Millennials, Xennials and Radical Change
Last month in the Wall Street Journal, there was an article about how bosses waste their employees’ time. As a Gen Xer who is an activator, I resonated with this on many levels. As I continued reading, they mentioned @Amy Edmondson (whose book on Teaming was key in my dissertation research) and her research on psychological safety and organizational learning. In a time where innovation is essential and efficiency is possible, organizational learning is key to a company’s future success. According to her research, employees who are continually seeking to make things better and move forward with innovation rather than staying stuck in the ways of old are the ones who are the “best employees for promoting organizational learning.” The thing that really disturbed me (probably because I have seen this happen over and over again at a high cost to both the individuals and the companies involved) is that the employees who get rated as the “top performers” are the ones who are the “yes” people. They do what they are told and they do it when they are told to do it. They don’t question those in authority and they help maintain the status quo. Those creating change are in turn seen as annoying and full of complaints. This is a foundational piece to why organizational change is so difficult. If it is not in the DNA of the organization to celebrate change and innovate, the very people who are working hard to do just that are the ones who are seen as somehow getting in the way.
What does this have to do with Millennials?
I believe this is part of the rub among the generations in the workplace. The Millennials have grown up in a new era. Technology is part of their DNA. It informs how they think, live, and work. They know new ways to do things and they do not understand why anyone would want to maintain the status quo when there are other more efficient options available. They are also not afraid to voice their opinions (something their Boomer parents taught them). When their thoughts are not understood yet they believe they offer something quite compelling, they feel frustrated and disrespected.
One thing Boomers and Gen Xers have to accept is that the world IS rapidly changing. We cannot stop it. It will never go back. What if the Millennials were no longer looked at as the non-conforming employee who keeps asking questions? What if we really started to listen to their ideas and created cultures where organizational learning was at the forefront of our minds instead of hanging on to what worked in the past?