The Grandma Facetime Paradox

I’ve been informed that it’s an aggressively playful vibe at Mic.com (an NYC Website). Like a middle-school fraternity house only with employees riding hoverboards while others wield Nerf dart guns or use a megaphone for announcements.

28 year old Chief Executive Chris Altchek is proud of their freewheeling office culture. “It helps us to have everyone speak out and best ideas rise to the top,” he said. “What that can feel like or sound like is rudeness. But I’d rather have a lot of people speaking their minds than a very controlled environment.”

A great point, one that is often lost in corporations. Ok, maybe not lost; let’s say structured, refined, reformed, reviewed and sent to the board for approval of how the staff in a workplace “should” act. However, the board also voted on how to promote a positive work environment and synergy. That should make everything better, right?

Grandma facebook facetime management

For years, employers have been aware of employee engagement and retention issues in their workplaces. These organizations typically address engagement for the organization under one policy, without any differentiation for the generational gaps of employees. As the millennial generation (deemed 1982 – 2000) grows in the workforce, managers and human resources professionals will need to develop new engagement and management models that take into account the generational differences. It’s like giving your grandmother an iPhone for Christmas and asking them to Facetime. In other words, the Grandma Factime Paradox.

The paradox suffers from the generational ideologies of changing the world. Like many of my peers, in graduate school, I would discuss (in androgynous depth) about the frailty of the US economy, what should have happened in the financial crisis and why teleportation is not an effective way to travel. I know what you are thinking and the answer is yes, I am aware that Leonard Susskind’s theories outweigh Hawking in a nanosecond. Back to the present (no pun intended).

Millennials are soon to be the largest generation of active workers. However, research has shown that the baby boomers still control the workplace (ie as managers and directors, etc.). They grew up in organizations with large corporate hierarchies, rather than in flat management structures and teamwork-based job roles. In short, they claw their way to the top and stay there until they have an opportunity to retire and then find a way to enjoy life. Sounds like fun, aside from lacking any hobbies for 30+ years whilst climbing the corporate ladder.

At a young age, I enrolled in military school. My stepfather “encouraged” me to go for a summer to the Royal Military College. Albeit, a shy, timid 14-year-old at the RMC wasn’t exactly a “normal” summer vacation for a middle school suburbanite. That was the summer that shaped my life and, ironically, my career. I had a Commanding Officer (CO) who embarked some very profound wisdom unto me. He said, “some people are born leaders; others have to work hard to become a mentor. One thing never changes. You always have two options in life; you can either teach others to leave, or you can inspire them to stay.”

 

Everyone always discusses the concept of leading by example, which to a point is very accurate. No one ever discusses the idea of helping your staff leave their job. Who does that? However, this is a millennial’s newfound mindset.

Millennials have a drastically different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience. Millennials are well educated, skilled in technology, very self-confident, able to multi-task and have plenty of energy. They have high expectations for themselves and prefer to work in teams rather than as individuals. In short, they want to change the world, and they don’t want to do it alone.

We seek challenges, yet work-life balance is of the utmost importance to us just in case an art crawl or jazz festival is within the foreseeable future. It is true, we love social interaction and expect immediate results from our hard work. We yearn for an accelerated advancement in our career and “get down” on ourselves if we don’t see change quickly enough. Our aspirations and timelines do not align, albeit, most of my alumni colleagues have been fast-tracked into leadership programs and management training curriculums right out of college. So there is something that we possess that many others can see.

Tom Bilyeu, for Inside Quest, presents a very compelling interview where Simon Sinek discusses “what is wrong with this generation.” (Link to the video here) The main thread is what we’ve all heard before; millennials feel entitled (true), unfocused (sure), want purpose (yup), free food (who doesn’t?) and something that is missing. The interview goes on to describe how, due to our upbringing, millennials lack coping mechanisms and patience in just about every sense of the term. Simon goes on to discuss our addictions to media (and our phones). Time seems to be the biggest culprit. They discuss how millennials want to change now and have this “job hopping” practice down, hoping to fall into a satisfying role from day one.

As Leigh Buchanon writes in Meet the Millennials, “One of the characteristics of millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.”

True, everyone wants to feel purpose. But for millennials, I think it’s a bit more personal. We were raised to become well-educated and that no goal is unattainable. What we lacked was the education on how hard a goal actually is to achieve. There are no participation medals in the real world. Yet, we, as a generation, feel owing to such prestige.

I wonder if there is a statistical analysis of the revenue increase for trophies and trophy materials supply/demand on a per decade basis?

The conversation takes a turn around the 10:24 mark. They begin to discuss how Millennials were given a bad hand at life. True, we were encouraged and supported, but also lacked the engagement needed to overcome strife and obstacles. We’ve become a society of victimized social media addicts. Don’t believe me? Who’s left Instagram to detox for a while? I am sure there is some Kardashian making headlines about the very topic as we speak.

They discuss how corporate environments care more about numbers than people, and that makes it harder for the millennials to grow both as an employee and a person. This mentality has been set this way for decades. For example, when Apple has $50 Billion + in disposable income and a sweat-shop work mentality, you begin to wonder, do the “Think Different” advocates Think Differently? Or are they just another corporate entity in fancy new clothes? The underlining message is engagement. It’s in the corporation’s best interest to usher in a new wave of talent; well educated, slightly awkward and highly creative talent.

The lack of authentic leadership (like my CO) in companies today is failing this generation. This is the endpoint of my analysis: your entitled life isn’t all that entitled; however, your boss needs to understand what drives you. They need to find a way to relate and engage with you. They need to help you reach your potential. And for god’s sake, don’t limit an employee’s possible simply because you feel threatened in your role. Sure, you could do the alternative and sit in your office and wait for the pension to cash in on. But where’s the fun in that?

Creating engagement strategies is one of the management’s most stringent goals. It isn’t easy, but nothing truly great ever is. Managers who have developed successful strategies for retaining the last generation of workers are not always best suited to engage the millennials–similar to the previously mentioned Grandma Facetime Paradox.

Generational gaps do exist. They always will. These gaps have distinct impacts on employees, whether it be Boomers, Gen-X or the Millennials. But stop thinking of it as a task and more as a learning experience. You could learn something new from your inexperienced subordinates. Give them direction, help them find purpose. When looking at how to engage your team, remember the age-old wisdom of a Commanding Officer from a Military College; teach others to leave but inspire them to stay. Inspiration doesn’t come from following a policy or procedure. It starts with an idea.

Let’s set out to change the world together.

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