I’m a border line millennial. Born in 1979 it depends on what graph or chart you look at. Sometimes I'm a millennial and sometime I’m classified as a Gen X. It’s all so confusing for the borderline generation. And why do we need to be classified anyway!
I want to be perceived as young, flexible and worldly like the millennials, but I'd rather not get the classic criticisms that millenials so often get like, “They’re entitled”, “Everyone expects a trophy for just showing up”, or “They have no work ethic”. These can be hurtful things to hear! And in my experience, working with plenty of millennials, it’s just plain untrue.
The problem is that people of different generations value different things. This makes sense. We’ve grown up in different times with different priorities and experiences. It would be silly for anyone to think that the way a 28 year old woman views the world is going to be exactly the same as the way a 68 year old woman views the world. And that's ok!
Here’s the thing, if you’re working in the professional world you'll want to understand these differences and learn how to adapt to them. Before you get on me about changing to conform to someone else being non-authentic and oppressing (that’s so millenial of you!) hear me out. Other generations need to adapt to. We all do!
Being an excellent leader is about modifying your way of working to meet the needs of the different people you work with and finding ways to bridge divides.
So how do you make sure you're viewed as a young respectful professional?
Understand what respect means to each generation. Here’s how…
Millennials - Respect is about justice and fairness.
Millennials often feel that if they’re not getting respect why should they give it? They see themselves as equals regardless of age, nationality, race, religion, whatever. If someone is respectful and kind, they deserve respect and kindness back. Simple.
I’m certainly not saying this is a bad thing! This is wonderful and one of the things I most love about the way our culture is transforming. Equality is the new measure. Younger generations are judging you on your actions in the workplace, not who you are, what your title is or how long you’ve been around the company.
This can make for a challenging situation for older generations to understand. Think about it, how can a new college grad deserve the same level of respect as a seasoned executive that’s been around for 20 years. Tough to navigate for sure!
Baby Boomers - Respect must be earned.
Older generations demand that you earn respect. They didn’t just walk into a company straight out of college and get treated as an equal. No! That thought is unfathomable to them. They had to work really, really hard, long days and nights, doing the things that others may not have wanted to do to get noticed by the boss.
You can imagine how shocking it must feel for them to see things unfolding so differently these days. It may feel like they are not valued as much since now the newer employees are so highly valued and treated as equals on day one. Say what?!?
The people in between (Gen X) - They adapt.
This is me! Which is why sometimes I feel like a millenial and sometimes I don’t. The generation that is floating between Millenials and Baby Boomers are of the times when technological and social norms experienced a great shift. This really impacted our lives and the way we approach work.
Consider this...My generation started our schooling without computers, cell phones or the internet, but as we got older things evolved and by the end of HS and into college we were now being exposed to these devices. I had an emergency cell phone in my car at age 17, but never once used it until I was around 20. (I started using my cell phone because I went out on a date with a younger guys who showed me how incredible having your phone with you at all times was...thank you millenial blind date! I think his name was Dave?)
Anyway, when I met my husband he was 21 and I was 23, he didn’t even own a cell phone yet - what an interesting time!
As far as work goes, We entered the workforce with the show respect for the more seniored people, the work long hard grunt hours and earn your way to the top kind of people. But, we quickly were joined by the millenials who showed us (like Dave did) that there was another way and we liked that way better! Can you say, jumping on the bandwagon!
This leaves us as the adaptable generation. When it suits me to be a millenial, I’ll act as a millenial. When it suits me to be a Gen Xer, yup I’ll do that, and when I need to hang with the Boomers, I’ll have no problem fitting in.
It's not about changing who you are, it's about adapting your communication style to different personalities and expectations in order to reach a common goal.
There is no wrong or right, all viewpoints have value and should be considered. (That’s my millenial side speaking.) The most important thing is understanding that there are differences, and considering those differences when you're working with different people. If you can do that, then you’ll certainly be viewed as a young, respectful professional :)
Thanks for reading!