I experienced a lot of great things at the 2015 NAB Radio Show. I met lots of amazing professionals, looked at some cool equipment, and attended really interesting and informative sessions.
The very first one I went to was a panel discussion about bridging the gap between older generations and millennials in the workplace. While I was originally excited for this session, it ended up demonstrating everything that’s terrible about being a millennial in today’s professional environment, and it can all be summed up in two words: Work Parent.
This was a term that was actually used during the discussion by an older generation boss to describe his relationship with his millennial employee. I had never heard this term before and upon it gracing my ears for the very first time I actually physically cringed. Hear me out, bosses of the world: if you are looking to alienate each and every last one of your younger employees, there is no more efficient way to do it than to refer to yourself as their “Work Parent”. Let’s break down this insanity.
First, I already have parents. Most people do. Mine happen to be pretty great and I have no need for new ones. Second, I really don’t need parental figures at work. Do you know what parents do? They take care of their kids. Bosses can be great, but I don’t need by boss to take care of me.
A boss can be so many things, a colleague, a mentor, even a friend, but all of these relationships require a certain amount of mutual respect. In a parent-child relationship, not only is the power one-sided, so is the respect. While a parent may respect their child to a degree, this respect does not manifest itself through action or real independence. A child has no agency or autonomy. In the workplace, I always have agency regardless of my position in the company. Workers can file complaints, unionize, or quit if they feel they are being treated unfairly. A child is not extended these rights because their parents are charged with deciding what is best for them. To make a long story short: millennials are not children.
Thankfully, in my short time in the working world I have had for the most part wonderful managers and bosses who were willing to help and teach me while respecting my opinions and input. What made these people great to work for was that they were confident in their knowledge and expertise, unquestionably in charge, and also friendly and understanding. We joked and laughed and exchanged ideas and worked together to produce great products, whether that be a radio show, a commercial, or a cup of coffee. Not once did these great bosses ever treat me like a child or try to act parental toward me.
Treating adults like adults. That’s how you bridge the generation gap. Turns out it’s just that easy.