Millennials in the Workplace

By: Emily

This school year I had the opportunity to attend the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Conference in October and I noticed they were offering a workshop on the integration of millennials into the workforce. This workshop was called, “Boomers vs. Millennials: How to Address Different Leadership Styles” and was led by Reid Zimmerman, Brooke Thomson and Mary Halet. That got me thinking. Workplace cohesion has become increasingly important as job market trends reveal that employers are looking for individuals that can collaborate in a team structure. Workshops like the one at the MCN Conference show us that Baby Boomers and Generation X are having a conversation about the best ways to incorporate us. In fact, businesses concerned with this transition are conducting surveys to figure out patterns on the behaviors, values, and communication styles of our generation. Although our college curriculum has been incorporating more group projects and presentations to prepare us for this, do we know who we are and are we prepared to work alongside other generations?


Who are we as Millennials?
According to the 2009 National Business Ethics Survey:

  • We are comfortable with technology and grew up with the Internet where information flows freely. We are less likely to view information as owned and might have a different idea of confidentiality. We are also known for being more distractible.
  • We are more likely to celebrate diversity and accept people of different races, cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations and are also more aware of discrimination.
  • We are less likely to identify with or have loyalty to a particular organization, political, or religious institution. We are therefore more likely to make negative online comments about our workplaces and have less intention of staying with a particular organization for longer than a year.
  • We are more likely to witness misconduct and less likely to report it.

Millennials have a lot to offer employers, but we do have to keep in mind how our differences in values and upbringing might affect how our Generation X and Babyboomer coworkers view us. After personally interviewing some Baby Boomers and Generation X parents who are currently experiencing the transition of Millennials into the workplace, here are some things for Millennials to keep in mind:

1. You actually look like a young Justin Bieber
Fresh out of college and found a professional position in your field? Congratulations! You are finally starting to feel like an adult, but keep in mind that to your parent’s generation, you look like the Biebster. You’ll have to earn the trust and respect of your colleagues and that comes from building good rapport. Depending on your workplace, you might struggle to be taken seriously or be viewed as a threat. Your lack of experience and beginner status does put you at a disadvantage. Start by being reliable, showing with your actions that you walk your talk. Make a habit out of asking for advice and listening. Be modest, kind and respectful. Share your ideas, but really practice listening and building off your other team member.

2. You might not receive constant feedback or encouragement
Our generation is familiar with positive mentorship and playing games where everyone wins. We are use to our voice counting and receiving individual attention. While that might make us good team players, it might give you unrealistic expectations about the additional support you will receive at your work, especially when you are just starting out. You might begin to feel unsure of yourself. Stick in there. Just because people are not praising your hard work does not mean it is going unnoticed.

3. Don’t be dismissive of others’ experiences
People who have been working in an organization or in a position longer than you are an important resource. With their experience they have a better understanding of the full picture and of what ideas have and what haven’t worked in the past. Building on this information can help you find more success as a team. Avoid being dismissive of their valuable know-how, even if they remind you of your parents or seem hesitant to embrace the change that you are envisioning.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you can access the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Conference workshop presentation.

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