There’s a slew of articles that bust myths and debunk millennial stereotypes. What readers fail to realize is that these articles are lessons learned from non-millennials. As accurate as the observations may be, millennial perspective is rarely included to explain why or how we are the way we are. While last week I shared dos and don’ts for millennials using lessons learned from my experience, this week I’m offering tips from other government millennials to give our colleagues and supervisors some ideas on how to work with us, manage us, and/or understand us.
We struggle with the concept of seniority. We come from backgrounds based on skill and competency. It’s strange for us to belong a workplace where there are certain perks (like window cubes or desk sizes), justifications, or authority based on tenure. Especially in circumstances where it’s authority by seniority, we’re not being rude or disrespectful if we push back. We’re just trying to figure out how things work.
Let us to try to implement one of our ideas. Millennials are a generation that likes to try ideas, even if they fail. If our idea fails, then we’ve learned something very important. If our idea succeeds, then everyone has learned something. As government becomes agile, our innate ability to try, learn, and adapt could make us helpful allies…or guinea pigs.
Our brains work differently. We think differently. We’re going to do things differently. To us, it doesn’t matter how we get things done or how we arrive at the solution. It’s more important that we get there in the first place. If the methodology or the process matters, explain that. Chances are, we didn’t know there was a methodology or a process in the first place.
Train us on standard operating procedures before turning us loose, especially for your office’s legacy systems and technologies. It’s second nature for us to click around until we learn how something works. The flip side of this means that we break things. It could be dangerous and risky to let us poke around, especially if the systems and technologies have specific sensitive procedures or irreproducible single-copy data/information. Want to blow our minds? Show us a real fax machine and teach us how to use it.
Treat and respect us as your peer, not your kid’s friend. We know we’re young. We know you might have children our age, or close to our age, but we’re also your colleague. As strange or awkward as it may be for you, know that it’s just as odd for us to be on first-name basis with people for whom we previously would address by titles.
Don’t mistake our requests for engagement or feedback as neediness. We have been spoiled by our ability to obtain real-time feedback and data in our personal lives. It makes sense to us that we should be able to obtain real-time data on our performance at work. When we submit reports, make presentations, or turn work in, we’re likely to follow-up with you for feedback—and we want real constructive honest feedback, not praise. Use these opportunities for one-on-one coaching sessions to help us enhance our skills.
Review and revamp training campaigns and materials that use statistics and data for shock value. This is especially important for violence awareness programs (like active shooter or antiterrorism courses) that use shock-and-awe. Shock-and-awe doesn’t work for us. Contrary to popular opinions held by pundits, parental associations, and watchdog organizations, this dissociation or desensitization isn’t because of violent video games or violent movies. It’s because of real violence and the long dark shadows it has cast on our childhoods. Consider the following facts about the current cohort of millennials entering the workforce now or who have entered the workforce within the last six years:
- Columbine High School happened when we were in grade school. Active shooter drills have been an annual occurrence since before our permanent teeth came in.
- September 11th happened when we were in middle school. World affairs and terrorism became part of our daily vernacular since before we learned about American civics.
- Virginia Tech happened when we were in high school. College tours and orientation sessions highlighted safety, security features, and alert systems before academics and extracurricular programming.
See, the millennial generation could be a very cynical disillusioned one since we became keenly aware of The Real World at such young ages. It’s not at all unlikely that the ripple effects from these moments allowed us to develop unique perspectives. These perspectives may cause us to question the status quo in the office so when you get frustrated, know that we only mean well. But above all, know that our end goals are the same as yours; to make a positive difference and to serve our communities.
Meganne Lemon is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.