Who is "responsible" for fixing the "Millennials" in the Workplace?

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Leader
Admin
You said it better than I did, TWA. If we want worker who behave as we have done, they're still out there. There are also dynamic, fast-paced snap-thinkers who understand technology better than most of us do (an opportunity) yet may struggle to fit in (a risk).

To address the risk, we may need to ask ourselves which would work best: asking them to fit into our environment, or considering the general environment around us is changing and adapt to it ourselves?
 

Ronen E

Problem Solver
Moderator
I don't accept the dichotomy -

Patience = shutting off your brain = accepting anything and everything = stagnation = boredom = hired hands etc.

Vs.

Creativity = fast-pace = being cool = looking for instant gratification = dealing with a hundred things at a time, and with none = breakthroughs = knowledge workers etc.

Sometimes (many times?) real creativity and real breakthroughs - not the next cool buzz - require patience, a lot of patience, deep quiet thought, trial and error including painful failures, and other "boring stuff". One in a million is really a gifted genius, or one might just get lucky, but for the majority of us real achievement requires the ability to focus on one thing (the essence) for long enough, collect one's thoughts ans see both the big picture and the details. Seems like current social media (or should I say anti social media? It's many times either anti-social or anti-media) does not promote those qualities.
 

Marc

Fully vaccinated are you?
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TWA - not the airline

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I don't accept the dichotomy -

Patience = shutting off your brain = accepting anything and everything = stagnation = boredom = hired hands etc.

Vs.

Creativity = fast-pace = being cool = looking for instant gratification = dealing with a hundred things at a time, and with none = breakthroughs = knowledge workers etc.

Sometimes (many times?) real creativity and real breakthroughs - not the next cool buzz - require patience, a lot of patience, deep quiet thought, trial and error including painful failures, and other "boring stuff". One in a million is really a gifted genius, or one might just get lucky, but for the majority of us real achievement requires the ability to focus on one thing (the essence) for long enough, collect one's thoughts ans see both the big picture and the details. Seems like current social media (or should I say anti social media? It's many times either anti-social or anti-media) does not promote those qualities.

Ronen,

totally agree with you regarding breakthroughs needing focus and patience, see Edison...And I also agree with you that these qualities are generally on the wane, but I guess the last 20 years have shown that there is still lots of innovation.
My main point was that though there are things that really have not changed for ages like complaining about the younger generations there also are things that have changed with time and the advance of technology. When today's knowledge workers question the status quo it's not (only) because they are millennials; lots of Gen X, Y and Z are also still questioning the system.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Leader
Admin
I don't accept the dichotomy -

Patience = shutting off your brain = accepting anything and everything = stagnation = boredom = hired hands etc.

Vs.

Creativity = fast-pace = being cool = looking for instant gratification = dealing with a hundred things at a time, and with none = breakthroughs = knowledge workers etc.

Sometimes (many times?) real creativity and real breakthroughs - not the next cool buzz - require patience, a lot of patience, deep quiet thought, trial and error including painful failures, and other "boring stuff". One in a million is really a gifted genius, or one might just get lucky, but for the majority of us real achievement requires the ability to focus on one thing (the essence) for long enough, collect one's thoughts ans see both the big picture and the details. Seems like current social media (or should I say anti social media? It's many times either anti-social or anti-media) does not promote those qualities.
I regret giving the impression that such a dichotomy exists. I mentioned lack of patience, but tried to specify that there's a lack of patience for bureaucracy. It would be a big mistake to pigeonhole people's characteristics and characters into age groups. We are talking about behaviors and how to deal with the differences when we are confronted by them. I hope I have done a better job of expressing myself.
 

Ronen E

Problem Solver
Moderator
I also agree with you that these qualities are generally on the wane, but I guess the last 20 years have shown that there is still lots of innovation.

That's not exactly what I meant... I don't think that there's less patience in the workforce today. I think it's just about as it always was, and the other thing that hasn't changed much since at least the 50's and 60's is that the patience distribution is not even across the age axis. Young people have always been more jittery, long before FB came about.

When today's knowledge workers question the status quo it's not (only) because they are millennials; lots of Gen X, Y and Z are also still questioning the system.

I think whoever is/was a thinking being in general is/was a thinking being at the workplace, always. Call them "knowledge workers" if you like, but whoever acts as a thinking being at the workplace (could be a boilermaker for instance) will most likely question the system. Naturally, they would do so more at young and middle age and tend to settle as they age. I agree that it has nothing to do with the "Gens". By the way, I'm a Gen X myself, and have been more of a renegade 20 years ago than now.

