Kids these days, part 2

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Have you experienced the “authority gap” in your classroom or practice?  What strategies have you used  to close the gap?
[Creative Commons-licensed image by Flickr user xflickrx]
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2 responses to “Kids these days, part 2”

  1. Tasha Parman says :

    Hey again from one of these kids…

    I would agree that my generation views authority different from generations of the past from everything I hear/observe. I do think we all mostly respect it, but that respect becomes harder to earn when we don’t feel as if our strengths are acknowledged and utilized… when we can tell we are being judged for our age/inexperience… We have no way to truly feel what older generations are feeling until we get to that age ourselves. Those older than us though should be able to recall when they entered their professions. Sure, it was much different back then, but I believe the human nature of the experience remains much the same. We are all likely hopeful, excited, nervous, scared, etc. When I have conversations with more experienced clinicians about their first jobs, the first time they evaluated this type of patient, etc., it makes me feel much more connected with them. Sharing experiences truly helps form relationships between co-workers, and it shows less experienced employees that we all go through similar emotions as our career progresses.

    I love the idea of structuring time for communication. I thought the Feb. 2012 APTA issue of PT in Motion had a great article on mentoring. As a new grad, it gave me something to look for in my job search, and it gave me ideas for when I work with future new grads down the line.

    I’ve experienced the authority gap in my clinical education. Perhaps it’s because it’s my final year, but I can say that my current clinical has been great at closing the gap. I think it’s in part due to the independence I’m being giving with my patients, but also, I think an open work environment has helped considerably. I can tell the staff is acting just as they would if I was present or not concerning the conversations they have and the way they handle themselves. This might be goofy, but the therapy staff plays pool volleyball once a week over the lunch hour. Just to be included in this “off-work” activity makes me feel like part of the team. We had a March Madness basketball bracket in which we all participated. They joke with us. They treat us as they treat each other, though we do get more attention in the form of teaching 🙂 When doing article reviews, it’s not just the student reading and summarizing the article. The CI also does, and also gives his/her opinion. We all learn and have fun together. Anyway, that open environment has lead me to feel very comfortable in my setting, and I think other young clinicians would appreciate that too.

    Last comment–I also love the idea of using technology for feedback. I know I’d learn a lot from seeing myself practice via a video. It would be intimidating I think, like a mock interview, but extremely helpful and objective.

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  1. Kids these days, part 3 « Kendra Ped PT - April 3, 2012

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