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Following an interesting presentation by Brad Karsh last week, it’s time to put on my cardigan and rant about youngsters. The newest generation to enter the workforce – Millennials – is often perceived as narcissistic and entitled. Considering the perception is similar to Baby Boomers’ views of Generation X, let’s look at some key generational differences. Are there specific drivers of behavior or does everyone just star in their own movie today?

Background

Because less than half of Millennials have ever held a menial job, their first professional role may be their first authentic working experience. They have been told they’re special and they can do anything they want. Their corporate role models are more Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and Larry Page than Lou Gerstner or Lee Iacocca. They have often grown up in highly structured environments with limited free time. They are likely to collaborate and share. Most have always been told what to do. When they hit a barrier, they’re conditioned to ask questions rather than think on their own. This contrasts with older generations who don’t like being told what to do and tend to independently work through barriers.

Ways of Working

Because Millennials do not work well with uncertainty, leaders should explain the big picture context of requests and plan to have periodic checkpoints to monitor progress and provide frequent feedback. No news is bad news to most Millennials. In addition, leaders should get to know their teams on a personal level (within reasonable boundaries) and understand their differences. For Millennials, taking initiative and working through options to demonstrate independent thought are recommended. Millennials should become resourceful with tasks and judicious in communication. And remember that no one stars in their own movie.