I don't think much has changed in the average workplace in the last 20 years as far as the people themselves go. The thing that did change is the introduction of anti social media and the prevalence of instant messaging in every conceivable form. From my personal impression it is mostly destructive to the office work environment though occasionally (seldom?) something good comes out of it. However, I think that it's almost equally destructive for anyone under 60 today, be they late boomers, X or Y (I didn't see many >60s so attached to their chellphones or ASM accounts).
 
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Ronen E

Problem Solver
Moderator
I regret giving the impression that such a dichotomy exists. I mentioned lack of patience, but tried to specify that there's a lack of patience for bureaucracy. It would be a big mistake to pigeonhole people's characteristics and characters into age groups. We are talking about behaviors and how to deal with the differences when we are confronted by them. I hope I have done a better job of expressing myself.

Don't worry, I wasn't referring to your posts, or to anyone's on this thread in specific. That dichotomy is out there, all around us. I was just trying to say that patience and "looking boring" from the outside are not on the other side from creativity and fresh thinking. On the contrary.

I'm also not saying that all young people are impatient. I'm just saying that in average they are more so, and that applies both to impatience towards bearaucracy and any other type. I hope we can agree about that.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Leader
Admin
I've noticed I am suffering more these days from a short attention span (really). When I get absorbed in something, though - like figuring out Excel formulas for my tools - I can focus on it for a long time. I have noticed young people doing the same, if it is something they are interested in.

We can't do it all day though. It is not possible to have top productivity consistently, though we can try. This challenge is why employers try to replace us with machines and software.

Speaking to the original question: I am not sure it is the employer's right or responsibility to try to change youngsters. This really is a tough question because people do tend to mature and it's no good to throw up our hands and feel we must give way. I just think it might be worthwhile to, metaphorically speaking and where appropriate, try to tidy up our own house before asking the kid to clean up his own room.
 

Ronen E

Problem Solver
Moderator
I've noticed I am suffering more these days from a short attention span (really). When I get absorbed in something, though - like figuring out Excel formulas for my tools - I can focus on it for a long time. I have noticed young people doing the same, if it is something they are interested in.

We can't do it all day though. It is not possible to have top productivity consistently, though we can try. This challenge is why employers try to replace us with machines and software.

Speaking to the original question: I am not sure it is the employer's right or responsibility to try to change youngsters. This really is a tough question because people do tend to mature and it's no good to throw up our hands and feel we must give way. I just think it might be worthwhile to, metaphorically speaking and where appropriate, try to tidy up our own house before asking the kid to clean up his own room.

That's interesting. In the last 2-3 years I've come to the conclusion that as a specialist the main thing I am being paid for is my patience and ability to absorb large amounts of information (often intricate and quite boring information), extract the essence and draw some operable recommendations. And yes, sometimes my job is to do that all day long, for days on end. I feel that most people that have the motive and intelligence to do the same (ie potential clients) are either unable or unwilling to cope with the dullness and keep concentrated for more than 2-3 hours straight. Perhaps it's a sign of the times and a result of information flooding. On the other hand, if one's work environment abounds with potential distractions, and the specific work culture around is forgiving of yielding to such distractions, the task becomes much harder. When I need to focus on something that I know is going to be lengthy and rather boring I put on some music (not radio), I don't check emails and I don't reply to texts or phone calls unless it's an emergency or something important I was expecting. And I definitely don't check ASM.

Employers are not responsible for rectifying bad work habits (or bad habits in general), but it's in their interest to do so. Is it their right? In my opinion yes, as long as basic human rights are not run over in the process. After all, most "knowledge workers" are being paid for actually dedicating their time in the office to work. Calling oneself "a knowledge worker" just so that one can loaf around the office unaccountable, dedicating the occasional 10-15 minutes to actual knowledge work, is unfair towards your employer I think. Needless to say this has nothing to do with age or Gen.
 
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Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Leader
Admin
There are young people who can apply long-term focus on material I would find boring. Coding comes to mind. Some workplaces (Google is famous for it) have adapted their workplace to help their knowledge workers apply themselves for the necessary amount of time. My boss at my previous corporate employer strenuously disapproved. Their approach to work isn't for everyone. When asked, Millennials described what would help them stay:

  • Millennials need to find meaning in their work
  • They want to learn and grow
  • They need approachable managers
While I can appreciate an overall need for workplace cohesion, based on the study it seems we might either hire persons who would fit in to our workplace (we try to do that anyway) or, if that fails to get and retain the talent we want, then change how we work so we can reduce the costs of getting it wrong. It's all about priorities.

For what it's worth, Forbes ran an article about correcting employee behavior. The article is not very long but the links are good.
 
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