One of the common complaints baby boomers and members of Gen X share about millennial employees is their affinity for speaking up quickly and confidently in the workplace, even though they do not have the tenure or experience generations passed earned before raising their voice.
This generational frustration stems from attitudes in the workplace. As baby boomers were making their entry into the workplace, they were trained to “wait their turn”, “earn their keep”, and get years of experience under their belt before they expected to contribute their opinion on projects at work. For them, this habit started young as their schooling was often focused around individual work, which required achievement to be considered well versed on a subject.
On the other hand, millennials have grown up with parents who have told them they are “special” and “one of a kind”. A 2009 study by the journal Qualitative Sociology, published in Sticking Points: How To Get 4 Generations Working Together In The 12 Areas They Come Apart, found that millennials had more freedom to disagree with their parents and were encouraged to express their feelings. In other words, authority is flexible for a millennial.
In one survey also published in Sticking Points, 96% of millennials agreed or somewhat agreed with this statement, “I can do something great.” It’s clear this attitude is a deeply ingrained sentiment among young adults.
Haydn Shaw, author of Sticking Points, shares, “Considering their twenty years of being the center of attention, why are we surprised when they have the confidence to speak up in meetings even though they have only been on the project a few days?”
Group projects dominated the millennial school experience, requiring them to learn how to be collaborative and contribute their opinion in order to achieve. Often times, they were even graded on the number of times they spoke up to contribute an idea.
It should come as no surprise then, that millennials start their first job and immediately start contributing ideas and opinions, regardless of their experience or credibility on the topic.
A 2011 MTV study, published in Sticking Points, found that 90% of millennials want senior leadership to listen to their input and 76% believe their boss could learn a lot from them. Not only do millennials want to be collaborative and work alongside their more experienced peers, but they think their elder peers will be better for it.
While elder generations may view the confidence among new millennials in the workplace as a negative trait or detriment to the group, there is actually an alternative benefit to consider.
Liz Wiseman, author of Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing In The New Game of Work, details the alternative in her book. She shares that those who are more experienced are actually biased in their opinions and approach. They get so focused on what they know to be true, that they miss the important.
Wiseman suggests that inexperienced rookies are not impacted by assumptions and sometimes don’t even realize a task is hard because they’ve never experienced it before. She shares how newcomers tend to not bring any preconceived ideas and it forces them to look outward, ask questions, and pay attention to the ideas of others.
Millennials may not have the years of experience under their belt to contribute to projects in the workplace, but they also don’t have years of bias, assumptions, and negative attitudes towards ways that have been tried in the past.
Wiseman shares that rookies perform faster than others with more experience because they are desperate and they’re so motivated to reduce the tension of inexperience. They outperform others in the area of innovation, because the best thinking is done with a brand new perspective on the given topic.
This point of contention around outspoken young millennials in the workplace is important for all companies to understand. Large, outdated corporations should be aware of tendencies to prefer elder opinions and make a point of bringing a millennial to brainstorming and innovation sessions.
Small, young startups must be equally aware of this tendency and avoid having a table full of millennials in these same type of sessions. These predominately younger companies can benefit from the experienced voice at the table, so they would be wise to bring employees of all ages to the table.
This article was written by Kaytie Zimmerman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.