If you have Millennials on your staff, then I guarantee on more than one occasion you’ve thought to yourself, “I just don’t understand them.” It’s OK–lots of people feel that way.
The average age in my office is 25. I’ve learned a few things when it comes to Millennial speak. Here’s something you should know:
When Millennials keep it short, something’s up!
When Millennials keep their responses to a minimum, they’re trying to tell you something. They were raised by parents who trained them to be very sensitive to people’s feelings. They don’t like conflict–especially at work!–and in most cases, they’ll do whatever they can to avoid confrontation and uncomfortable conversations. With that in mind, these short little comments by Millennials mean a lot more than you realize.
1. “That could work.”
This really means “I don’t think that will work at all, but I don’t want to be rude and tell you it’s a bad idea.” Millennials were raised to be highly collaborative. When you come to them with an idea or task they weren’t a part of developing, they aren’t going to just smile and say “OK”–especially if they don’t agree. So, this tactful response is meant to allow them to open up the conversation to alternatives you can discuss and agree upon.
2. “I’d like your feedback.”
They aren’t asking for a fake compliment like “nice job” or “that’s great.” They also don’t want to be ripped to shreds. They want you to explain specifically what they’re doing right (appreciation) and what could be better (advancement). They’re asking for you to pay attention to their career. They’re asking for coaching–something they’ve been given their whole lives. They expect it. They don’t see the need for coaching as a sign of weakness, but as a path to greatness. Give them the feedback they want (in the way they want it!), so they can exceed your expectations.
3. “Maybe we should try it like this.”
Again, this is code for “I think your idea isn’t good, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, so I’m going to suggest an alternative.”
A one-word answer for “I’ll do it, but I’m not psyched about it.” Millennials want to do meaningful work all the time. When given a task that doesn’t thrill them, they can’t hide their feelings that well. Hence, they keep their response to one word–absolutely the least amount of communication possible. Which leads to them often saying the next comment a short while later…
5. “Why do we need to do this again?”
This translates to “Help me understand the bigger picture here, because I’m not seeing how this is a good use of my time.” When you’ve been coached your entire life, things are often explained to you in how it relates to your personal success. If a Millennial can’t see how the task being assigned contributes to their career growth or professional success, they’ll want some help seeing it. Getting them to understand how important the task is to the success of the business, and in turn how that will be reflected in the way they’ll be viewed as a performer, can help them get excited about what they’re being asked to do.
6. “That’s interesting.”
This is a conversation shut-down tactic. What they’re saying is, “Actually, it’s not interesting at all and I don’t want to get into a conversation with you about it.” You may need to expand on what you’re sharing so they can see the connection. They aren’t always going to understand what you’re saying and why you’re excited about it, but they don’t want to look ignorant. They may need more context to find what you’re sharing worth discussing.
The takeaway from the above translations?
If you care enough to read beyond Millennials’ reserved responses, you can tap into their mindset and use it to improve your interactions.
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