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Millennials

Millennials@Work (And their Bosses)

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CJ interviews Dr. Chip Espinoza who is the co-author of Millennials@Work: The 7 Skills Every Twenty-Something Needs to Overcome Roadblocks and Achieve Greatness At Work and Managing the Millennials. What Millennials and their managers just don’t understand about each other? What are the seven most important skills Millennials can practice at work? Why is building a relationship with your manager the key to getting promoted?

How are Millennials Different than Previous Generations?

Millennials are more diverse and educated than any generation preceding them. Growing up in the digital age, Millennials present both challenges and opportunities as the workplace evolves to accommodate many changes that coincide with Millennials entering the workforce.  One of the biggest challenges is adapting to the different communication norms and method (email, phone) established in other generations.

Another often looked over change is the shift in power dynamics brought on by changes in technology. Unlike the generations before it, Millennials don’t need an authority figure to gain access to information which challenges power dynamics established during the Generation X and Baby Boomer generations.  In previous generations, those with positional power were granted authority just by virtue of their title alone. Whereas on the internet, authority is owned and decided by the masses. These same authority figures in organizations had power just through greater access to information higher in the food chain.  Now, Millennials find information, make decisions, and form opinions which while giving them more power undervalues the value of their manager’s experience.

Technology is just one of the trends that make this Millennial generation different than previous one.  The other trend is the nurturing environment both at home and school environment that Millennials were raised in.  Millennials have been raised in the world of time outs, positive rewards (vs. punishment), physical connection, emotional intelligence, collaborated problem solving, and community involvement. These early influences during their formative years is a marked cultural change once they enter traditional work environments which are often more competitive, hierarchical, and less nurturing.

Source: “Leap over the Generation Gap, Co, www.contractingbusiness.com.

Another marked change in Millennials is their attitude towards work affected by their life experiences during their formative years.  Millennials have grown up witnessing, Sept 11 attacks, the recession, the Middle East uprising, and a world filled with senseless violence.  All of this has changed their life view and the basic ideas of “the American dream” and their desire to play the game of life that their parents played.  Millennials are questioning the work lifestyle of the generations before it that include hours spent in a cubicle, one hour commutes on crowded highways, and putting in face-time just to get promoted. They question the outcome that playing this game results in.  Most Millennials have parents who played this game and found their retirements wiped out during the recession or their loyal parents be laid off and replaced by outsourced talent or automation.  As a result, Millennials want to have more clarity on rewards, and more work-life balance.

Millennials@Work

(Source: Note all text from this point forward are excerpts pulled from Espinoza, C. (2014). Millennials @ work: The 7 skills every twenty-something (and their manager) needs to overcome roadblocks and achieve greatness (1st ed.). FranklinCovey.

Research in “Millennials@Work” report the key stats and attributes that differentiate Millennials from previous generations (p10):

  • Demographics: Millennials are more ethically and racially diverse than previous generations.  Millennials are less religious, less likely to serve in Military, and on track to being more educated.
  • Work style: Millennials want flexibility with when, where, and how they work, and are not interested in punching the proverbial time clock. They are hesitant to settle for less than what they expect. They don’t like to be micromanaged.
  • Motivation:  Millennials want more than a paycheck at work and are less interested in the American dream and building a stable nest egg. Millennials want to create something and be part of something that make a difference in the world

Stats on Millennials@ Work

  • 70% of Millennials think they need “Me time” at work
  • 60% of Millennials feel that they will switch jobs in less than five years.
  • 25% of Millennials say they are completely satisfied with their current job
  • 80% of Millennials think they deserve to be recognized for their work.
  • 90% of Millennials think they deserve their dream job.

Misconceptions and Misunderstandings between Millennials and managers

Chip Espinoza’s research for his book “Managing the Millennials” reveals the disconnect in their manager’s perceptions and stereotypes of Millennials that they have to overcome once they enter the workforce.

