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Wait your turn.

Wait your turn.

Wait your turn.

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.

Triangles.

triangles_20pernrose_20borromee_1_Have you ever felt like you were pulled into the role of a third-party to a conflict you had no intention of joining?   The phenomenon is called triangulation and happens regularly in most of our lives.   Triangulation can take a couple of different forms.   One person could be designated as the messenger between two others or designated as the communicator between the other two (the go-between). Or, a form of “splitting” takes place, with one person (person A) playing the third person (person C) against the family member or coworker (person B) that they are upset with.   This is playing two people against each other and the person doing the “splitting” usually assassinates both characters in the process.

Triangulation in the workplace is an unproductive behavior that chips away at the culture.   It can be indirect and subtle, therefore, difficult to manage.   And, if you are the triangulator, it’s worse, because you are largely unaware.    If you were raised or work without awareness in such an environment you may not know any differently and continue perpetuating unintentionally.

The best place to combat this behavior is at home.   By recognizing, not tolerating and ultimately educating on such behaviors, we can send better prepared workers to recognize occurrences of triangulation and combat them at the root.

Here are some signs it is happening in your household:

  • Two stories: Kids regularly tell mom one thing and dad another, and reactions are based solely on the child communication without checking with the other parent.   The child quickly learns they control the environment and raises the levels as their cognitive abilities grow.
  • Two styles: If one parent is strict and the other is lenient, the lenient parent might over compensate for the behavior of the stricter parent.   The child gravitates to the easier parent and creates the image of the “bad guy”.
  • Conflict or divorce:   These are situations ripe with triangulation possibilities.   If there is conflict under one roof, the child feels the strain to pick sides.   Worse, parents start to communicate their partner frustrations and splitting occurs. In divorce household, these problems can be magnified.
  • Blended families:   Now introduce even more parents (people) into the mix and the complexity grows.

From all the scenarios above, imagine them in the workplace.   It isn’t too hard to do.   Ideas to avoid or reset triangulatory behaviors are:

  • Explain:   Some degree of conflict is normal and expected.   Explain this and teach how to address the upsetting situation or words directly with the person in conflict.   Using a third-party is not an option.
  • Don’t interject:   If it is between siblings, let some of the little conflicts get resolved by themselves.   Teach that tattling and complaining does not fix the problem and don’t reinforce that by listening to endless chatter about another child.   Tell the child to explain the problem, offer solutions to resolve and move on.
  • Bite your tongue:   Easier said than done. If a manager talks to employees about other employees, triangulation will be seen as acceptable and part of the culture. The same is true at home.   Don’t let yourself get pulled into the triangle and rise to the occasion.   The occasions will be presented and you will be tested.
  • Don’t be a third corner (of the triangle):  The best way to cut off the behavior is to not participate in the behavior.   Don’t feed the problem.   As hard as it is to not engage, don’t.

 

Baby steps.

Photo credit:  Celeste Johnson

Photo credit: Celeste Johnson

I snapped this photo with my iPhone when I was in Bratislava, Slovakia.   The little boy is standing on what was formerly a military bunker in the Iron Curtain zone along the Danube River, across from Austria. What I assume is grandpa, is a person that remembers a much different time.   A worse time.   The little boy has no idea what came before him and finds the old, bullet ridden bunker a fun piece of playground equipment.   I don’t know these people and this picture hangs in my office as a profound reminder to me that the world can and does get better.

 

I believe the workplace gets better too and generation Z will find some fantastic opportunities there.

