I started a job in November and the job is okay, but the attitude of my co-workers is very negative toward my age group.
They make comments about "those millennials" as though I were not in the room.
It's rude. My co-workers range in age from their mid-thirties to their fifties. I like them well enough. Why do they have a bias against younger employees?
I am old enough to remember when the generation that preceded yours -- Generation X -- entered the working world. They got a lot of flack, too!
It seems that every generation has to deal with negative comments and broad-brush generalizations, but the generation-bashing is worse for millennials.
There is a lot of fear in the working world these days. Older workers may feel neglected or pushed aside in favor of younger, sprightlier workers. Age discrimination is a big problem for folks aged 50 or older and even some people in their forties.
People in fear tend to look for someone to blame for their frustrations --- and many people have decided that millennial employees are the problem!
Of course, that is ridiculous. I spend a lot of time with folks your age.
I love the fact that many young people are questioning the way work is performed and the relationship between working people and their employers. That is a healthy and essential line of questioning. We should all be asking hard questions like:
1. Why do jobs still require us to be at a certain place at a certain time and stay there all day, when technology enables many jobs to be performed from almost anywhere?
2. Why is fear-based management still so prevalent in the working world?
3. Why do some managers require employees to be docile and obedient when what businesses really need are big new ideas and pointed questions about the status quo?
4. Why do people commit every waking hour and brain cell to their jobs when employers commit almost nothing to their employees?
Now is a great time for all of us to question old ideas about work and careers. It is a new millennium, after all -- the perfect time to shake old systems up and make them better.
I tell a story in many of my workshops for leaders. It's a story about a woman who hired her son to work in her company one summer. The son is a young guy just out of college.
On the kid's first day at work, his mom loaded him up with a list of 35 tasks she wanted him to perform. She said "I'll be in meetings all morning, but I'll check in with you before I leave for lunch." The kid got started on his 35 assignments. Just before her lunch appointment, the mom checked in with him. "How are you doing?" she asked.
Mom expected the kid to take two to three days to finish his 35 projects. Some of them were pretty involved and required him to search through old files or make numerous phone calls.
"I'm done," said the kid. He had only been at work for three and a half hours. "There were two items on your list that I'd be terrible at, so I didn't do those," he continued.
"You called them check-in calls but they are essentially collection calls. I'm just not comfortable chasing an invoice but I did everything else."
The kid's mom laughed when she told me the story. "This is my kid to a T," she said.
"He's great at so many things, but he also draws a line in the sand, politely. He told me he wouldn't make collection calls -- at least not on his first day. I respect that. I gave him 15 more projects to complete and he got them all done on his first day."
When I tell this story about the millennial employee who smashed through 33 assignments in a half-day, my audience is typically split about 70/30. Seventy percent of the managers in the room will say "Great kid!" and wonder where they could find an intern like that.
Thirty percent get irritated. They say "Who is that punk kid to tell the boss he won't make collection calls?" They remember when they had to suck it up and do whatever the job required when they were the kid's age. They don't appreciate hearing about a kid who sets boundaries with his boss.
Learning is a funny thing. It is easy to say "The kid should make collection calls if his mom wants him to! It would be a learning experience."
They want the kid to be forced into a learning experience on his first day of work, but they don't want to have a learning experience themselves -- for instance, the experience of working with an intern who has their own boundaries.
I love this story because it illustrates how many millennials see their work. They want to be rational about their work, but traditionally work has not been rational. It has been ruled by fear, and fear of the boss is one of the greatest fears working people know.
That's why most of us do whatever our boss tells us to do. We don't have the chutzpah that kid showed his mom, but of course he felt more comfortable with his mom than he might feel working for a different boss. His mom reinforced the kid's judgment when she said "Forget the collection calls. I have more important things I need you to do for me."
She followed the kid, who knows his own gifts, rather than busting the kid for deciding he wouldn't do something his boss had assigned to him. Many managers could not be that flexible. They were taught to respect authority no matter what, and it is hard to step out of that mindset.
Some people resent millennials because they want everybody to stay in their boxes.
There is no point in arguing with your co-workers when they start bashing young people. The best way to ease them out of their fear of change and new ideas is simply to be yourself.
However, we all have a limit. If the sniping comments become too much and don't ease up over time, then this job does not deserve you. Unlike some of your co-workers who may be terrified of changing jobs, you know you can get hired somewhere else if you decide to move on.
Give it a month or two and listen to your trusty gut above all other guides!