Every generation complains about the next generation, but the Millennial generation, defined as people born between 1980 and 2000 has endured more than just the typical griping from their elders.
The reasons? The Millennial generation is both huge, with 71 million members, and very different in style and approach—bringing with them a set of skills and shortcomings that really stand out from the generations before, Generation X, whose members were born between 1965 and 1980, and Baby Boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964. For more than a decade, now workplaces in every industry have grappled with how to successfully integrate multi-generational employees, who often have different relational and communication styles.
Imagine the most hierarchical organization you’ve ever worked for—it’s still probably not as hierarchical as the U.S. military. The military cannot exist without successfully leveraging the talents of America’s youngest adults, so it has been on proverbial and literal front lines while learning how to work with Millennials. Way back in 1998, when the oldest Millennials started turning 18, military leaders began integrating Millennial service members into a force with upper ranks were filled with Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers.
Soon enough, military leaders began to realize that Millennials, unlike the preceding generations, were accustomed to what is known as a “flat” communication model.
They had been raised in a society where the average person could gain access to information previously restricted to those “in the know.” And, through social media, they were permitted to talk directly to almost anyone—including people in authority. Therefore many Millennials don’t think twice about engaging celebrities or authority figures directly on issues, and they don’t understand why their leaders can’t give them rapid, personal feedback.
In the military, that can mean upending the entire chain of command. But the reality is that anyone in management needs to consider this: Having been raised in this participation-oriented environment, Millennials are accustomed to sticking up for their ideas and articulating their points of view. Those are things that sound great on paper, but, in reality, they may not to be welcomed when they’re coming from the youngest guy in the morning meeting.
In the next installment of this series we’ll look at some specific ways managers can help Millennial’s stick up for their ideas, without stepping on toes.