Shoutout to Millennials

leadership Nov 07, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

Last week I came across an HBR article with the title: Gen-X is More Creative than Gen-Y, According to Harvard.

Being a Gen-Xer, naturally, it caught my attention. I didn’t post it here because the article seemed pretty light-weight and this comparison definitely does NOT feel like Joy at Work to me.

That afternoon I had a client meeting with a leadership team that’s working on scaling their company. Our focus was to talk about announcing a shift in the organization. After the team discussed the basics — messaging, sequence of events, anticipated questions — I asked the question, “How do you want the team to feel, both during the conversation and then afterwards?”

Their immediate, almost reflexive response was, “That’s a great question.”

They meant it. They talked about it in depth. They thought it through. They aligned on it. They made adjustments. It was awesome. The leadership team is made up of members of the millennial generation.

It’s striking to me because, in my experience, my own generation doesn’t have this reflex. The response from my generation is to immediately calculate exactly how much time they have to spend pondering the “feelings” question before moving on.

“How do we want them to feel?”

Options: Shut this down immediately? Is 30 seconds enough? 5 minutes?

It’s just not how we were trained to think. It seems like a luxury, unnecessary. I remember years ago I was a speaker at a Credit Risk conference. The speaker before me was an expert in the Credit Risk industry. He joked, “Of course, we’re not in the ‘feelings’ business,” which cracked the group up! Besides the fact that, ironically, they were in that moment expressing their feelings, it didn’t bode well for my presentation about change and people.

I do know the business environment and my generation is increasingly tuned in to feelings thanks to popular literature as well as studies, podcasts, TED Talks, etc. It’s not that our generation doesn’t want to focus on this, it just hasn’t been okay until fairly recently and we’re recalibrating, trying out new ways to engage.

To the millennial generation I say, thank you for your influence in the business world. Thank you for making the subject of feelings okay to talk about at work.


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