I continually get asked, “So are you a Millennial?” and apart from being flattered because this implies, I must look rather young, I reluctantly answer… “No… but I certainly feel like one…”
Most people are perplexed by my response… firstly who in their right mind would want to be a Millennial if you weren’t born into the Millennial generation?
Not many, in fact most Millennials HATE the term “Millennial” as the word generally engenders instant hatred and a stream of derogatory connotations so I’m not at all surprised!
So, to give you some context I feel like I resonate a lot more with the typical Millennial characteristics, and these “labels” have not only shaped who I am as a person but have also followed me around as a bit of a stigma especially in my early days as a budding HR heavyweight!
You see from the get-go I have always been a bit of a rebel, I have never been afraid to challenge or speak my mind, and BOY has it gotten me into trouble. In my early days working at General Motors Holden, I was definitely “generationally challenged”. I was young and female working in a predominately male dominated environment. The funny thing is that after I showed what I was capable of my clients actually loved me! It was peers that I had a problem with.
I will never forget the performance review that I was advised by my Manager that I was too loud, too outspoken, and that I had to learn to “play the game.” She told me “Emily you need to choose your battles, the HR Executive team sees you as a bit of a trouble maker.” Pfffffft what a joke, in other words they did not like me challenging some of the stupid things they were doing. Like rolling out Training from America that spoke in so much jargon that our Front Line Managers did not understand a word we were saying.
In this same review I was even told that I didn’t dress “right”, and that if I wanted to get promoted then I needed to consider dressing more “professionally”. My inner voice screamed “ well f**k that…” I definitely did not want to join the “Navy Suit Wearing” Nana HR army that was for sure. You see in my experience there are two types of HR people. One is the suit wearing policy police who get into the field to be the gatekeepers, the power hungry bureaucrats who revel in berating Managers and telling them how to do their jobs whilst sitting in their ivory towers. The second is the HR Change Agent who wants to build relationships with their clients and employees to help the business grow!
It gets worse, I will never forget the day that I was advised that I needed to move desks because there was a perception that I was having too much fun and therefore not doing any work. I asked my Manager… “So do you honestly think I am not productive and that I am not delivering good service to my clients?”…. “Well um no, that’s not what I said” he said uncomfortably…” It’s more of a perception…” I asked naively “Based on what specifically? Have my clients complained because I didn’t deliver, did I make an error in my work? Am I not hitting my KPI’s or project deliverables?”
“Well no” he stammered… “It’s just that you are seen laughing and talking all the time with Jade and everyone feels that your relationship is a bit of a problem and a distraction for both of you…”
What the absolute F**k? I felt like I was in High School and being berated by the Principal. I obviously agreed and reluctantly moved desks but it was on that was the day that I died a little bit inside, I lost my motivation and my passion and I realised that I was not in the right place. I was being stifled by a culture that valued “appearances and political manoeuvring” over good honest work and the freedom to express your own personality. Looking back I realised that in my naivety I was probably behaving like many Millennials do now in the workplace. They come in eager to make a difference and change and improve things only to find that this type of unbridled enthusiasm is soon quashed or labelled as trouble making. It seems like the sentiments of the older generation are “How dare these young things give us advice on how to do our jobs or want to change the way we work. I mean what do these little upstarts know?”
Sound familiar…? Many young hopeful employee’s drive for change is met with such words as “Good luck changing that process, this is the way we have always done it, it’s not going to happen, so many people have tried and failed so believe me, don’t waste your time!!”
But the balance of power is shifting to Millennials, so the older generations face unprecedented times where for the first time in history we have 5 generations working simultaneously at the same time. There are more Millennials than any other generation and they are certainly challenging the status quo. This begs the question, how are older workers to remain relevant in an ever changing work environment?
In my opinion it starts with being willing to open your mind to doing things differently!
The question is are they ready and willing?
Time will tell!