Here are some human resource changes and laws that are improving the workplace for the next generation of workers:

  • Diversity and equality protections:   There are laws such as Title VII that make it illegal for employers to discriminate and most companies have recognized and embraced the value of diversity in the workplace.   Our grandparents faced this challenges, our kids will find it less so.
  • Ability to work from anywhere: Technology has changed the working landscape.   Many jobs are now capably of being accomplished from anywhere.   A web designer can log in from the lodge at the ski resort and an accountant can audit and file tax returns from their own living room.   Not every job will move in this direction but if a person wishes to seek out a remote career, the possibilities are there.
  • Rewards that align with values: This Harvard Business Review article talks about how companies are understanding how to convey their value and be rewarding to the workers, not just the shareholders.   This can be accomplished through open communication, recognizing strengths and allowing for individual ownership in jobs.   These types of employers exist today and are becoming more prevalent.
  • The entrepreneurial spirit:   According to this article from Forbes only 13% of Millennials want to climb the corporate ladder, whereas 67% want to start their own business.   This is exciting!
  • Green technologies: Caring for the environment is not new, but doing so through company policy is.   The next generation workforce will not only seek out green policies, they will expect it.
  • Wage and hour laws: Wage and hour laws are strict and nearly all employers comply.   The days of misclassification and avoidance of overtime are diminishing.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility:  Companies are learning that doing work outside of the walls and into the community continues the cycle of good workers.   The Millennials are driving more of this and it will be part of business for Generation Z.
  • Self-Expression: Within the last 5 years I have seen more and more companies loosen their standard business professional dress policies.   There is wider acceptance to tattoos, piercings and hair colors.   These types of self-expression are no longer contained to niche industries but found in legal, medical and educational services as well.
  • Communication and information access: This drives all of the bullet points. Like no other time in history, communication is accessible and unlimited.   Our incoming workforce has grown up with technology and lives on information platforms online.   Companies can’t hide and will lose if they have ulterior motives or hidden agendas.   Instead, companies are embracing new transparencies and acting in everyone’s best interest and using that as their competitive strategy.

Hashtag Workers

The hashtag generation.

The hashtag generation.

This year the Millennials will surpass the Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation at over 75 million. According to a recent Deloitte Millennial Survey, Millennials, or Gen Y will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.  The census bureau defines the millennial generation as those born between 1982 – 2000.   They are currently 15 to 33 years old.   Until now, the Boomers were the largest generation at about 74 million (GenXers are a much smaller generation at about 65 million).   The biggest difference; the Millennials are diverse.   Approximately 44% are of a minority ethnicity or race and one in four speak a foreign language at home.   This group is also more educated with 22 percent having a college degree, compared to 16% in 1980.   Two thirds of this group are now in the workplace.   The rest are on their way.   If you are a business professional, and are not considering the demographic of the next generation workforce, then you are #behindthetimes or a #dinasourintheworkplace.

In the past month, I conducted a survey at my company regarding outdated policies.   The responses included requests for more casual days, flexible scheduling and better recycling bins.   All items indicative of the changing work environment.   Observations of the employment landscape prompts further discussion of these digital savvy, hashtag workers and it’s our job, as employers and parents, to understand, educate and embrace them.

In doing so, let us keep a few things in mind:

  • Be wary of labels. Perceptions across the generations vary.   What we think of as tech savvy, may not be to a Millennial.   What they think of as relationship building, may not be the same as a Boomer.     Millennials have the unfortunate reputation of being helicoptered, entitled and flaky.   Talk about these labels with your Millennials and gain direct perspective.   Getting on the same page is the first step.
  • Millennials grew up with technology.   They may have heard of a pound sign, but “#” is part of social media life.   Embrace it and move on.
  • They will be inherently better at technology, social media, social attitudes and optimism.   Use it to your advantage.
  • Ask them what motivates.   Don’t assume.
  • Get used to answering “why” questions.   This is a positive.   This can expose better ways of doing things.
  • Speak the language: BAE, YOLO, epic, really?, LMAO, haha, ttyl, swag, #, emoji’s, memes, etc.

Living and working in harmony is the goal.   By exploring information about this workforce, the gap can be bridged.   Here is a fun infographic (a tool Millennials love) that offers a 30,000 foot (Boomer term) view.

millenials-career-infographic

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