4 Ways to Overcome Millennial Stereotypes at Work

Interested in learning how to overcome Millennial stereotypes at work? You’ve come to the right place, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But first, check out this great video from Official Comedy about how to deal with Millennials in the workplace.

These Millennial stereotypes may be hilarious in the above video, but sometimes they can to be shockingly accurate. So how can you overcome Millennial stereotypes at work? Believe it or not, its pretty easy.

1. Demonstrate discipline. Demonstrate discipline. Demonstrate discipline.

In this case, I am defining discipline as:

activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.

You can also apply the Jim Collins definition of discipline from “Great by Choice” – consistency of action. Either way, you need to operate in a disciplined manner. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or that you have to be stodgy all of the time – far from it. It does mean, however, that you need to operate within a consistent and rigorous set of guidelines that you create, based on your skill set, experience, and the culture of your environment. What might that look like when applied? Get your work done on time, every time, no matter what. Be thorough. Make sure you understand the expectations placed on you, and consistently exceed them. Force yourself to view situations through other people’s lenses. Check and recheck your work, even if no one else will see it. Again, to borrow a phrase from Jim Collins (I’ll probably be doing that regularly), be sure to rinse your cottage cheese. You will perform what you practice, therefore be rigorous even when you are practicing.

You will always have the opportunity to cut corners, take the path of least resistance, and make excuses. To be viewed as a leader (or even as leadership material, which inevitably is the first, second, and thousandth step of being ordained as a leader in your organization), you’ll need to force yourself to put in the extra effort required to do the job excellently each and every time. To do that, you will need a secret weapon: discipline.

2. Add value to your team

You might think you are the best team member in the world, or at the very least, on your team. You might think that you have the best ideas, the most cohesive strategy, and the most well developed business acumen of anyone you know. But unless you are consistently finding ways to transform those ideas, strategies and skills into something that adds value to your team (whether ad-hoc or standing), no one will care. To be a leader, people have to want to work with you, to take direction from you, and to succeed in partnership with you. Make sure that when you work in a team setting (do this as often as possible), your team is enriched by your involvement, and the final product is better than it would have been had you not be part of the process. Otherwise, who cares?

3. Understand your organizations structure and timelines

Your wanting to be in a position of leadership often does not align with available opportunities within an organization. The desire to be a leader is frequently in conflict with your ability to actually achieve the title or position you want in the time frame you wish. In many cases, it may be several years until a leadership position you are qualified for opens up or is created.

Understanding that leadership isn’t a title or a permanent position can go a long way to alleviating the tension this conflict creates. Instead, view leadership for what it is at its core – your ability to influence those around you towards the achievement of a common goal (or some permutation thereof). If that doesn’t excite you – I mean really excite you, like “stay awake at night because you’re so excited” excite you, you may not be the leader you think you are. However, if executing on that definition of leadership puts you on the edge of your seat, take it upon yourself to find opportunities to be a leader – leading laterally among your peers, and even leading up to influence your manager and beyond. Be careful to not undermine, or appear to be undermining, anyone while doing this. There can be a fine line between leading laterally and usurping your boss. However if done properly, it can be very rewarding. Both lateral and upward leadership are critical skills that should and most likely will be taken into consideration when an official leadership position opens. Your proactive approach to identifying and filling leadership gaps will go a long way in showing that you are ready to lead when the time comes.

4. Be on time (or slightly early) for everything

This one could probably be a sub-section of the earlier point on discipline, but I think it is so vitally important as to warrant its own section.

Always be on time. Always.

Nothing says “don’t take me seriously” like showing up late, and doing so consistently. Of course we all will be late to something on occasion. But it is important to do everything in your power to mitigate the circumstances that can lead to your being late. Notice I didn’t say “the circumstances that make you late” – they didn’t make you late, your choices did. I know that sounds harsh, but it is almost always the reality of the situation. Is getting into the office on time difficult? Wake up earlier. Set 2 alarm clocks. Get a wake up call service (I haven’t tried these outside of a hotel, but they exist). Is traffic highly variable? Either leave early enough that it will never be a problem and start work early if you arrive ahead of schedule, or find another way to get to work that may take longer on average, but that has greater consistency in travel time. Make sure your calendar gives you reminders for meetings at intervals (and volumes, if needed) that will get your attention.

Being on time might seem like a no-brainer, but it is a struggle for many young professionals. Being punctual rarely will get you accolades, but nothing will help build your reputation as an unreliable partner like being late.

By consistently focusing on these 4 areas, you’ll start to stand out from the crowd and begin to develop your own leadership skills, effectively positioning yourself to be recognized as an emerging leader in your organization.

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One thought on “4 Ways to Overcome Millennial Stereotypes at Work

  1. Janet Dearstyne

    Well written and insightful advice not only for millennials, but for any employee looking to exercise his/her leadership skills, improve their outlook and attitude, and maximize their personal and professional growth potential.

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