Millennial Values/Needs How your manager sees it
Blending work and life – Flexible schedule, don’t like to be micromanaged as long as they complete their work. Millennials are more outcome-oriented than process-oriented.  Don’t want standard processes to restrict ways of working that are faster, smarter, or more effective. Autonomous– don’t need to conform to office processes. Aren’t willing to play by the rules.
Reward– Want a guarantee for performance not the opportunity to perform. Want to be recognized and valued. Have high expectations with respect to the speed of their career development and feel frustrated when they aren’t promoted quickly enough. Entitled – Want lots of recognized and rewards.  Want to move up the ladder quickly but not always on the management’s terms.
Self-expression- Want to express their ideas and opinions on how to make things better. Feel dismayed when their ideas are dismissed. Want to be listened to and feel that they not taken seriously. Want to make impact on day one and feel like they contribute something meaningful. Imaginative – Viewed as having great imagination and fresh perspectives that run counter to mechanistic processes.  Will be listened to once they have more experience in the job. Missing the long view.
Attention- Tasks are a means to an end. Millennials want encouragement and praise. They want to know how they are doing via feedback. Frustration occurs when feedback is non-existent, untimely, or vague. Self-Absorbed – More concerned with how they are treated versus how they treat others.
Informality- Short text-like answers when communicating. Don’t know how to act and are often unclear with corporate culture with respect to dress code, unwritten rules, communication style. Feel disrespect due to their age. Abrasive Millennial’s communication styles are seen as curt or rude.  Seen as inattentive to social courtesies (e.g.- Please, and thank you”).  Viewed as disrespectful of authority.
Achievement. They want to be told they are doing well, get feedback. They want to have opportunity, but told they lack experience. They want to be rewarded for work they do and be promoted faster. They want to know what is expected of them and have clear expectations. DefensiveIn terms of receiving critical feedback Millennials are seen as angry, guarded, offense, resentful, and shifting responsibility. They are seen as impatient.
Simplicity:  Think in simplistic terms with cause-effect. Myopic –  Viewed as naïve, guided by internal interests without understanding of how others and the organization are impacted.
Multitasking: Like to focus on several tasks at once. Have a hard time staying focused on tasks for which they have no interest. Unfocussed – Lack of attention to details and difficulty staying on task.
Meaning – Want to find meaning in their work. Feel apathetic when doing simple assignments like filing and data-entry. Indifferent – Seen as careless, disinterred, or lacking commitment.

Video:  Why managers and Millennials often misunderstand each other?

  • 1:16 Why Millennials dominate the workforce? Largest generation in the workforce 53.4 Million. 1 in 5 are already managers.
  • 1:53 Why are professors having problems working with Millennials?
  • 2:53 How you know if Millennials are not engaged at work?
  • 4:32 Why Millennials have the same issues across the world?
  • 5:15 How managers perceptions of this cohort are very consistent?
  • 6:36 How do managers perceive Millennials?
  • 7:28 How do these perceptions create roadblocks for Millennial employees?
  • 9:10 What are top 10 roadblocks?
  • 10:38 Why if a Millennial isn’t complaining it means that they are not engaged?
  • 11:54 What do managers need to do to improve the relationship?

7 Skills every Twenty-something (and their Manager) Needs to Succeed @Work

Chip Espinoza offers 7 skills that he suggests Millennials should develop based on his research with managers and Millennials.

  1. Build a Relationship: This is one of the most important skills, which is why we have a whole section devoted to this idea below.
  2. Ask for the Details – Make sure to ask for more information before you start a project otherwise you may think you have done an amazing project only to find out that it wasn’t at all how your boss wanted it done. Examples of questions to ask:
    • What is expected of the job? What are priorities?
    • When does it need to be done?
    • Where can I find a good example of this work product? How do I get access to the data?
    • Who else do I need to involve

Get a clear understanding of the outcome your manager wants (e.g.- I am unclear about what my role is on the project?)  You can help by explaining to your manager about what you know and what you don’t.  Don’t assume that you can figure everything out. Ask to know more about the resources and support if you need more direction before you start a project (e.g.- If I need some support what information resources or people should I connect with?)

