Vacation means standing in line. Lines form at the airport, car rental, hotel check in, the ice cream stand and the water slide at the pool. Everywhere we travel, we stand in line and wait our turn. Fortunately kids have this societal norm down pat. From a very young age they learn to stand in line and not unfairly jump ahead of those that are waiting before them. In fact, when someone does try to jump ahead, those in line feel slighted and carefully watch for the reasons of the shortcut. The group dynamic taking place is powerful and no one wants to feel they have had to wait longer than rightfully so.
Think about this in terms of the workplace and waiting in line for a promotion, more responsibility or different title. Repeatedly I read that the next generation of workers doesn’t put the weight into a title or promotion that the Gen Xers or Boomers have historically. Yet, the next generation also seems to not want to wait in line for their turn. Many Millennials that are college grads feel entitled to start their careers in a management role. No conceptualization for those that have worked for years and have experience and institutional knowledge. What will the Gen Zs that are still at home expect when they get to the workplace? This dichotomy is interesting because the very children that were raised to understand how to consistently wait their turn, have no desire to do so when they get to the workplace.
Millennials were raised with a lot of attention and praise and feel they have an abundance of value on day one on the job. With that dynamic, what can parents and professionals that are in the middle of our careers say to them to guide a more realistic path that educates on the realities of a new career, instead of unrealistic expectations? A few thoughts:
- Your boss will not be like a parent: Yes, parents tell their kids how great they are. And, have we gone too far by rewarding them for every-single-thing they do? Real life means some level of failure and/or disappointment. Talk to kids about how a boss would view their actions. That may help level-set their expectations of the workplace.
- Access: Technology means that kids can short cut the answer to any question. All they have to do is look it up online. What does a CEO make? Google it. What are the best jobs? Google the answer. Other generations didn’t know this until they ventured out on their own and learned the answers. Now the “answers” are instantly accessible; and not all that realistic. Be another powerful voice to your kids and talk about how the workplace works and don’t let their only resource be online searches.
- Experience: Impatience is a trait in an age of instant gratification. There are ways to combat this at home by not supplying every need, instantly. A new game or new toy might mean working for it with some chores and earning it over time. The more easily things are given, the less they are appreciated. Communicate your own experiences of times when the years you have worked have paid off in a situation that you would not have handled well when you were in your 20s. I have many examples of instances when experience got me through a contentious meeting, not education.
- Connectivity: I do love that I can text or contact my kids at most any moment throughout the day. And, the same is true that they can reach me. This is how it works now and I don’t see it changing. At the same time, is this creating an unrealistic type of communication? If an employee contacts me with every small question and expects an answer almost immediately, I find myself completely frustrated. They are not considering that I cannot always respond right away or that I would expect them to research an answer before they simply ask. It would be great for my kids to learn to “think” about how to find an answer and wait an appropriate amount of time for a response. When possible and appropriate, have your kids figure out things on their own.
Millennials and Gen Z have many wonderful qualities that they are bringing, and will bring to the workplace. Education from home that speaks to the values of waiting in line for their turn will help mitigate the sting of unrealistic expectations of them walking into a first job as the CEO. Education on the values of gaining all levels of experience and honoring each step will serve them well.