Being a Xennial in Millennial Owned CompaniesMar 21, 2019
Has anyone ever said to you, "you set the tone"?
I’ve had an infatuation with the career of business since 1995 when my creative little Bob Ross heart first realized that business, marketing, websites, and office organization were actually very much like creating one of my pieces of art that I believed I was going to someday sell to museums and tourists. As you can tell, I have a bit of a lack of reality too.
First, let me start with saying, I think Millennials many times get a bad rap when it comes to being judged as adults. I have learned a lot of lessons about being an adult actually from them. I agree that some of what their generation stands for and bring to the business world have been ignored or spun as negative characteristics. Having jobs with flexibility, receiving feedback constructively instead of abruptly, and creating a community that can support you; doesn’t sound like benefits I don’t want to have in a career. Where my Xennial has struggled with working with Millennial owned companies is when I’ve drunk the Kool-aid and business reality prevents them from walking the talk they've been drinking themselves.
Over the past five years, I’ve been able to work with a few different Millennial owned companies and still do today. If you’re unfamiliar with the definitions of Millennial verses Xennial, a Millennial is part of Generation Y, which are people born between the years of 1984-1996. Xennials are a micro-generation between Millennials and Generation X which are people born between 1977-1983. I was born in 198, 1 a true Xennial. The more I have learned about the differences Xennials vs Millennials have been taught in school, as well as, how they interact as leaders in the workplace it makes no surprise to me that over the past five years of working with Millennial owned companies that someone of my generation would at times feel they were being torn apart. Thankfully, I've feel I've pieced most of it together, and for the first time see that being a Xennial within Millennial owned companies has made me, (and my micro-generation) the perfect teacher(s) to support Millennials in a primarily GenXer business world.
If you played Pitfall before you were introduced to any other video games, you learned to think things through slowly and before you jumped…
My first video game system was yes, the Atari. I had one game for it Pitfall. I didn’t have it long before my dad got me a Nintendo, but I can remember that green screen and the little man falling in the pit over and over again because I was impatient and wasn’t thinking through when I needed to jump or how long I needed to stay on the vine not to fall to my death by that of digital alligators. I needed to slow down my want for instant gratification and look as far ahead as possible to time my response. After a few rounds with working with Millennial owned companies, you start to feel like possibly no one is considering the amount of time needed to not fall into the pit or look far enough over the pit to discuss the safest way to passage.
This was and still is the most difficult piece to come to terms with when working with Millennials. It appears like none of them think things through! For a while, I did the blame game and basically said what most GenXers who are discussing Millennials as a generation are saying, and that’s that “they are too lazy” to think about the outcome. I’ve come to believe that’s so not true. I’ve realized in many ways, this process of not thinking about timing or what could happen or even what may be the solutions that could be put in place, before said little Millennial man falls into the said pit, is that Millennials have been taught to expect they already know the outcome or that it's not worth worrying too much about until it actually happens. I firmly believe Millennials worry less about outcomes and worry more about the present.
Whereas for myself and my Generation X predecessors we are considering how we might best leap over that pit with our limbs intact and come out in the end with some alligator shoes to boot! We don’t take risks as much as Millennials do and in many cases especially in business, which can be in the Millennials favor. I see it create jealousy, and have felt it. I've seen it create a culture of fake culture, and leave good workers on both sides left grieving the demise of trusting one too many jumps across the pit. In business, those who don’t wait for change to happen to them but make the change themselves are usually the ones that grow.
If you weren’t aware of school shootings or witnessed planes flying into buildings your first years in college, before that you learned people were generally good people who forgave your mistakes…
When I graduated in 1999 from high school, I remember that Spring the school intercom telling us to all make our way out to the football field. We were told after about 45 minutes that two boys in black trench coats had gone into a school in Columbine, Colorado and shot many of their classmates. As the story unfolded about who the boys were, how their experience in school was, we learned that bullying could create ripples that no one wanted to experience. Then not long after in 2001, I sat in my boyfriends living room watching the morning news as two airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers. Buildings I had stood on top of only two years earlier for my high school class trip came falling to the ground taking so many innocent lives. I remember us shaking my boyfriend's cousin who was sleeping on his couch awake, as he was enlisted in the Air Force and us telling him of the reality hit it wasn’t just an accident. Not long after he left for his base, the news termed it a “Terror Attack”.
