Want to Successfully Work with Millennials?

Oct 17, 2017 | Leadership | 0 comments

The conversation about the Millennial always seems to start with entitlement, lack of work ethics and other negative phrases. In my own personal experience, what I’ve found is generally the opposite. And I have a secret for you: if you want to successfully work with Millennials, start with gratitude!

Who are the Millennials or Gen Y?

The Millennials or Gen Y were born between approx. 1980 and 1995 – depending on where you source the information. Being married to a Gen Y myself, I can see that there are differences between the way my husband and I grew up. I’m considered a Gen X (the forgotten generation) and there are many ways in which we are different. What’s most important to note is that the Millennial generation is now the largest generation in the work force and their impact on the way businesses are run has been massive.  This is something that we can no longer ignore and it’s time to make things work with this amazing cohort of human beings that are changing our world every day.

Why is it time to pay attention to Millennials?

Recently I heard Michael McQueen speak at a live event. McQueen is an award-winning speaker, social researcher and best-selling author. He was speaking about the 3 forms of disruption, and number three is emerging generations.  According to McQueen, the Millennials are the largest generation in history and will comprise 50% of our workforce in 7 years. The time to pay attention to this is right now.  What he shared was that research has found that the Millennial generation would really like to be given feedback or praise SEVERAL TIMES A DAY. The same research found that my generation was happy to receive it at least once a year. This is a huge issue that has to be addressed. And what I realized in that moment is that gratitude is the answer!

The important of gratitude rather than praise

We’ve all heard the memes about Gen Y; that they all want a participation trophy or a ribbon for everything they do – even just showing up to work. When we thinking about doling out praise, it can sound very trite or condescending and sometimes it’s very inauthentic. However, when we look at being grateful instead, it’s a much more positive action.

Praise is about expressing approval of one’s actions, whereas gratitude is being thankful and showing appreciation for another person.

It’s a subtle difference and one that I think could be really powerful. When speaking to my Gen Y friends who work in a corporate culture, they often complain about the lack of praise and appreciation. Too many of them hear only about what they have done incorrectly or what needs to be improved. It’s easy to see when ANYONE would be frustrated about this kind of work environment. The difference is that Millennials are willing to do something about it and are driving change.

Building a culture of gratitude at work or in a team

What I’ve found is that any business will thrive when the leadership chooses to build a strong foundation of gratitude. This sounds really obviously, but sadly, in so many companies, it’s not even acknowledged. Gratitude is difficult to quantify and there are no metrics to track how grateful we are on a daily basis. What’s the ROI on gratitude you ask? That’s not a number I have ready for you. However, I can share this with you: When we are truly grateful for the people that work with us or for us, it makes a difference.

Simple ways to express gratitude at work

Here are some ideas on how to build a culture of gratitude at the office. These suggestions will work whether you are the boss or the employee, because one thing I know for sure is that gratitude is contagious. And the great news is that all of the strategies will work with Millennials plus any other generations you may be working with.

  • Say thank you for the little things. You see someone doing the dishes in the office kitchen, say thanks. An employee makes a fresh pot of coffee; give them a sincere thank you. There are opportunities to notice the little things throughout our day.
  • Express gratitude in public. We all love being in long meetings, right? Start off your next meeting with a public expression of gratitude. Share something that someone on your team has done well or thank them for their specific contribution to a project, in front of the rest of their colleagues.
  • Write a card. Taking the time to handwrite a card or even just a note of gratitude can make a huge difference. People will hang on to a physical card or note with a positive message and often display it at their workstation. My mentor taught me to send cards to congratulation my team members right from the start and for every milestone along the way. I’ve continued this habit 11 years later and it still delights and surprises people when they receive a physical card.
  • Greet someone with a genuine hello. Sometimes, the easiest way to show gratitude for another human being is to make eye contact and acknowledge them as a person. When you ask them how are you? I invite you to stop and really listen to their answer. Giving someone the gift of your full attention is very valuable and generous.
  • Keep a private notebook of what you’re grateful for at work. This is most important when we are at a job we don’t love, or we’re working with a difficult boss or team. Take note of the good things in your day as opposed to focusing on all of the negatives. It may simply be that you’re grateful you’re getting paid every other week. Look for at least one thing each day to write in your notebook, at the beginning and end of the work day.

Whatever generation you are working with, gratitude is the foundation of any relationship. When we focus on being kind and loving human beings, it’s much easier for anyone to get along. We all have so much to be grateful for every day and it’s really easy to take it for granted. When we commit to creating a culture of gratitude, not only will our work environment change, our other relationships will improve in kind. Which of these strategies will you choose to implement today?

Looking for a speaker?

With over a decade of experience practicing and teaching gratitude, I would love to share my passion with your group or organization. I am also open to being a guest on your podcast.


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