As an individual from an older generation you may find it difficult to relate to the millennial employees your share a workplace with for a variety of reasons. From a different approach to the work week to a difference in priorities, generational gaps can make it hard to relate to a younger age group. It is important to bear in mind that while millennials may approach work differently than you did at their age, there are common goals between you.
Ultimately deciding on working toward these goals together can improve workplace relations and improves your ability to understand the millennial generation better in the process. The preconceived notion pertaining to millennials is they are more laid-back than older generations when it comes to getting the work done, but this is not always the case. Younger age groups have the same priorities as older age groups, but they may take a different approach at reaching the same destination.
Determine the Millennial Approach to the Work Week
When you are trying to understand the work ethic of millennials, it is important to first understand how they approach a work week and what their expectations are like for their budding careers. Previous generations expected to work approximately 60 hours a week on average, whereas millennials commonly believe they need to work 70 hours per week to achieve their goals. A common misconception applied to millennials is they do not want to work as hard as older generations to achieve their goals, but this is not the case. Most millennials want to put the time in to advance their careers—they simply want to work more efficiently to ensure each hour spent at work is an hour applied to their milestones.
Once you understand how hard the millennials in your office need to work to pay down student loans, advance their career and live a comfortable lifestyle, you can begin the process of improving your relationship with them. Take the time to speak with the millennials in your office about their individual career goals and offer advice where you can about how to best approach these goals to ensure their ultimate success. For someone who has worked in the business longer, you are going to have a wealth of experience and information that can prove to be invaluable to a younger generation. Help the millennials in your office to work hard and reach their milestones without having to sacrifice their work-life balance to get there.
Understand the Priorities of a Younger Generation
One of the main reasons other generations struggle to communicate with the millennial age group is because they believe they hold a difference in priorities. While this may be the case to some degree, the difference in priorities is not as severe as you may have originally thought. Millennials believe in working hard to maintain a comfortable lifestyle and want to use their earnings to pay down substantial student loans they have amassed over the years.
Previous generations wanted to work to buy a home, establish a family and strive for retirement. Millennials want to achieve these goals as well but a variety of factors, such as the economy and cost of living, make these goals more difficult to achieve than they were for older generations. Millennials are willing to work well into the evening and sacrifice their weekend hours if it means they can possess the things you may not have had to work as hard for a few decades ago.
The millennial generation are reaching milestones later in life—from getting married to having children, each of these things is happening on a different timetable than the one you may have gone through in your own life. Many people in the millennial group have seen their parents struggle for opportunities and have learned from these struggles to create a better path for themselves.
This may mean their priorities vary from yours or their approach to work goals is different than yours, and this is okay. If the millennials in your office are willing to work hard, finish their work, and focus on team efforts, then you must be able to do the same. If they are working toward a vacation and you are working toward retirement, you are both still putting in the effort necessary to get the job done.
Remain Flexible Through the Learning Proces
Many people in other generational groups find it difficult to be flexible with their millennial peers as they believe the younger generation must abide by the old-school approach to establishing a career. There are foolproof methods established by the older generations that can benefit millennials in terms of career advancement, but you must allow them the room necessary to make their own choices. Offer help where and when you can to ensure they are contributing to the workplace instead of inhibiting it, but remember to not overstep your boundaries.
You may believe you know better because you are older, but this is not always the case. To understand the work ethic of the millennials in your workplace, speak with some of them directly to gain a perspective on what they are trying to accomplish. By remaining flexible and opened-minded through the learning process of working with millennials you are improving your ability to understand the younger generation while simultaneously improving relations with them.
If you show a willingness to learn from them instead of consistently trying to teach them, you are going to make an impact on their lives and their careers. No one wants to feel as though their superiors are belittling them, and your attempts to have the millennials in your office adhere to your ideals may come across this way. When you understand the work is going to be finished and the millennials are going to contribute as much to the bottom line as people your own age, your workplace can become a better place to be for everyone involved.
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