How to Work with Millennials and Others

How to Work with Millennials and Others

I read this article from the AICPA entitled “5 established phrases established leaders should never say again”.   Each of the statements makes sense to me.  However, I also wanted to share with you some insights on how our brain works with lessons I have learned from neuroscientists on not only how to work with millennials but lessons that can be applied to others as well.    In addition, I want to thank Bryan Fleming for suggesting not to use phrases such as subordinate or understudy.

First, I will tell you a story, and second I would ask that you reflect on this story with me.  We do not learn from our experiences, but by reflecting on our experiences.  I have read a version of this story on the internet previously, but I could not find it on the internet to give it a proper citation, and I am likely changing it a bit.  However, I think this story has some valuable lessons.  I want to present my version of this story to address how we provide commentary to others.  Now the story….

Bob worked in the produce department of a grocery store.   Each day Bob brought out the fresh produce and placed it in store.   Ryan, his manager was in the back of the store doing other activities.  While in this area a customer stated to Ryan, “The apples were really good today”.   Ryan appreciated the compliment.  A little later a customer saw Ryan and stated, “The bananas were really bad today”.  While stating this to Ryan another customer affirmed that the bananas were particularly bad today.  What should Ryan do with this information?   Ryan could have let his reptilian brain at the top of the brainstem take over and become angry towards Bob.  If Ryan became angry he would likely become accusatory towards Bob and launch into an inquisition towards Bob.  However, Ryan knows he can control his reptilian brain with his prefrontal cortex and not let himself become angry.   If he stops himself from becoming angry, he pauses, he reflects and he proceeds with an open mind to explore the situation inquisitively, then the situation can become a teachable moment for Ryan with Bob.   This is how Ryan approached the situation.

Ryan went down to the produce area and saw no green bananas.  The bananas were all yellow and most had black spots.  There were no rotten bananas, but the quantity was low and the quality was poor.  Ryan approached Bob and Ryan stated, “I received a nice compliment on the apples today.”  Bob indicated, “The apples were exceptional today and I only had to toss a few.”  Ryan asked, “How were the other fruits including peaches, pears, oranges and bananas?”  Bob said, “I am glad you brought up bananas.  Today the bananas were really bad.”  Bob indicated, “I had to toss out over half of the bananas, because they were over ripe.  I thought I should put out at least something, so I put out the best of the bananas, but they were not up to the usual standard.  Many were over ripe and had to be tossed”. Bob indicated, “I did not know what else I should do”. 

This is when the teachable moment came in.   Ryan could provide Bob with what to do in the future.  For example, Ryan could have said something like “If this ever happens again:

Call me as the manager so that I can address this with the fruit vendor, or

Do not put out anything, except top quality produce.  Next time make up a sign that says, “Sorry no bananas today”.  We only want to provide top quality produce.

Today, we need to remove the bananas and put up the sign.”

Reflecting on the commentary what are the keys:

·         Don’t let yourself become angry.

·         Enter into a discussion regarding a potentially negative situation with a positive if possible.

·         Enter into the discussion with an inquisitive mind and let the other party share his or her perspective.

·         Get behind the surface issue to understand the situation.

·         Once the situation is clarified and the problem is defined, develop alternatives to address the situation.

The initial premise of this commentary was taken from five statements that established leaders should not offer to millennials.  Once you read how to address the five phrases positively, reflect on what you might want to say not only to millennials if you are more experienced, but what you might want to say to others in general.  Reflect on your experiences and see if this may help you when working with others considering not only generational, but other differences as well.

Mike is a manager with over 25 years’ experience at all levels of management.  He also worked at the IRS for 28 years.  Mike provides services related to conflict resolution (business to business, business to government within businesses), and value added services (business valuation reviews, research credit advice, transfer pricing assistance, strategic planning and leadership development) to help clients and boards of directors on a wide variety of issues.  When not serving clients as a consultant or blogging, Mike is an avid writer, speaker and educator.  When not working Mike enjoys family, church, volunteering, and daily yoga, meditation and exercise.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]