Editor’s Letter: October 2012
September 20, 2012
By Laura Aiken
I often ask bakery owners, “What’s your biggest challenge at work?”
I often ask bakery owners, “What’s your biggest challenge at work?” There is one answer that has been repeated most, so it’s time for Bakers Journal to rise to the occasion and offer some advice on the statement I hear most often: “My staff. I don’t know what’s up with young people these days!”
Older generations have always been somewhat puzzled over the antics of twentysomethings, but today’s youth are different this time around, particularly in how their values play out at work. There is a lot of literature out there on managing millennials, as people born in or after 1980 were coined. Theories suggest that this is the first generation raised on a diet of Internet and highly nurturing parents, a potent combination for a new breed of youth. I have done my homework and offered some insight to demystify your young staff as well as advice on how to manage them more effectively on page 10. However, there are a few prevailing issues I came across in my research that must be kept in mind.
A lot of millennial stereotyping is negative. They’ve been branded entitled, indifferent and the most me-first generation to come along in history. They’re also considered to be high performance and very imaginative. Behaviour is labelled by perception, and some of the difficulty in understanding millennials is simply a total unfamiliarity with their accepted norms.
It’s really important to examine the actions of people to find out what really motivates them and understand the values at work behind the behaviour. It is often a case of a positive value expressed in a way that doesn’t gel with the standards set forth by generation X, the baby boomers and the “builders” or eldest generation in the workforce. There is also the maturity of people as individuals to consider.
Some people were just born old souls and others seem to never grow up. It is possible that this generation may be different because more of them are delaying the full responsibilities of adulthood longer. The stigma of being in your mid-20s and living with your parents is gone in the eyes of this generation. A lengthier safety net gives young people more freedom to do what they want and consider their own needs.
Defining people based on their age is useful, but the parameters set forth in most of the research doesn’t feel entirely accurate. I was born in 1980, a millennial by definition. Yet I was 16 the first time I used the Internet and 19 when I had my first e-mail account and cellphone. I can hardly say technology had a big impact on my childhood. I feel as though people born in the late 1980s and early 1990s were a bigger part of the game-changing technology years. I was also raised in a rural environment that valued toughing it out in difficult situations and leaving home as soon as possible. People are individuals who come from many different backgrounds. Behaviour, whether it is perceived as positive or negative, can’t always be simply chalked up to generational differences.
At some point you need to decide whether mysterious actions are a product of age and generation or just the person. Sometimes just better understanding a person is all it takes to ease tension in your bakery.
It will be interesting to see what the millennials grow up to be like in the workforce. Remember, it’s their early career mentors and managers who will play an enormously influential role in determining what kind of leaders today’s youth will be.
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