Welcome to the consumer-children of corporate culture and efficient education, we were wondering when you would arrive, the world is waiting for your orders. One could say that the chickens have come home to roost--you must deal with what you engender?--Thivai
(Courtesy of a Cranky Professor)
Scenes from the Culture Clash: Companies are just now waking up to the havoc that the newest generation of workers is causing in their offices.
by Danielle Sacks
Beverly Hills psychiatrist's office is an unlikely triage center for the mash-up of generations in the workforce. But Dr. Charles Sophy is seeing the casualties firsthand. Last year, when a 24-year-old salesman at a car dealership didn't get his yearly bonus because of poor performance, both of his parents showed up at the company's regional headquarters and sat outside the CEO's office, refusing to leave until they got a meeting. "Security had to come and escort them out," Sophy says.
A 22-year-old pharmaceutical employee learned that he was not getting the promotion he had been eyeing. His boss told him he needed to work on his weaknesses first. The Harvard grad had excelled at everything he had ever done, so he was crushed by the news. He told his parents about the performance review, and they were convinced there was some misunderstanding, some way they could fix it, as they'd been able to fix everything before. His mother called the human-resources department the next day. Seventeen times. She left increasingly frustrated messages: "You're purposely ignoring us"; "you fudged the evaluation"; "you have it in for my son." She demanded a mediation session with her, her son, his boss, and HR--and got it. At one point, the 22-year-old reprimanded the HR rep for being "rude to my mom."
The patients on Sophy's couch aren't the twentysomethings dealing with their first taste of failure. Nor are they the "helicopter parents." They're the traumatized bosses, as well as the 47-year-old woman from HR who has been hassled time and again by her youngest workers and their parents. Now the pharmaceutical company that employs her has her in therapy, and she's on six-month stress leave.
And she's going to have plenty of company. Managers and their companies will have to deal with the 76 million children of baby boomers, born between 1978 and 2000, who have started pouring into offices across the land. Four generations are being asked to coexist at once: traditionalists (born before 1945), boomers (born 1946-1964), generation X (1965-1977), and millennials (alternately known as gen-Y, echo boomers, Net gen, and even "generation why," because they never stop questioning the status quo). Managers will be challenged to minimize the friction and maximize the assets of four distinct sets of work values and styles simultaneously.
The latest generation to join the mix is disruptive not only because of its size but because of its attitudes. Speak to enough intergenerational experts who study such things (and we spoke to more than a dozen of them), and you begin to get the picture: Millennials aren't interested in the financial success that drove the boomers or the independence that has marked the gen-Xers, but in careers that are personalized. They want educational opportunities in China and a chance to work in their companies' R&D departments for six months. "They have no expectation that the first place they work will at all be related to their career, so they're willing to move around until they find a place that suits them," says Dan Rasmus, who runs a workplace think tank for Microsoft. Thanks to their overinvolved boomer parents, this cohort has been coddled and pumped up to believe they can achieve anything. Immersion in PCs, video games, email, the Internet, and cell phones for most of their lives has changed their thought patterns and may also have actually changed how their brains developed physiologically. These folks want feedback daily, not annually. And in case it's not obvious, millennials are fearless and blunt. If they think they know a better way, they'll tell you, regardless of your title.
Meet any of the millennials now embarking on their careers, and this picture comes to life. Impatience with anything that doesn't lead to learning and advancement? "Nothing infuriates us more than busywork," says 24-year-old Katie Day, an assistant editor at Berkley Publishing, a division of Penguin Group USA. Fearlessness? "I don't have time to be intimidated," says Anna Stassen, a 26-year-old copywriter at the advertising agency Fallon Worldwide who treats her bosses like "the guys." "It's not that I'm disrespectful; it's just a waste of energy to be fearful." Permanently plugged in and juggling? "I'm constantly playing video games, on a call, doing work, and the thing is, all of it gets done, and it gets done well," says Beth Trippie, 26, a senior scheduling specialist, aptly enough, at Best Buy's corporate offices who's also finishing her MBA. "If the results aren't great, then fine; but if not, who cares how it gets done?"
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