In the back of every working Boomer’s mind is an uneasiness about work and achievement. “Am I doing the best job? ” “Is anyone gaining on me?” “Am I still competitive?” Our research suggests that Millennials do not share these concerns. Here are some stories we’ve heard lately from younger clients which are evocative of very different attitudes.
Thirty-three year old techie: “My boss keeps talking about teamwork. That means I’m expected to solve problems for two ancient techno twits. I am being used. Now I say I don’t know the answer.”
Twenty-six-year-old CPA: “I work for a law firm and the few associates we have work 24/7. When I leave at 5 p.m. I never think about the firm until I get there the next day. The difference between me and them is school debt! They are trapped for at least another five years and they know it.”
Thirty-year-old MBA: “My boss wants the seven of us in the department to have a drink together after work every other Wednesday. I make it once a month. By the time he decides to punish me for not bonding, one of the on-line businesses I’m involved with will be able to support me.”
Thirty-five-year-old manager: “I job hunt continuously and I’ve moved every two years. I’m 30 percent ahead of my peers in pay despite the Great Recession! My boss just asked for a two-year commitment in exchange for a 10 percent raise (huge in this organization). Of course, I agreed. Will I honor it? As long as no one makes me a better offer.”
If the cynicism drips off your computer screen, welcome to the almost-post recession world. Two themes stand out: Boomers aren’t nearly as bonded to, or beloved by, younger workers as they’d like to believe. Many are seen as fuzzy optimists. No one is more clear-eyed or less romantic about work than 25-35-year-olds. Younger workers understand impermanence: If you don’t own the business you have no control over your fate. You can’t count on your bosses to make intelligent decisions. Frequently they do things so dumb it is jaw dropping. Take care of yourself. Don’t invest emotionally in any business you don’t own. Learn what you can and move frequently.
How to Engage Millennials
Here’s the punch line: All focus groups, individual interviews, and other people’s’ research indicate that the best strategy for keeping potential millennial stars is to challenge them, work them flat-out, but leave them alone emotionally. All work is a thought problem. The reward is well-compensated skills development. Boomers who believe Millennials are “mini-mes” are doomed to serial disappointment. Change your thinking and change the outcome.
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