“In the absence of information, we fill in the blanks with our imagination.” -Dave
Let me tell you the story of my best friend, Dave. I met Dave at a Denny ‘s on Walnut street in Bloomington, Indiana. I was a doe-eyed freshman in college and he was approaching his sophomore year. Winter time had just begun and my gray Crown Victoria was still covered with piles of snow as I drove the large beast into the parking lot. I made my way through the swinging doors of the restaurant and asked for an application. Dave was a server there. It was thanks to Dave that I got that job, secured him as my roommate months later, and made my way towards the cynical adulthood I would come to know in college.
Dave remembered everything by year. He would say, “Back in 1999 when the such and such album came out and the kids were drinking apple pucker and staying out too late.” Dave was in his 30’s but his references solidified the eras. He would reminisce about decades of good tv shows that later generations would never know. At any given time you can find him in a simple white-tee or a thrown-on button up with old jeans; electronic device in one hand, coffee in the other. Dave and I were friends during some of the most influential years of our lives; making the most out of college between small venue concerts and house parties, sliding into classes hung over, and getting food from the dorm cafeterias. We were living a micro-version of what we thought to be an adult life. Dave and I were a staple in what was so cleverly referred to as “The Oregon Trail Generation.” Not only did we grow up playing outside, but we were on the cusp of the end of “the dream.” We remained hopeful through philosophy classes, inspired through businesses classes, and moved by the hustle of the University setting.
Years later, Bachelor Degrees in hand with hopeful smiles and bright-eyed wonder we walked through the doors of corporate America. Corporate America giggled at us as we were escorted to our cubicles under horrible florescent lighting and our dreams of big money and managing were crushed. Welcome to entry-level.
We realized that we’d have student loans we could barely pay in shitty corporate jobs we never really wanted. We’d spend the next three years being cynical and bitter. We would write emails from corporate America and stay friends for what is going on 13 years now. We see the millennials go through the same buzz-kill only they don’t seem to be able to manage not having gotten their way.
To this day we bantered on and he inserts one liners to make sense out of the world. We discussed how graffiti in the bathroom had approached an all time low due to updated Facebook status and Instagram photos.
Dave still discusses life in years and we aren’t as cynical as we once were. We are often searching for meaning in life through banter. Looking back I now understand that the important part was the friendship. The important parts, the really important ones in life are relationships. They always have been and always will be.
How do we prepare for millennials in the workforce? What are we missing when it comes to understanding this generation? Why do we want it to be similar to generations before it?
Some people see the millennials as an entitled generation; that they expect things they didn’t earn. A generation that is used to instant gratification. After all, they never had to press rewind on a cassette player and wait 5 minutes for it to rewind. The millennials are used to anything they want at the touch of a screen. They are different. They are very different.
There is a new status quo. The millennials want quicker, faster and easier. I mean, can we blame them? We might see it as collaborative social anxiety and an embellished sense of self. However, what if we change the way we see it? How can we begin to adapt for the millennial workforce?
What if we said, they have an ability to collaborate and a high sense of pride for their work to resemble self.
As psychology heads towards positive affirming, we should establish more hope for the future. Previous generations need to update our attitude while the millennials update their status. The millennials want consistent feedback and less aggressive micromanaging.
Preparing for the millennial workforce takes a different approach:
- Encourage Collaboration – Millennials are encouraged by competition. They are competing for “likes” and not just on their Instagram, but in the workforce.
- Learn from their Tech Savvy– Learn something from your younger counterparts. They are tech savvy and they have been using iPads since elementary school.
- Give them Independence– Independence is important to the millennials. Micromanaging this generation will cause nothing but headache for you and quitting for them.
- Welcome Change – As a hiring manager or business owner you will have to accept where this new generation is. Change is here and it happens faster than it used to. This generation embraces change. You need to as well.
- Cultivate Inspiration– Cut the coddling, but keep up with the Kardashians. Millennials are inspired by realities that past generations may not understand. They are influenced by social excitement and energized by new ideas.
- Recognize their Values– Money isn’t enough. They use plastic or scan apps to pay for things. They don’t place value on money. They have barely even seen it. They want to take a selfie at Machu Picchu instead of buying that new BMW. The monetary value doesn’t override the freedom.
