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Berger Blog

Expanding the discussion of Generatonal issues in organizations, Leadership, and Individual & Professional Growth.

Global Millennials

Friday, June 01, 2007

I had a request the other day from a journalist in Canberra (AUS) to comment about a story that was in the Wall Street Journal recently. The question comes from a story in the Journal that discussed the notion that this current youngest generation – The Millennials (born after 1980 and before 2000) who are now entering the workforce in some greater numbers –are the “most praised generation” in history. The charge is that they need more praise, more positive feedback, more ‘we’re all winners’ sentiment in their work, much as they’ve had in their entire lives up until this point.

The little bit of buzz around this article – a buzz that I saw cross oceans and continents quite quickly, I’ll add – is how much truth is there to this, and more locally, how relevant is this to life in Australia-New Zealand?

From what I know about the Millennials, whether more praise is needed for them or not isn’t really the central question. One can assume that because of the way things have been for them – all of the attention, support, equality that has been forced on them over their years getting to this stage in life – certainly points to the possibility that if you don’t give them the kind of praise they’re accustomed to, then they are going to be confused, at best, and hurt or pissed off, at worst.

The geezers may be saying “Tough Beans!” right now, and the Gen Xers may be saying, “No one was there to give me all that attention,” so there probably may not be so much tolerance for this, but it doesn’t really affect the way the Millennials are going to be experiencing the cold hard truth of the current norm.

If there’s any solace inside of this reality, the need for Boomers and beyond to provide more feed back, and I mean feedback in general, has been something the Gen Xers have been demanding for 15 years. (Whether or not the Boomer managers ever responded to that need is another question.) Now, the breadth of the feed back has simply been expanded.

And as far as a regional truth, there’s some variation on that as well, but not so much. The complaint in the article was that sometimes you need to give negative feedback to young employees and they need to be able to handle that. You can’t give everyone a medal just for showing up, regardless of the team’s record, like the kids experienced in youth soccer. Well, why not? Why can’t more people get recognized for just showing up? “It was great to have your contribution this week, Brendan.” Or, “I appreciate the attention you gave the project this week, Brittney.” Is that unreasonable or is it just a part of the leadership style that will be effective from this point forward? This isn’t about you, after all. It’s about them.

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posted by Michael Berger, 12:29 AM

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