14 Jul 2016 19:59 IST

Millennials, we can’t do without you!

Gen X and millennials must find a way to work together instead of focussing on their differences

You like transparency; they have undisclosed plans.

You thrive on new challenges; they build on status quo.

You are in a hurry; they say ‘patience wins’.

You believe in making the world a better place; so do they.

So, in the one thing that matters most (making the world a better place), these two sets of people share a common ground. Who am I talking about? I’m talking about millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) and Gen X (the older generation between the baby boomers and millennials), who think they have more differences than similarities.

But the truth today is that both groups have to live with each other — in homes, communities and countries; and they must work with each other too. So it would do well to dwell more on similarities rather than differences.

Social media to the rescue

Recently, newspapers were full of reports about a dog, Bhadra, who was saved, thanks to social media-spurred intervention. The poor six-month-old dog was flung from the terrace of a building, and suffered a fractured spine. The story went viral on social media, with angered and outraged users demanding strict action against the perpetrators.

This incident brought to fore the fact that a vast majority of youngsters are highly aware and sensitive to the ecosystem and integrity of all living things. It reminded me of the many times I saw young people on my team going on pet adoption drives, rescuing strays during the Chennai floods and even finding friends for life via shared pet interests on social media.

But this was not the case a few years ago, and Bhadra’s plight might have gone unnoticed then due to a less connected world.

The other day, I read an article by Suzy and Jack Welch, who said millennials are not greedy and disloyal, as they’re often made out to be. Though there may be (as there always have been) some “swaggering big-heads convinced that the old-timers should stand aside”, Millennials are actually “driven, open-minded, and thoughtful in a way that will be great for their careers and the entire economy, as they demand organisations strive for new levels of engagement, opportunity and a higher meaning in the work”.

I instantly saw that we are guilty of stereotyping a new generation, and realised that co-mentoring one another is the need of the hour.

This column is about bridging the needs of both groups.

Ask for clarity, clearly, softly

If you are a young person on the workforce and like clarity, it’s your job to ask for it. But a lot depends on how you ask.

A young assistant at an office kept asking questions on when she would be promoted, what pay goes with which job, and was seen as a mercenary. She was sidelined and labelled “skilled but difficult” by seniors. Her colleague, on the other hand, who asked the same questions in a non-confrontational manner, got recognised.

“Please help me understand the system for salary increases here” is a good tone and choice of words. Such requests will set the senior manager’s thought processes whirring to find a win-win solution that works both for you and him/her, keeping the organisation’s goal in mind.

Challenge the status quo, though not every day

Change for the sake of change is never a good idea. And the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” resonates with a lot of people. However, the social media age and artificial intelligence era are here to stay. So how do you stand out at a time when everyone’s giving senseless quick-fixes?

If you propose change, showing the big picture of how it can save either time or money and increase efficiency will surely get you the right audience. It’s all about positioning things.

Danny asked his manager, “Would you like to save 20 per cent of our website fees? If so, I have a solution.”

He then went on to explain how the server could be changed to a single service provider who had a cost advantage, and so forth. His idea was accepted and his senior managers were happy with his enthusiasm. When it came to actual implementation though, a security question came up, which made it necessary to shelve the idea for the moment. Danny was happy he had a good idea, but dejected that it didn’t quite see light of day.

He was offered another project in tech support, which was internal decision-dependent, and ensured that his success was the company’s success.

Wait for weighty results

Wanting everything yesterday doesn’t work for any generation, does it? Yet, are there times you, the millennial, feel you are in a hurry and could get so much done so fast had it not been for all this red tape and elders’ bureaucracy slowing you down?!

But this is the time to hold in-person discussions with all parties concerned. There is no substitute for face-to-face conversations — texts, e-mails and mobile calls are poor alternatives. So get together around a table, fetch the coffee and cookies, and speak about what to do in a hurry and what to wait for.

One side could reassure the other that speed is okay, as all risks are being looked into; an advance checklist could be presented that shows how much thought has gone into it. The other side might want to ask for time to digest it, and set a different timeline. At the end of the day, walk out of the coffee room, smelling the heady aroma of acceptance.

Differences are superficial after all.

Millennials, we can’t do without you. The 2013-14 Economic Survey says that by 2021, 64 per cent of India’s population will be in the working age group of 20-35. We are delighted to build a new India with our millennial brigade.

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