If you’re serious about success, however you define it, you should know what’s going on in my head or that of the one you work for. Your new boss, whoever he or she is, will probably be older than you by enough years that there’s going to be a generation gap. I’m only in my early forties and it amazes me when I think that I graduated from high school before the Internet, smart phones, or instant anything except maybe oatmeal. Today we get impatient if we have to wait 45 seconds for a reply to a text message. Dane Cook has a great skit where he talks about how in the year 3000 everything will be instant. You'll be able to teleport instantly from one location to another and prepare a meal in an instant, but the DMV will still take 9 seconds. "9 seconds!", he screams, "C'mon, I gotta be to work in 3 seconds!"
Millennials, you may disagree with how some business people think about your generation, but you should know that they think it and try to anticipate the prejudices they are likely to have. The less like the stereotype you appear, the better your chances of being offered opportunities. Always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
You might want to read “The M-Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace,” by Lynn C. Lancaster and David Stillman. Some of it might make you mad, but there’s a lot of wisdom in it, if you can read it with an open mind. For example:
“While Millennials bring many skills with them to the workplace, they are not always the skills their bosses and co-workers had expected. In fact, nearly 70 percent of Traditionalists, Boomers, and Xers in our M-Factor survey agreed that Millennials are ‘lacking in some basic skills.’ These mismatched expectations are causing some of the most painful workplace gaps.
Many are shocked by the things they have to teach Millennials. As one Xer put it, ‘The things they struggle with just seem so obvious. I can’t tell you how often I want to look a Millennial in the face and say, What were you thinking?
When working with Millennials, [executives should] take the time to communicate baseline expectations about working in your culture, such as etiquette, forms of address, how to treat clients, what written communication should look like, how mistakes are handled, and the other basics that form the company’s operating standards. You are bound to uncover interesting gaps in understanding."
In training our young recruits, we put a lot of emphasis on chalking the lines—describing the dress, behavior, and so on that we expect. Honesty is an important aspect because our recruits start out on the honor system. One of the techniques we’ve used to illustrate ethical dilemmas is a story that’s been passed down in our management over the years.
An armored car driving down the highway hits a bump and, unbeknownst to the driver, the rear doors open up and the money starts flying out. The truck drives on and there’s money scattered everywhere.
People are stopping their cars and jumping out. There are two types of people: the ones who shout, “Free money!” and grab as much as they can; and the type of person who says, “Somebody’s lost their money and we have to make sure it gets back to its rightful owner.”
We teach our reps to think and make the right decisions, and make them instinctively. So, the first question I ask is, "Which type of person in the story are you?"
The second question is, "How long did it take you to come up with the answer?" When your ethics are in line, the answer is immediately clear.
Young people take their cues from those they know best, their families. Success may depend on the ability to make good choices on the fly when the boss (or parents) aren’t around to advise. We need to make sure we are setting a high standard, especially when it comes to integrity.
She just stepped out.
I've seen people do things like when someone calls that they don't want to talk to, they say, "Tell them I'm not here." My father was in law enforcement so all my life, I was never allowed to say something like that. Nor should we. What message does that send. It will definitely carry over into other areas of life.
Have you ever walked out to your car from the supermarket, with your children hanging off the overflowing shopping cart, and discovered a box of cereal in the bottom rack that you forgot to pay for? Some people think, “it’s no big deal, they can afford it”. My wife had this happen recently. It was a pack of gum. She didn't feel like going back to pay for it, the kids were being crazy. However, she knew that the opportunity to teach our kids to always do the right thing was far more important, so back she went, kids in tow, to pay for a 50cent pack of gum.
It’s human nature to have the urge to cut corners now and then, sometimes just for the expediency of time. Most business crimes (embezzling, kickbacks, Ponzi schemes) begin rather innocently when someone “borrows” money from a business or uses customer money to cover a pressing financial need or debt. They tell themselves they’ll pay it back later and no one will be the wiser, but later comes sooner than they think and they have to keep “borrowing” to keep from being discovered.
Whatever gain you get from cutting corners will never be worth the price of a guilty conscience, or worse if you get caught doing something seriously illegal.
Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote, "The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office."
Words to live by.
- John Wasserman, Author, No Shorts, Flip Flops, or Sunglasses: How to Get and Make the Most of Your First Real Job
by John Wasserman
Proceeds benefit Children's Dyslexia Centers