Not long ago, a young worker accused, "They just don't get it!" By "they" he meant me and my generation; Boomers. Ironically, a Boomer friend of mine who oversees a staff of sixty-five, recently made a similar comment about Millennials. "These younger ones, they think everything is owed to them for nothing They just don't get it!!"
Being privileged to enjoy a family with six young professionals, I hear a lot about Millennial tensions at work with older generation bosses. Also, just as equally privileged, I enjoy great friendships with Generation Xers & Boomer professionals. These older professionals share quite often their frustrations about their millennial counterparts at work.
What Generation Xers & Boomer Bosses Want To Could Say To Millennials
"How about a little respect?"
In our social digital media age, blunt force trauma comments occur daily, hourly, ah . . . minutely. A friend of mind puts it this way. "I would never have gotten away with talking to my boss the way these kids speak to me." By "kids" he referred to thirty-somethings. He held that younger employees might find his favor more if they simply spoke a little kinder to him. Boomer bosses often feel like they are in the cross hairs of lack of appreciation. "When they speak to me like that if just takes the wind out of my sails," was his cry. He went on, "I earned my way into this position, I possess skills, and I simply would appreciate a little kindness."
"You have to earn it first!"
Ah, there it is. The often repeated dirty "E" word; also known as "entitlement." A friend recently shared a comment made to an employee, "Create your own opportunities if you don't like the ones I am giving you. Don't ask me to give you mine!" I replied, "What opportunities do you offer to your younger employees besides a job and a wage?" He looked at me a bit dumbfounded and changed the conversation.
"How about a little work?"
Uttered a millennial of times about Millennials is "their lack of work ethic." Older bosses complain profusely that younger employees are undependable, unproductive, and whiners. One boss cried, "They show up late, and want to leave early. They attend work more than they work at work." He continued to emphasize that hard working employees get his ear, his time, and his respect. My inquiry, "What kind of productivity do your 'hard workers' produce compared to your 'lazy workers?'"
"You want to get paid how much?"
Boomers remember starting their careers on a far less salary than today's Millennials are demanding. A friend of mine who oversees several hundred people in a large banking firm stated this sentiment. "I can't believe these kids think $50,000 a year is nothing! That's more than double what I got when I started my career!"
"A little loyalty?"
"We've done so much for him. You'd think he at least owes it to the company to stick around for a while," cries the small business owner. Millennials change jobs frequently as older workers willingly hang on a little longer.
What Millennials Wished They Could Say To Their Older Bosses, and Sometimes Do!
How about being a little more authentic?
Younger adults tire of hearing the blustering of accomplishments and successes. They believe they are keenly aware of older management's strengths. They are also, quite aware of their weaknesses too. A young professional shared, "If he just shared with me instead of bragging about his accomplishments all the time, I might be willing to listen."
How about leading from your strengths?
A millennial friend shared, "I wish my boss would just do what she is good at doing, and let us do the rest." His complaint, "My supervisor tries to do my job. She is not good at doing my job. That's why she hired me. So, rather than let me soar, she steps in front of me on the runway. I'm always taxiing. I never get to take off. So, I'm going to get off this job runway. I quit."
How about empowering us in action rather than just in words.
"Yes, they say they are empowering us, but they really don't mean that," is the millennial's mantra. One young man on staff at a very large mega church made that statement. Holding a master's degree in Hebrew and Greek, along with a minor in IT skills, he left the job, ministry, and the Church. He shared, "They kept telling us how important we were. But, they never allowed us to do anything important. The work was menial at best."
Stop Micromanaging Us!
"If you hire me to do a job, because you do not possess the skill to do this job yourself, then let me do my job!" Millennials are frustrated that they are not given more freedom to create, make decisions, and exert a little influence. A young graphic arts designer complained that regularly on Friday afternoon his boss came into his office. Upon entering, he stood behind him looking over his shoulders. After about twenty minutes he requested major changes be made to his project. His 'request' was, "Please have it ready for presentation on Monday morning. Bellowing, the young employee cried, "After hours of creativity, a very non-creative person demands I change my creation into a very non-creative creation!"
Can you just listen for a minute?
Sitting with two very young reps in a coffee shop an interesting conversation ensued. Being very young, both women fall into the Eco-boomer generation; born after Millennials. Having worked with both on a number of projects, they knew their stuff. I was impressed with their professionalism and creativity. One lamented, "I might spend more time in the office, if we could actually move in our offices." My puzzled look begged for more information. She continued, "There is so much stuff stacked all over the place in our offices that we can barely sit in our offices. I've tried to talk with my department heads, but to no avail. They just don't listen. We can't get rid of anything!" Working for a well-known large nonprofit, this certainly surprised me. I asked, "How old are your department heads?" All of us along with my wife erupted in laughter.
I deserve to get paid this much.
I'm worth it!" Millennials and Eco-boomers maintain they are uniquely trained in newer systems, technologies, and techniques. "I'm worth the salary, just look at what I can do!" Millennials are the largest, best educated, and most diverse group of workers in American history. And,
"I need to get paid this much I really do!"
Millennials and Eco-boomers carry staggering student loan debts into the tens of thousands of dollars. Two of my sons still struggle to pay off their student loans ten years after graduation. My niece just received her bachelor's degree from a state university. Her student loan debt stands at $80,000! She is now in a master's program borrowing more to study. Estimated final debt; $150,000.
Where Does That Leave Us Now?
As a Boomer myself, I seem to faintly remember my builder parents issuing the same concerns. And, if I'm honest, I too remember in my earlier years feeling left out, unappreciated, and underutilized.
From my perspective, one thing is certain. There are some pretty brilliant, creative, and technologically advanced young workers out there! Equally, ability, experience, and know-how exists deep within the ranks of older employers. There is no shortage of talent. There just seems to be a shortage of community. Maybe we should work more on community?
Just My Thoughts,
Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.