Lessons from the “Me First” Generation
It may be tempting to dismiss the millennial generation as a bunch of spoiled brats, however we have something important to learn from the millennial mindset. The millennial outlook on life is forcing previous generations to reconsider some serious workplace issues. A key driver in the shift from a Mass Production driven economy to one based on Mass Customization is the millennials approach to life.
Often called the “trophy kids,” parents of these children replaced the old adage that, “Children should be seen, not heard” with “The sun rises and sets on our children’s wants and needs.” As a result, this generation disdains hierarchy and authority.
The millennial generation’s teachers focused on building self-esteem insisting every child gets a gold star regardless of the quality of their work. According to Dr. Nicole Lipkin, author of Y in the Workplace: Managing the “Me First” Generation, this generation lacks resilience and exhibits weak critical thinking skills. Spoiled or not. millennials want their products and services customized to fit their particular wants and needs.
While it is easy to focus on the negatives of this generation, in Business at the Speed of NowI explore three major positive aspects of the millennial generation:
- Strong bias for the healthy integration of work and non-work life
- Deep unwavering commitment to social responsibility
- Low fear of change that enables their creativity and inventiveness
My own belief about millennials is that their positives actually align with beliefs of previous generations with one huge difference: this generation is intolerant of compromise. This impatient generation struggles to understand when something needs to change in their workplace why it is not changed NOW. They have little respect for slow chain-of-command decisions and they are used to instant gratification.
The power in these aspects of generational difference is that they insist that wrongs should be righted as soon as they are discovered. When they see a solution they pressure management to make the change immediately and if they hear, “It will take about six months” it is a completely unacceptable answer.
I share and value the beliefs of this generation, however like many in my baby boomer generation the temptation to compromise is ever present. So, what are the implications of the millennial mindset for how we run our organizations and how we engage our people? I think we need to remember that when something is wrong we should make it right – NOW. If a process is broken or a customer is wronged, our people need to have the skills and authority to solve the problem in real time.
While millennials may come across as self-absorbed and spoiled, it might be worth looking beyond appearances and instead focus on the underlying social good they are calling on us to do.