Growing Up: Millennials In The Workplace



Taken as a group, I am a fan of the Millennials. Make that a BIG fan.  Their combination of optimism, high expectations, and eager participation is a breath of fresh air among the prevailing curmudgeons and worry warts.  I love it when millennials raise their hands with the tough question everyone in the group was thinking but few had the guts to express. I love the skeptical attitude toward arcane practices that really don’t work for anyone anymore.  Fearless; we need a few more of the fearless. If you don’t think you can change the world in your twenties, you’re in trouble. We’re all in trouble. So, put me down as “ Go Get ‘Em” for the Millennials.

My enthusiasm for our newest workplace generation is tempered by the size of my groan when I read Anita Hofschneider’s column “Hiring Millennials? Meet The Parents” in the September 11 edition of the Wall Street Journal.  Ms. Hofschneider describes emerging practices to involve the parents of millennials in the workplace. Here is where I draw the line. The workplace is the last chance to finally grow up and be your own person. Don’t give away this golden opportunity to be your grown up self.

I’m glad many millennials have great relationships with their parents. But every great relationship needs boundaries, and the workplace is one of them. You might ask what’s the harm in Bring Your Parents to Work Day.  Here’s the harm. Some parents get confused about whose job it is and whose workplace it is. Some employees believe the workplace has hired “Team Kelly” instead of just “Susan.” And, what about the new employee whose parents say, “It’s your career, honey. We’re here to support you, but it’s your job.” How does she explain that she’s the solo venture in an environment of career partnerships? What about the new employee whose parents are deceased or live a long distance away.  Or, consider the employee whose parents make minimum wage and can’t afford the day off to see Johnny’s cubicle? How included do they feel on “Parent’s Day” at work? It’s fine to have Mom and Dad pop in to see where their precious little one works and meet the professional significant others in their life. But a day set-aside just for Mom and Dad has unintended consequences that last far beyond a day.

Don’t even get me started on the emerging employer practices to invite parents to interviews, send home copies of job offers and performance reviews, write notes to Mom about meeting goals or (GASP!) ask the boss do home visits. No. No, Never, Don’t Even Think About It.  But don’t just listen to me. Ms. Hofschneider quotes Lauren Bailey, a millennial new to the workplace who said if she were given a letter from her employer to bring home to her parents, “I’d almost feel like I was back in high school.”  Or, if her parents participated in an interview or recruiting event: “I’d be worried that they are speaking for me.” My advice is to hire millennials like Lauren.

I’ll end where I began. As a group, I love the millennials. I welcome your enthusiasm, “sky is the limit” confidence and willingness to challenge the status quo. But you can keep all of these attributes and enter the workplace as an independent, prepared professional. And, you must be to affect the change you expect.  Others of your age have done this. The Freedom Riders were college age adults who got on buses alone to fight for Civil Rights in the American South. Martin Luther King was 26 years old when he championed the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Michelangelo created The Pieta at age 24 and painted the Sistine Chapel at age 29.  The list of lasting, adult achievements at a young age is very long.

Be our next hero. Make Mom and Dad be proud of your success – what you achieved by your own grown up self.