IF OLD AGE is irrelevant, at least according to the Anti-Age Discrimination Act, then why do people and organizations make a fuss over young workers and how they should be managed differently in the workplace?
Millennials, who comprise Generation Y, are those born between the 1980s and 1990s and are known as the children of the baby boomers. They are those whose familiar terrain is the world of digital technology in communication and media, the basic instructional tool used during their time in school.
In 1987, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe were widely known to have coined the term “millennial,” but it was psychologist Jean Twenge who described the millennials as overly aggressive, self-centered and materialistic, in her 2006 book “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before.”
This was followed by a critical cover story against millennials by Time magazine titled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” which was published in 2013. By now, you can imagine that millennials are groups of people whose characters are about 10,000 kilometres distant from those of their parents, the previous generation of people who were educated all right but worked all their lives using the 3Ts (telegrams, telex, and typewriters). They did their college thesis using the most difficult approach – by spending countless hours in the school library to understand the printed contents of real books and encyclopaedias – considered backward in today’s practice.
Today, it has become very easy to study and go through school education, with all the research material a student needs readily available at one’s fingertips with the help of high-speed digital technology in the form of laptop computers and smart phones.
“The real problem with millennials,” according to Jake Novak of CNBC, is their tendency to “miss the economic boat.” In the United States, some studies revealed that “younger American adults ages 18 to 33 are less likely to own a home, have a full-time job, own a car, or even use a credit card than older American generations when they were that age.”
Novak cites the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell, who “cites numerous polls insisting that millennials want to engage in all the social and economic trappings of adulthood but just can’t afford it.” And that’s where the trouble begins. The millennials have a different idea of working and living as they’re more preoccupied with the theme of their next tattoo and what part of their body to place them.
In another article written for CNBC, Everett Rosenfeld says, “studies have shown that millennials in the workplace are seen as disproportionately entitled, and are willing to sacrifice work friends for a promotion, but new research shows that they are even more willing to lie to get ahead.”
Rosenfeld, a journalist who is a product of Yale University, claims that millennials “would take credit for someone else’s work to get ahead more than five times as frequently as boomers,” citing a new study by marketing firm DDB.
But then, people are people. Regardless of one’s age or birth year, managers must treat their workers equally, according to their KASH (knowledge, attitude, skills and habits), which is an objective measure of each and every worker that you’ll find in this planet. Forget about one’s birth year, but what s/he knows and how s/he could contribute to the achievement of corporate goals.
That’s why I can’t understand some people managers who are busy decoding millennials that they often miss the point of genuine meritocracy. They would even go to the extent of hiring consultants to help them cope with millennial workers, while ignoring the needs of other generations. What a waste of corporate resources! Sure, there are consultants who are willing to do it for them for a sizeable amount, except that many people don’t know they’re using the same formula as that of managing the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and of course, Generation Y or the millennials.
I’ve heard and talked to people managers who would often ask for my advice on how to manage the millennials. My answer is as brief as this: “You have to control your reflexes. When you hear the word millennial, stop, look and listen to what they’re doing in your organization, rather than to their perceived, dreadful characteristics. In particular, ask, “Are they the kind of people who would want to be exempted from company rules, because they possess a bit of technological knowhow, or for other reasons?”
If yes, then don’t take that bait. You have to make a serious study and compare its implication with other generations of workers. In psychology, there’s such a thing as classical conditioning or the involuntary (reflex) response to a stimulus other than the original, natural stimulus that normally produces the reflex. When you hear the word “millennial,” or if you happen to know one’s birth year, proceed as if they’re no different from other generations. In other words, don’t give them any special treatment, because there’s one rule that fits all.
If millennials are “miserable” as described by Twenge, then why should managers cure their misery?
Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to email@example.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts on Elbonomics.