I had an opportunity - yes let’s call it opportunity - to callout poor Millennial behavior recently. The behavior was around providing me with what I had previously asked for on time and in the form I needed it. I had asked for it twice and now I was waiting. At the point that we were clearly beyond the polite lateness stage (this was one of my first interactions with the individual) and we began spiraling into the realm of rude lateness, I had a choice to make – keep going as if everything was normal (and keep waiting), or put a stop to the behavior in its tracks.
I decided to call the Millennial out. Not in public or anything, but respectfully between the two of us. My feeling was that if I am going to go to bat for my generation in my talks, presentations and work with organizational leaders and older managers, than I also have to be willing to call out shoddy behavior when I see it from my generation. Not as an “I’m better than you” call out, but as a “hey man, this is not good behavior and if I’m going to speak highly of you, I’m needing you to show up, on time, ready to go for me.”
Many Millennials I encounter hate to hear it, but there is still room for us to grow. There is this particular knee-jerk, physical convulsing reaction that happens when I inform them that they aren’t done growing and maturing yet. I’m sorry, we can’t have all the information, experience and intelligence we need at 23 and claim that we have reached the peak of our maturity. That’s not a healthy outlook on life and you can come across as arrogant and immature. A life of constant self-awareness, continuous learning and backbone to fail is what separates great Millennials from the mediocre. I find the ‘Rock Star’ Millennials in any organization are great at self-introspection and being able to handle feedback and find ways to grow from it. The best Millennials take feedback and turn it into something positive.
We have to be willing to call out shoddy behavior when we see it. This is true of any generation or worker. But, sometimes I get the sense that we let the Millennial behavior slide because, well, they’re “The Millennials.” We are doing no service and actually a dis-service to them if we allow this behavior to go on. In our “Dealing with Difficult People” workshops, one of the key lessons we teach is that difficult people are difficult because no one has ever told them they’re difficult. It doesn’t have to be some big pronouncement, but Millennials need to be corrected if the behavior is not aligning with what you view as positive.
Tom Peters said in his book In Search of Excellence, “Never walk by shoddy product or service again.” A challenge or charge to US leaders. Likewise, we have to commit to not walking by shoddy behavior again too. A challenge and charge to anyone who is a mentor, coach, or friend to a Millennial. If we are to create the next great workforce with highly skilled and highly competent workers, it starts by searching for excellent behavior and attitude.