Help! I’m a Baby Gen Xer Trapped in a Geriatric Millennial’s Body
I was amused last year to learn that I belong to the micro-generation newly termed “geriatric millennials.” This generation consists of people born between approximately 1980 and 1985 (I was born in 1981). Geriatric millennials are, apparently, to be prized in the workforce, as translators between the “digital adapter” boomers and Gen Xers, who grew up in an analog world, and the “digital native” younger millennials and Gen Zers.
Despite my birth year, I am pretty sure no workplace would prize my input on millennials. Several years ago, I had an assistant who was several years younger than me — a quintessential millennial — and frankly, I did not understand her at all. She constantly questioned why I had assigned certain tasks to her, refusing to complete them unless she fully understood why they were important. She complained that I was not giving her enough feedback and specifically not enough praise, so I found myself doing absurd things like congratulating her when she sent routine emails successfully.
In desperation, I eventually consulted with a senior woman colleague — a boomer, in fact — who is highly poised, polished, and professional, yet completely down to earth. She advised me as follows: “Be firm, give her explanations when you can but also tell her that sometimes she just needs to do what is being asked, praise her as often as possible, and wear pearls so she remembers you’re her boss and not her friend.” I suppose it makes sense that a boomer could interpret a millennial for me; after all, most millennials are children of boomers, right?
Anyway, the advice more or less worked, but it didn’t keep me from being completely nonplussed by the behavior I was witnessing, or from trading millennial stories with others. One man told me his law firm had just held a mandatory “millennial training.” At first I assumed it was for new associates, to help them adjust to the workplace, but it turned out it was actually to help the workplace adjust to the incoming millennials. Another friend let me in on a secret interview question that she said was guaranteed to weed out the millennials with the most maladaptive workplace behavior. The upshot of it was to ask them the…