve worked so hard to develop? We could approach the issue with a sink-or-swim, my-way-or-the-highway hardline stance, something that would take the least flexibility on our part and, over time, ensure the survival of the fittest without our having to lower the bar. There’s something to be said for this way of doing business, but in the long run, you run the risk of having a team that still does things the old way when more accommodating organizations have adjusted to the new world.

Another possibility is to address young adults’ challenges and work with them, leveraging their strengths in order to foster growth in those areas where growth is needed. Rather than dismiss young professionals for their unwarranted entitlement, consider reframing your view and taking advantage of their self-confidence, suggests Lauren Stiller Rikleen in You Raised Us—Now Work with Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams (American Bar Association, 2014). When your young employees seek opportunities they perhaps haven’t earned yet, give them a shot and use it as a teaching opportunity.

While Millennials are great at following directions, they tend to struggle with risk-taking and open-ended tasks. So when they ask what might seem like too many questions, constantly looking back over their shoulders for encouragement or guidance, take the moment to understand that this is a “manifestation of a protected upbringing,” as Rikleen phrases it, and have patience while they develop an appreciation for the thrill of responsibly sticking their necks out in the name of creative problem-solving.

The everyone-contributes philosophies espoused by Millennials’ coaches and teachers have contributed to the emergence of a young-people’s culture where everyone has input, something that may not play well in some offices. Today’s twenty-somethings want to know that their opinions are heard; it isn’t that they must have their way, but they hold a worldview that sees everything in better light when everyone has a say, the same perspective that drives crowd-sourcing.

Red Hat (a company that profits on crowd-sourced product), has used an internal social network called Memo List to encourage collegial communication on a daily basis. CEO Jim Whitehurst says in Adam Bryant’s Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation (Henry Holt and Co., 2014), “Since we were founded in the 1990s on the idea of leveraging broad open-source communities, we naturally adopted that approach in our culture long before the Facebooks of the world even existed. So we’re on the bleeding edge of what so many companies are going to face because of this whole Millennial generation coming up. It just does not like this idea of hierarchy … Even the most ardent people opposing whatever decision is ultimately made will at least think, ‘I’ve had my say. You heard me, and you told me why you made the decision.’”

Rileen adds, “Workplaces that open lines of communication and develop more transparent practices will be well-situated for developing their future leaders,” and that “the challenge for senior leaders at work is to decide how much time and effort they are willing to invest in helping to integrate new employees.” It’s true that adopting the workplace to address the needs of our future leaders comes with the cost of precious resources, but it’s possible that not doing so has its own costs: those bright, creative, bleeding-edge future leaders themselves.


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Team-Building: Working With Millennials, Part 3 - Executive Leadership Articles

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