  1. See the Big Picture – Corporate culture is often never written down and rules established over long periods often seem archaic to new arrivers. Before you start suggesting new ideas, understand first why and how are things done at your organization.  Become a class A observer by slowing down your pace and paying attention to not only the dramatic, but also the subtle way things happen at work.  Once you understand the lay of the land (big picture) and the reason behind some process which Chip refers to as the “why” and the “what”, then you have more background before you deem a process or rule “stupid” and become noncompliant.
  1. Go for Feedback – Feedback helps reduce ambiguity and uncertainty about what to do at work, and help you understand how your behaviors are being evaluated. Chip Espinoza shares in his book that research shows that people who make the effort to go for feedback tend to work more efficiently, are happier at the job, stay with the organizations longer, and are better performers than those who don’t. Simple timely questions asked to your boss or even peers, mentors, or other employees can help provide feedback.  For example, you can ask something open-ended, such as “What went well with that project? What could have gone better?” Chip suggests asking to meet face-to-face when getting feedback, as you can get a lot from reading someone’s body language (http://www.fireitupwithcj.com/confident-body-language-work-mark-bowden/) The key when receiving feedback is to not take things personally.
  2. Be Accountable – Managers want employees that are dependable and take responsibility for their actions versus placing blame on others, making excuses, or justifying your actions when things don’t go well. Being accountable means that you monitor results you are getting, make deadlines, keep a consistent and reliable work schedule, show up for work on time, and track that your work achieves the expected outcomes.  Chip suggests that one way to be accountable is to check in early and often with your boss that things are on track and send up early warning signals if you need help.  Early is important because it’s easier to make course corrections early in any project.
  1. Recognize your value – Most companies aren’t being asked to be reinvented. While Millennials may be capable of doing so, the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies.   Despite an organization’s reticence to change, Millennials are super charged with ideas.  One way to channel a Millennial’s energy and passion is to look where your competencies are needed and intersect with what the organization needs.  For example, technology and social media are areas where Millennials have strengths that will likely match the organizational need. Chip suggests that if you want to be valued and promoted, that it’s important that you get clear with the rules of the promotion game. He suggests asking questions first before making requests for promotions.  For example, he offers the following questions to ask:“What is typical promotional path for my job? What specific things have people done to get promoted? What kind of accomplishments does the company value?.
  1. Know when to Focus – Electronics can keep us distracted at work. Managers complain that Millennials multitasking can lead to a lack of attention to detail and failure to focus on the tasks at hand. Chip offers a few ideas on how to split your tasks into either focus work or responsive work.  Focus work are tasks that require all your attention for large chunks of time (e.g.- forecasting, writing, designing graphics). He suggests putting all your electronics away and turning all notifications off during the focus time until you complete your tasks.  In his book, he offers research from Linda Stone that shows that big interruptions cost roughly 25 minutes of productivity, meaning nearly one-third of the work day is spent just recovering from them.  This is in contrast to responsive work (e.g.- monitoring studies, data entry, answering phone calls) where a few screens open may be ok.

David Meyer, a leading expert on attention, distraction, and multasking explains the problems with multitasking this way:

“The brain processes different kinds of information on a variety of separate ‘channels”- a language channel, a visual channel, an auditory channel, and so on- each of which can process only one stream of information at a time.  If you overburden a channel, the brain becomes inefficient and mistake-prone.” (p107)

Get some tips from these videos on how to keep focused from time management gurus:

http://www.fireitupwithcj.com/video-time-management-tips/

http://www.fireitupwithcj.com/time-management-with-love-and-logic/

How can Millennials build a relationship with their boss?

The single highest indicator of job satisfaction is your relationship with your boss.  While you may not be able to control your boss or many things at work, you can control how you relate to your situation and your boss.  The most important skill for a Millennials success is building a positive relationship with your boss.

A Gallup Poll found that employees who have a close friendship with their managers are more than 2.5 times likely to be satisfied with their job.  The poll showed that fewer than 1 in 5 people consider their boss to be a close friend (someone who cares about them both at work and outside of work).

In our research (Millennials @ Work), Millennials who had the ability to build relationships with authority figures advanced more quickly.  IT is not because they were smarter or more experienced than their colleagues, they simply made the effort to interact with their mangers. Consequently, managers saw them as more trustworthy, involved, and ready for advancement. P58

It’s important to understand where your manager may be coming from.  Many managers from the Gen X and Baby Boomer generation were given a sink or swim kind of experience when they first started work.  When they started, their managers just expected them to figure out how to do the job themselves, and they in turn may expect the same from you.  Some managers may have had some on the job training, and today many of those training programs have been cut.  In some fields, there is an expectation that you will play the game (e.g.- lawyers, engineers, etc) that everyone before you played.  In order to climb up the ladder, you must fiercely compete with others, put in time, or put in a lot of sweat equity initially and be saddled with the less glamorous jobs.  Sadly, for many organizations, this is till the game you must play to have your ideas be heard or get promoted.

This runs in conflict to Millennials who are used to have people attend to them.  If your manager seems to ignore you or be dismissive of you, this is likely a result of their previous work experiences.

Chip Espinoza suggests a few strategies for you to try when building a relationship with your boss.  His advice “It’s not your manager’s job to take care of you. It’s your job to take care of your manager.  Like it or not, it’s true! By building a great relationship with your manager, you’ll better prepare yourself for a successful workplace experience”.

How to build a relationship with your boss?

