Imagine a workplace culture without labels. No, not the nameplate labels near our workspaces. I mean the characteristics of a certain group of people. You know those labels – it sounds like; “Millennials” or “kids”. Sound familiar? We should all strive to lead a culture formed from the diversity of thought and the passion of all generations under one mission.
The term “Millennial” has become somewhat of a dirty label in the workplace. Every time you hear one of your colleagues being referred to as a Millennial; know your culture has just hit a speed bump. The label itself often seems to poke fun at generational trends or casts them in a light as naïve, entitled, privileged, and self-centered.
Using a label to apply to an age group limits both the individuals and the organization. The millennial label provides a haven for those who fear change and those who are unwilling to learn from the change others have undergone. Labeling is a verbal wall built between professional age groups to create excuses for not working together instead of embracing our difference of thought to ignite creativity.
When we create a label such as Millennial, we are giving permission to that generation to do the same to the next. We instead need to build personal strategic plans together. These plans are the integration of all generations using their talents to build a platform of growth upon which we can all stand.
The Millennial has helped shaped modern culture in a way that makes them valuable to the future vision of organizations. Millennials have blossomed in a world engulfed by technology and been exposed to an overwhelming amount of information. Like previous generations, they grew up thinking they had all the answers. They used collaboration tactics in the classroom and assembled thousand man marches from hashtags. This familiarity with technology has created a generation that has had a huge role in shaping modern culture.
Millennials are so influential that Webster’s started incorporating “trending” words and phrases into its dictionaries. This is a great example of a cross-cultural contamination of sorts, figuratively intertwining the formal legitimacy of the corporate workplace and the casual transience of the modern Millennial.
The common discussion that pops up often is the sense of entitlement woven into Millennial culture. In fact, the label often diminishes a person’s intellect and skill set by boxing them in and slapping a sticker on them. Where are these criticisms born? Do our egos dictate the labels that we use to define other people who are different? It is never easy to admit when we don’t know something, whether it is as simple as navigating social media or creating pivot tables. Perhaps this vulnerability makes it easier to create an “us versus them” dynamic.
We must ask ourselves, should we be doing more to unearth the intentions and work ethic of people in general rather than vilifying them based on loosely based stereotypes? We must make the conscious effort to stop labeling people so that we aren’t depriving ourselves of the opportunity to get to know them and learn something new.
The list below is framework for how any organization can build a growth driven multi-generational strategy:
- Make it part of your culture to stop saying the word Millennial.
- Conduct a personal strategic planning process along with performance reviews.
- Develop an advisory panel which includes all ages of professionals to meet with senior leadership.
- Build goals and objectives focused on utilizing the combined talents of all collegial age groups.
- Pay less attention to the age of the colleague and more attention to their energy.
- Be a humble listener when all generations speak to you.
Remember to avoid living in the past. The past is overrated compared to what you are about to achieve.
By: Anthony C. Gruppo and Zara Lone