There are moments when young employees realize that no matter what they bring to the table, age will always trump value.
Not to be pessimistic…it is becoming more and more common for age to no longer matter. Hence the generational studies…
But back to the earlier point, it is still quite common in many organizations to still retain a strong sense of hierarchy based on experience and tenure. It is assumed that the longer someone has been in a role, company, industry, the better he will be at his job.
What companies are seeing today is a break in that assumption. Mike could have been in his role for eight years because he doesn’t want to be promoted. Sally is a loyal employee of twenty years but brings no outside perspective. It takes Joe twice as long to accomplish his tasks than his twenty-something team member.
There is something to be said that as one spends time in a role or at a company, one learns the political ropes.
Gen-Yers want to know why the ropes are even there…especially if they get in the way of completing the task at hand.
A young employee at an organization may walk in one day and tell the CEO if she would like to learn about practices in the government, give us a call. Politically, it could be seen as an implication the CEO knew nothing about working with the government. To the Gen-Yer, it probably was an innocent offer to provide information to someone without the bandwidth to become an expert in that field. Very different perspectives.
Something else to consider: young employees fresh from college worked in teams of peers. There isn’t much hierarchy instituted at the college level, and even professors sometimes are seen as peers. If the team is responsible for a deliverable, everyone got the work done. If someone didn’t pull his weight, you can bet the other people let him have it.
So why is it different in the workplace? Why can’t senior leaders be held accountable by direct reports?
It seems to keep going back to hierarchy.
So how can Gen-Yers battle the age issue and gain further credibility on a team eager to do things how they’ve always been done?
First: Leverage your strengths with confidence. For example, I am a creative individual. If my team is presented with a problem, I take an "outside the box" approach to finding a solution, no matter how crazy the ideas. If I question my approach, I will lose credibility.
Second: Think like your team. I may be able to come up with crazy ideas that "just might work," but I also know that my team expects that for every idea, I provide the process for implementation. I have to bring it down to a real level for them.
Third: Discover quickly what your team expects from you. Your team could have a number of individuals who prefer to think logically and with a factual perspective. They may expect the same from you, even if you have a more holistic approach. As you gain buy-in for your ideas, consider the packaging and be sure it is appropriate for the audience.
Fourth: Don’t fall into age traps. These include: being considered a processer instead of a coordinator; becoming over-emotional in your dealings; cracking under pressure; or having unrealistic ideas or expectations. Take some personality inventories and learn about how you think and perceive, and how to leverage that with others.
Spending the first few months of your new position gathering this kind of information will place you in a place of influence much sooner than the years it could take you to earn the age right. You can then break the entry-level mold, and go on to do the things you know you are more than capable of handling. Before you know it, you could be a major driver in your organization.