In every job you must manage both up and down.  What is managing up? Gabarro and Kotter from HBS describe “managing up” as devoting time and energy to managing their relationships with their bosses. They explain that this is not about showering supervisors with flattery; but instead understanding the reality that the manager–boss relationship is one of mutual dependence.

“Bosses need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports. Managers, for their part, rely on bosses for making connections with the rest of the company, for setting priorities, and for obtaining critical resources. It only makes sense to work at making the relationship operate as smoothly as possible”

They explain that managing up means understanding both your supervisor and yourself.  Specifically, understand each of your particularly strengths, weaknesses, work styles, and needs.  This self-awareness and awareness of your boss will help you facilitate better communication, as well as establishing a way of working together that fits both of you, and makes both of you more productive and effective.  Making your boss look good with their bosses helps both of you rise to the top.

  1. Take an interest in your manager– Ask your boss questions that you genuinely are interested in?
  2. Actively listen– This means to show your boss that you have heard what they are saying, which may be simply saying “yes”, “got it”, and repeating what they’ve said “So, you want me to get this report to you by Friday and send it in email, right?”
  3. Show Appreciation – Everyone appreciates a simple “Thank you” and “please” as ways of showing gratitude and appreciation. Start noticing when your manager is doing things that help you out.
  4. Match communication style: An easy way for you to build a bridge is to start understanding your bosses’ preferences in communication. Learn how they talk, the things he/she says, and the different ways they use to communicate. Do they like emails? Are there emails short/long? Do they prefer phone and to talk face-to-face?   Communicate back to them in their preferred style and method (e.g.-short email)

Start developing relationships

Leadership expert, Robert J. Clinton, found that a common denominator among up-and-coming leaders that he studied, was they sought four types of mentoring relationships (upward mentor, friendship mentor, and sandpaper mentor).  Find our more by listening to the video.

What happens when you have a difficult relationship?

In most power plays against your manger, the person with the most power (your boss) is likely to win.  In these cases, Chip Espinoza suggests that you borrow a strategy from Aikido. In Aikido you do not resist when someone comes after you, instead you step to the side and let them pass so that you move with your opponent versus against them.  Your goal is to see what the attacker sees.  If you feel that your manager is attacking you, step to the side. Instead of arguing, acknowledge their truth, feelings, and move from bargaining to problem-solving. Once you can receive constructive criticism and your boss feels heard you can move to a better place.

http://diversitymbamagazine.com/managing-conflict-in-the-workplace-with-martial-arts-thinking

https://books.google.com/books?id=8vdzAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA94&dq=aikido+step+to+their+side&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjU_6LO_MTOAhVNImMKHZXyC1oQ6AEIQTAG#v=onepage&q=aikido%20step%20to%20their%20side&f=false

Other strategies that work to diffuse conflict are:

About Author, Speaker, and Thought Leader Chip Espinoza

Dr. Chip Espinoza is the Co-author of Millennials@Work: The 7 Skills Every Twenty-Something Needs to Overcome Roadblocks and Achieve Greatness At Work and Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce. He is also Academic Director of the Organizational Psychology program at Concordia University Irvine.

Chip keynotes internationally and across the country on how to create an environment in which managers and Millennials thrive. Chip is a leading expert on the subject of generational diversity in the workplace. He consults in the civic, corporate, and non-profit sectors. His client list features great organizations like The Boeing Company, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, and Special Olympics.

Chip has authored several articles on the subject of leadership and is the go-to person for news agencies on the topic of integrating younger workers into the workforce. He is a content expert for CNN on the subject of Millennials in the workplace. He has also been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and in major publications. Chip was recently named a top 15 Global Thought Leader on the Future of Work by the Economic Times.

About Author, Speaker, and Thought Leader Chip Espinoza

Dr. Chip Espinoza is the Co-author of Millennials@Work: The 7 Skills Every Twenty-Something Needs to Overcome Roadblocks and Achieve Greatness At Work and Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce. He is also Academic Director of the Organizational Psychology program at Concordia University Irvine.

Chip keynotes internationally and across the country on how to create an environment in which managers and Millennials thrive. Chip is a leading expert on the subject of generational diversity in the workplace. He consults in the civic, corporate, and non-profit sectors. His client list features great organizations like The Boeing Company, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, and Special Olympics.

Chip has authored several articles on the subject of leadership and is the go-to person for news agencies on the topic of integrating younger workers into the workforce. He is a content expert for CNN on the subject of Millennials in the workplace. He has also been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and in major publications. Chip was recently named a top 15 Global Thought Leader on the Future of Work by the Economic Times.