Takeaways on Millennials and Conflict

Noah Rothman wrote this week on "ghosting" in the workforce. Ghosting is when someone does not show up or communicate when expected. They just disappear. It happens in relationships. Rothman wrote about how it happens at work. He said that it comes from conflict avoidance and is typical of Millennials.

Let's just be clear; Millennials are between 20-40 years of age. So when someone says Millennial, think of the 30-35 year-old you know as the middle part of that group.

I just want to respond with a couple of takeaways.

For millennials:

  • On one level, conflict stinks. It is really hard and feels like your guts are being pulled out. But it can be an opportunity to grow personally. When you face conflict and hard conversations or difficult people, try to see it as an opportunity to prepare for the next 50 years (you do expect to live until you are 90, right?). Learning to address conflict now means that you will be better prepared to deal with it in the future. Because it will come up again. Does conflict keep me up at night? Yes. But I still don't run because I want to grow.
  • Conflict that isn't addressed now will likely grow. That misunderstanding that goes unaddressed will turn into more misunderstanding and blossom into frustration and anger. That difficult person will only become more difficult. 

For employers and leaders:

  • If a millennial addresses a conflict with you, it is probably a really big deal for them. They don't address conflict easily, so you should take any issue they bring up as a big deal. If you don't, they won't bring up future issues with you. They will likely interpret it as you not taking them or their issue seriously. And they will likely deal with any conflicts in the future without consulting you. Do you really want those under you not even talking with you about a problem? Do you want them to deal with it on their own and likely leave your team, organization, or business without you having a chance to help or deal with the conflict?
  • A high-conflict, high-confrontation culture will tend to weed out millennials over time. It is your right to have the culture that you want. And it is their choice to work in the culture that they want. Do you really want a company or organization without anyone under 40 years-old? I don't believe the remedy is to ignore problems and coddle people. But it means that relishing the fight and allowing bullying tactics in your organization will only empty it of people 40 and under. You might have to learn other ways of leading and communicating. Your choice.


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