I recently attended a meeting for rehabilitation managers in my community titled, “New Graduates and Generation Y: Training for Emotional Intelligence and Face-To-Face Communications Skills.” This is Part 2 in a series of posts on the themes of that discussion about the Millennial generation. Part 1 can be accessed here.
“Students and new grads [Millennials] don’t seem to have the listening skills they once had. And they don’t have the self-awareness to reflect and correct, and they often get defensive or emotional when criticized.” This was one of the central themes of the rehabilitation manager meeting I attended last week. Kids these days don’t listen, they won’t learn, and they get upset when someone with little more experience tries to tell them how to do it better. In other words, Millenials are immature and they don’t respect authority.
This is a common criticism of Millennials and one that – as an educator – I certainly understand. But I think that, when we examine the characteristics of Millennials, it it clear that the problem isn’t that Millennials don’t respect authority. It’s just that Millennials view authority differently than the generations before them.
It is true that Millennials are confident, and sometimes that confidence can seem arrogant. It can appear that they aren’t listening or reflecting when they continue to do things “their way.” Millennials are social and informal. They get along well with their parents. Similarly, they want to like their instructors and bosses and have casual, friendly relationships with them. The boundaries between “work” and “play” are blurry, and Millennials may have difficulty hearing professional criticism from a colleague and not taking it as a personal attack from a friend. Millennials like teamwork and value open communication. They believe that others on the team want to hear their thoughts and ideas, and they share them freely. When they are frustrated about a work situation or don’t agree with criticism, they aren’t afraid to express their feelings. To a Baby Boomer or Gen Xer, this way of relating to coworkers can seem immature, unprofessional, and just plain uncomfortable.
Here are a few of my suggestions for improving the “authority gap” between Millenials and Baby Boomers or Gen Xers:
- Build time into the day for communication. Allow time after a treatment session for a patient or family to provide feedback about home exercise program instruction. Schedule time at the end of the day to communicate with a colleague or clinical instructor about an intervention technique. These will give the student or new grad opportunities to practice receiving (and giving) constructive professional criticism.
- Millennials love technology – use it! Get permission first, then grab a video camera or smart phone and record a student or new grad conducting a patient interview or education session. Allow him to view the video and reflect on his performance and communication skills. Discuss what he did well, and what he should do differently next time. Again, this gives practices with communication and provides an objective way to self-reflect.
- Position yourself not strictly as an authority figure, but also as a mentor and advocate. Millennials value relationships and are fiercely loyal. This can be a tricky one – you want to be a guide, not a friend – but once you’ve established a relationship of mutual respect, you may find the student or new grad listening a little more and accepting criticism without defensiveness or emotion.