For my Xennial and Gen Xer counterparts, saying the first thing that came out of your mouth or leading with your gut, even joking a bit about something that you knew was ill-taste but would get a laugh didn’t seem like it could hurt much. We were taught people forgive and forget and as long as you were a “good enough” person you’d succeed, people would like you, and in business, you’d be seen as someone who’d probably rise the ranks of the ladder.
For Millennials you see, most of them were still in middle school when Columbine happened, and probably some had parents who went off to war with an unknown of how we made this enemy that was terrorizing us before they went off to college. Millennials were taught that your tone, your actions, and your willingness to make amends and peace is really what makes a person popular, or likable, and will keep you safe. I’ve had moments where I’ve been told my tone or things I said when working with Millennials was too cold or too harsh, and to be honest I feel some of it needed said and not skirted around. But to an extent, I understand it and realize the caution and care is because fear is a great influencer from both directions.
Lastly, if you would choose to have a car over a cell phone, you learned that transportation is freedom, not communication…
I once had this question asked of me by a Millennial business owner. They asked me, "if you had to choose which was more important to survival which would you pick a car or your cell phone?" I picked the car, and they were so shocked it started a forty-five-minute conversation as to why.
Considering that I didn’t own my first cell phone until I was just about out of college and could pay for it myself, I believe it was 2001, I had lived a lot of my life without a phone within arms reach of my body already. Even for emergencies. However, one of my earliest memories of a Christmas wish was to get my first bike! Those two wheels meant freedom and getting my driver's license at 16 and then my first car at 18 was no different! Maybe it’s because living in the rural parts of Pennsylvania meant that to do anything of interest it required either the 30-minute bike ride into the town pool or the 45-minute drive to the closest movie theatre. I learned that in order to leave my small-town life, I needed wheels and so for me, the Xennial, a car means freedom a cell phone means work.
For the Millennial who runs a business, well, I get it. Cell phones primarily became popular and more accessible in 1996, so by the time many of them were getting ready to drive, a prepaid phone or a family plan wasn’t so foreign to them to have for "emergency purposes". Having access to communication with friends, possibly texting a short note, and maybe a few games to provide some moments of distraction from being bored waiting for the bus probably made having a phone feel more like the freedom to them than having a car. Where I’ve struggled with this part of working with Millennial owned businesses is realizing that they see their phone as an extension of their ability to express themselves, not a tool they use strictly for work and what I call "real communication". Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my iPhone and I regularly need to remind myself as technology has changed that it's a tool for work.
However, in business I’ve seen where training built in a way that worked for my GenXer lifestyle ends up loses team members due to the length of time it would take. The amount of time it takes out of the freedom in their lifestyle is important, and that includes the time they spend on their phone that relates to work. The lines of what freedom is and what is communication were clearly taught to the Millennial very differently than the Xennial.
Now maybe, I’m way off, maybe it isn’t how our generations were taught to learn to take risks, or what to do to stay safe, or even what it means to be free or communicate well but I think I’m pretty spot on when it comes to working with Millennials as a Xennial in business. I believe Xennials and Gen Xers have a job to learn from Millennials those qualities that really are a lot more adult than the adulting we were taught was the way in business, but I also feel Xennials and Gen Xers have the greatest gift to support Millennials in building their purposeful and profitable businesses too. It is an asset for us to know how to think things through and spot the pit, as much as it's an asset to have them remind us to leap once in a while. We know how to believe the best in others from the start and recognize good intentions but they remind us to not be too gullible and to realize maybe what we are doing might not be completely fair. And we know how to put the pedal to the metal and put down the phone to get the ish that needs doing, done. While they remind us maybe we need to hop in our cars once in a while and take a working trip to the beach.
My Bite-Sized Biz chat training has been created specifically from my work with Millennials in business and from realizing that some of my greatest life, leadership, and entrepreneurial lessons have been because of how I knew some of the old school ways and allowed myself to be schooled on their way. Check out my home-based business training that is delivered by messenger chat specifically to support you and your team in learning the skills that will eliminate the entrepreneur learning curve for businesses that span multiple generational learning styles.