We are not impressing upon the indulgent. We are not acting like overprotective parents. We are building a new workforce that appreciates positive feedback and collective collaboration. So how do we prepare for the millennials to take over the workforce? We encourage, we connect, and we inspire.
This morning I was standing in line patiently waiting to order my tall soy chai when I noticed something about the people standing in line with me. The three patrons directly in front of me had their heads titled downwards as they typed away on their smart phones. I wondered what they were searching for, who they were tagging, or what they were hashtagging. Or perhaps they were pinning, playing candy crush, or reading the news. These three patrons included a business man with a tie holding a blackberry, a student with his backpack wearing a beanie hat, and a woman dressed casually with her purse tucked at her side. Then my eyes expanded past the three directly in front of me, as I scanned the rest of the Starbucks line. Nearly everyone in line was removed socially from the current environment.
Of the eleven people who stood in line waiting to order drinks seven of them were uninvolved in the social situation and environment as they entertained their anxiousness on their smart phones. I watched as only four stood strong with their heads high and devices tucked away. But then it happen, Man Down! (or should I say Woman Down!) One woman of the remaining four ordered. As she awaited her delightful drink she too reached into her purse and pulled out a device. In this moment the number moved to eight of eleven people in line that were busy bustling away on their smart device. Nearly 73 percent of the people in line were not engaging directly into the social situation that they were a part of. Not only were there no verbal conversations amongst them, but they were so engrossed with their heads down and personal agenda, that they didn’t even non-verbally communicate with smiles or looks. Are we opening up to a world where technology may be a catalyst in hindering our social development?
We need to be aware of a new social consciousness as the use of technology and smart phones rises. But what are we doing to make sure we remain and continue to become socially intelligent and socially in-tune? When was the last time you turned off your smart phone for a whole day and just allowed yourself to be engaged in all your social interactions? Try it. Your anxiousness may increase the first few times you unplug. This just goes to show us that we are actively having some kind of relationship with technology and smart phones. We live in an Anxious America. Time for a break up. Time to be more socially intelligent.
The use of technology has become an unavoidable task. We are required to utilize emails for work and blackboards as students; as workers we actively use the internet, programs, and devices for tracking. Socially we can’t get enough of Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites. Texting has become the new phone call. Landlines have come to be a thing of the very distant past. What was once private chatter has now become an appropriate status update.
If we look into how technology developed throughout the years, we can see that the gap of time gets smaller as we shoot into the future.
Television took nearly 84 years to develop into flat screens and HD. Cell phones took about 65 years to become smart phones and have the internet in our fingers. The internet was commercialized in 1995. That is 17 years for the process to become extremely socialized. The history of technology, as we can see, has a way of taking much less time to develop. Human development has not increased, sure our lives are longer, but not any more productive. We actively take longer to head towards adulthood than it took our parents. Some of the very basic social patterns have led humans farther away from development. We know that human development can be prolonged by things such as bad economic conditions. However, what else is adding to these developmental stages taking longer to complete now than they did in the past? Could technology be another catalyst?
In Erickson’s stages of development each stage has a conflict. Erickson was very aware that the cultural and social ideals were going to influence these stages. The stage of identity verses role confusion is when social relationships are beginning to take shape. We are no longer constructed inside of our family, but have a significant influence from the social relationships that we become a part of. We are impacted by the social technology and internet friends that we decide to interact with. We are becoming more and more isolated through technology. So maybe the stage in which we develop through peer social relationships and bring that into early adulthood is melting? Maybe we are socially lacking, and therefore professionally and productively lacking?
What lacks significantly in the technology driven society is listening. The act of listening summons the kind of critical thinking that has brought about some of the great movements and ideas of time. Active listening would require you to put technology down and to engage with another human being. I dare you to try it. I just told my little sister the other day, that I believe for a good 5-8 years I was more concerned with what I would say next than actively listening to anyone. As a therapist, we are taught to listen. Maybe we all need to go back to school of listening and social etiquette . I fear technology is making us anxious and isolated, causing all kinds of our relationships to fail.