Millennials are streaming into the workplace by the thousands and many many of their boomer and gen-x bosses are struggling with how to handle this generation with its different expectations, technologically-adept workflows, and the values that may have different priorities. As much as the older, more experienced colleagues are struggling, so are their millennial co-workers working hard to figure out their older colleagues.

Dana Johnson has great advice for 20-somethings entering the workplace who are trying to get the lay of the land here. Her advice includes establishing a mentor/mentee relationship and the doubt older colleagues may have “personally.” She sums up my point of view so well with “we may prefer different work schedules and value different perks, but we’re ultimately all working toward finding a balance and fulfillment in our professional lives.”

So true – you can read my own take on mutual mentorship for Boomers and Millennials  here.  The most commented on article I’ve posted over on LinkedIn was “5 Tips for Millennials Working with Boomers” – there’s some good stuff over there too.

And I’ll add new set of 5 recommendations on for the Millennial crowd working to not just carve their own important space in, but thrive the workplace.

  1. Know that every job is important. No business I know employees people they don’t need – really. That job you think is dumb and unimportant is not. Confused about how your position contributes? Ask your boss to explain what the interdependencies of the team are, and how your contributions matter. Often every other person on the team is depending on the lowest person on the totem pole to make their work possible.
  2. Identify better ways to do your work…AFTER you do it their way first. When I was in my 20s I started a new job and within the first two weeks had a bit of an indignant episode when I realized the new job’s standard for a project did not meet my previous work’s standard. That was a bad day. I learned the hard way to do it my bosses way first and then show her how to improve it with a few shortcuts and different steps that gave more of the good stuff and less of the process. It took me months to make the changes that I whined about in week two because everyone around me was pissed off with how I so “superiorly” told them they could be better. I was a gem.dont do what i did
  3. Know that not all of your ideas can be implemented immediately – that does not mean your ideas aren’t valued or understood. Sometimes a process is too far gone to adjust it this time. You may not have visibility into all of the different dependencies and agendas your project has throughout an organization or partnership. At the end of the project ask for opportunity to learn how it went, what went well and what could be improved next time. Your boss will appreciate your interest and you’ll get the insight you need to provide input and suggestions next time.
  4. Pay attention to how the team that’s been there for a while answers email, shows up in meetings, and provides input and map onto what is the standard in the office first. People show up 5 minutes early to meetings? Walk in with them. People start emails with names to only the people in the To: line? Do the same.
  5. If you don’t know, ask! Don’t know when something is due? Ask for specific hour and day. Don’t know how many hours something should take? Ask how long something should take the first time you do it. Don’t know what to wear? Ask about the dress code for the event or meeting.

Millennials, the future is you. You can learn a lot from the other people around you, and they can learn a lot from you. Millennials have lots to offer, and you can contribute more faster with these simple tips.

I wrote my book “Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide to Making it Work at Work” as a practical guide for both management and Millennials to help bridge the generational gap that seems to pervade the workplace. It’s written for teams – not just for managers or millennials or even millennial managers, because my experience says that when only one side of the equation reads a book, the other side is left wondering what the hell just happened.

In the end it’s all about the people we work with – no one builds a career or company alone. We can co-create the future faster together.

Have a question about working with boomers and xers? email me at lee@rocksarehard.com