Employers of all sizes seem a bit lost as to how to hire, manage and keep millennials (born 1980-1996) from bailing after they've stayed a couple years in their jobs. After all, their parents (the baby boomers) stuck it out for a lifetime whether they liked the job or not. They left only when the salary offered a better lifestyle, where they could amass greater properties and luxury items to prove to outsiders how well they were doing. Their conversations often centered on their latest acquisitions: bigger boats every couple of years, more prestigious cars, larger houses in more affluent neighborhoods, and collecting one vacation home after another as a convenient way of changing scenery according to their desired interests and weather.
Not all baby boomers lived life at the top, but those who hadn't made it financially admired and envied those who had. The one thing the haves and have-nots had in common was rearing the millennial generation, and their goal was to make life more comfortable for their children than it had been for them. What they didn't foresee was that comfort translated to being treated well — not based on performance — but focused on following one's heart, mind and soul. Millennials did not adopt the work-till-you-drop attitude of their parents. Compromise does not equal sacrifice, so why would they want to experience the stress their parents felt at work? Those were the negative moments children are better off forgetting.
Millennials were brought up to care. They were inspired to be creative; they were motivated to perform based on positive feedback. It was a positive upbringing that gave them confidence and a feeling of belonging. Of course, they want this at work.
Chris Tuff, a Gen Y/millennial (born in 1980), worked 24/7 to succeed at a large advertising agency. After becoming the agency's youngest partner and exceeding all financial projections at work, he began to struggle with internal stress and question how life on the outside was making him happy. A baby boomer would have held it in, which might have come out in stomach ulcers or heart problems. Instead, Tuff acted out with bad behavior to release the unbearable feelings of being trapped. He could no longer pretend he was OK and wanted to take off for a month. His baby boomer parents recognized his angst and supported his decision. He stopped his bad behavior and redefined his values; money was no longer king.
When he returned to work, he led a team of millennials but approached managing with new values — values that produced great results. "Their work ethic, attitude, and even production levels inspired me to become an even better and more effective leader than I had been before," Tuff wrote in his book, "The Millennial Whisperer: The Practical, Profit-Focused Playbook for Working With and Motivating the World's Largest Generation." He continues, "They rewarded me with production and loyalty, crushing goals and all the key performance indicators we could throw at them."
Millennials thrive in an environment where leaders offer "inspiration, transparency, and autonomy within structure." They are passionate about social issues: Diversity is No. 1. They want management to care because they care. They want positive managers who don't spew negativity. Most of all, they hate hypocrisy. They also want real-time recognition and rewards for their accomplishments.
As a millennial author and accomplished leader at work, Tuff offers tips in each chapter on how to inspire millennial employees, such as celebrating employees' birthdays and work anniversaries with personal notes showing appreciation. Offering the support of a coach with heartfelt comments such as "great job, team" at the end of a day goes a long way in creating a positive work environment, while making leaders also feel more accomplished. It takes kindness, a little bit of time and a genuine smile — not really much to ask for in exchange for a stellar performance.
Upping the emotional intelligence of managers will produce teams and individuals that will go the nine yards for their leaders. The authoritarian and verbally abusive managers are a thing of the past if a company wants results. The millennials' quest for being treated humanely begs baby boomers to ask themselves, "Why didn't we demand the same?"
Email your workplace issues and experiences to [email protected] For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.
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