"Dude, What's My Job?" How to Manage 20-Somethings



When you think about millennials in the workforce, the first things that come to mind may not be positive. The generation, loosely defined as those born after 1982 and before 2004, has often been labeled as lazy, entitled and disloyal. But that bad rap may have more to do with generational bias and miscommunication than reality, says Brad Karsh, the CEO and founder of JB Training Solutions and the author of three business books, including one on millennials.

In advance of his talk "Dude, What's My Job?" Managing 20-Somethings at SHRM 2018, we spoke with Karsh on how to effectively manage 20-somethings.

Why is there so much bias against 20-somethings?

We forget what’s it’s like to be 22, 23, 24. It's this time-honored technique where we like to pick on the generation following us. It's the same way when you're a senior in college — you're like, "Ugh, freshmen. They're terrible. Were we like that?" Yes, you were exactly like that, but you forget.

What do you see as one of the strengths of today’s 20-somethings?

Millennials aren't lazy. I hear this all the time. They're not lazy; they're remarkably hardworking. But they don't do well without structure. They grew up in a time where the mindset about work,  about jobs and about success changed pretty dramatically.

How are 20-somethings changing the way we work?

We were taught, we were trained, we were conditioned — if you hit a barrier, you go over it. You go around it. You break through it. Twenty-somethings were taught, they were trained, they were conditioned — if you hit a barrier, you ask someone to help you figure it out. Again, not right, not wrong. Not better, not worse, but different.

What are some generational miscommunications managers should be aware of?

I hear things like "Millennials are incredibly needy. All they do is ask me questions, all the time." But then I hear from millennials, "My boss is distant. They don't check in with me. They have no interest in me or my career. I wanna leave."

Both, sadly, incorrect, but everyone's treating the other generation based on how they'd like to be treated. Not how they think the other generation wants to be treated. That's where we see all these disconnects, and that's where we see all this tension and issue in the workplace.



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