Millennial Thinking in the Workplace

As much as I hate to admit it, I caught myself in a millennial moment last week. I was wrapping up a massive project at work that took almost a year of effort to complete and I thought to myself “I deserve a medal.” 

We’ve all heard a joke or two from Gen X’ers griping about how all millennial’s want a trophy just for showing up. I too laughed at these jokes because I never saw myself as a typical millennial. In that moment, I felt like I deserved recognition for all the late nights and weekends. But why do I need to be praised for my accomplishments? 

I thought harder and asked myself what my Gen X’er husband would say to one of his colleagues who thought they deserved a medal.

  • Did we resolve the issue?
  • Did we finish on time?
  • Did we finish on budget?

Although the multi-functional team on this complex project worked hard and achieved the desired end result, I narrowly focused on my so-called achievement and justified in my mind all the reasons we didn’t meet expectations on the timeline and budget. I was being emotional, instead of being objective.

Here is the best advice I can offer as I reflect back on this situation and what has led to success over my career – especially as a millennial woman.

Lesson # 1: Give your praise freely & publicly.

Everyone likes to feel valued and appreciated. However in my experience with millennial’s they especially like to be praised and generally cannot get enough of it. This is a changing dynamic in the workplace. I’m lucky on a given week to get even a text message from my boss, let alone an ‘Atta Girl’.  We often forget how a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’ can make someone feel part of a team.

One of the aspects I value most about my relationship with my Hubs is I’ve never heard him say a bad thing about me. He always sings my praises in front of others – like the other night we met a VP of a local hospital. The hubs told him I was a rock star at work and that out-achieved him at my age. This in turn makes me feel very good and respected in our relationship.

The same is true in the workplace. If your boss complimented your efforts in front of a group of your peers, this would make you feel proud and engaged. I’m not saying to blow smoke up people’s rumpuses but take the time to highlight accomplishments and when appropriate do so publicly. Recognize others regardless of what level they are in the organization. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also offer constructive criticism but do so in a timely, private and professional manner. 

One tip I’ve used in the past is to set a weekly reminder on my calendar to recognize others. It’s not ingrained for us to think about giving praise – so take a few minutes once a week to think about who made an impact in your life. Send them a quick sincere e-mail and to highlight how they impacted you. Better yet, copy their boss too. This is an incredibly easy way to build rapport in an organization. It also can be a good reminder to thank those in your personal life.

Lesson # 2: Praise yourself too.

You’re the most important person to impress, so if you feel you deserve praise then recognize yourself. Don’t expect others to recognize everything you’ve done – especially if you’ve done so behind the scenes. If you’ve had a big breakthrough or reached a milestone, celebrate yourself. Keep a running tally of your work accomplishments in a notebook – these are sometimes good reminders when it comes time to complete your annual performance review or when you’re negotiating a salary increase.

Sometimes it’s also appropriate to recognize yourself to your boss.  Send an e-mail to succinctly call attention to the time and impact associated with your work.  You may also ask others who may have benefited from your work to send an e-mail to your boss on your behalf to help highlight what you’ve accomplished.  Sometimes you have to sell yourself – so don’t be afraid to speak up.

Lesson # 3: Own your behavior, especially your mistakes.

As important as it is to celebrate your accomplishments, it’s just as important to be self-aware of where you went wrong. In my project example I can’t expect my boss to assume I’ve exceeded all expectations when I was over budget and delivered late.  Admit to your mistakes, reflect on lessons learned, and move forward.  Don’t dwell. And don’t feel the need to justify every mistake.  Being self-aware and admitting to mistakes shows signs of maturity.

This is true even in marriage. Sometimes when I get feedback from my husband, I catch myself using the phase “I hear you, but…”. Everything that comes after the but falls on deaf ears. Sometimes I’m so concerned with being right or being understood that I think only about how I can justify my actions. It takes every bit of strength I can muster not to use that pesky three letter conjunction after receiving feedback, even when it’s constructive. I’ve found that simply by listening and reflecting, instead of quickly getting defensive, I can receive and process feedback more objectively.

Owning your behavior takes a lot more discipline and maturity than giving praise. Take the time to ask our boss or your peers for feedback. Then, take the proper amount of time to reflect on the feedback. Avoid getting defensive. Think about what you can take away from the lesson and do your best to apply it going forward.

All that said, a medal sure would be nice 😉

~ Mrs. Mula

Questions, Comments, Thoughts?