How many times have you been misunderstood in the workplace?
There is a stigma that we, as Millennials, have to battle. Millennials are famously known for being a “trophy” generation – a generation used to receiving participation awards that have no real merit. Consequently, attitudes toward this generation can be quite negative. Those who have come before us openly charge us with feeling we deserve praise and awards for our hard work simply as a result of how we were cultured. While it’s true of some Millennials, it’s absolutely not true of many. Even if this is not true of you, it’s unfortunately something we have to deal with and be prepared to encounter.
If you’re like me, you know your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. In any professional setting, you expect to capitalize on your talents, while developing your weaknesses. As with any professional, young or old, there must be a good balance of healthy ego and humility. You want to grow and move up, but all in good time. Part of this requires knowing yourself as a professional and knowing what you are, in fact, good at and what you need to improve.
To be successful in today’s job market, there is a certain level of confidence that you have to carry. Confidence is not the same as arrogance and unfortunately can be perceived as ignorance. In the case of the latter, in can be difficult to “win” with a predetermined label slapped across your forehead.
This considered, what if you really are at a job where you are underappreciated? Objectively speaking, since you know there is a stigma attached to you, it can be difficult to speak up for fear of proving them right. More importantly, you have to first ask yourself if you’re being a typical Millennial and over-valuing your worth. Where, then, is the line between knowing you’re underappreciated and having Millennial fever? How do you battle the stigma of your superiors who attribute your confidence to being an ignorant Millennial?
There’s no doubt that working in an environment where you feel pulled in both directions can be frustrating. You find yourself devalued while defending your intentions and trying to overcome others’ misconceptions. (How exhausting and taxing on your emotions!) You also find yourself striving for results that will never come for you. So, how do you win this battle?
The “mom” answer is you have to try your best and simply understand that you can’t change others’ minds. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regard others’ opinions as valuable and implement constructive feedback, but you can only exert so much energy toward something before it becomes an energy-suck for no good reason and begins having a negative effect.
Taking the mom-hat off.
I’m a person who likes actionable advice. I prefer people to be straight with me and give me real feedback. So, I hope you’ll find this helpful.
- Take An Assessment: Don’t be an insecure professional and don’t assume one person’s opinion is everyone’s opinion. Even if you’ve heard it a few times before, it’s important to assess others’ perceptions of you before you assume they think so negatively of you that you have reason to worry. Build a few relationships and ask people that you trust to provide some honest feedback. Talk to a mentor about it. If the general response is that you could stand to improve your attitude and demeanor, then this actionable feedback for you to digest and work through.
- Be Objective: The next step after assessing is staying objective. Don’t be so sensitive to feedback that you forget to accept it constructively. Your ego may get a little deflated, but you can’t get down on yourself. Stay positive and see it as a learning opportunity. When we can see constructive criticism just for that, we can truly grow as professionals. And let’s face it – your ability to accept feedback and criticism is an admirable quality that companies observe.
- Define Your Goals: You’ve constructed a list of your weaknesses based off of feedback from trusted colleagues. Now, it’s time to set some goals that aim to develop your professional character. As with any type of character building, you have to establish habits. Taking the time to write down the end goal and what it will take to achieve it will help you stay on track for growth. This should include milestone and disciplines that will help you stay on track and provide evaluation criteria. Be sure to include evaluation periods and meet with your trusted colleagues for continued feedback.
- Stay Disciplined: Now it’s time to go to battle. You know what you have to work on. You’ve set your goals. It’s time to start building your habits into being the type of professional whom others want to work with. Unless you’re weather in the Midwest, change doesn’t happen overnight. Real, lasting change takes time. So take it slow and be patient.
So, what happens when you put all of this work toward appeasing and correcting and the label doesn’t go away?
Resign: “Woah, Ciara,” you’re probably saying. Yes, it’s a little blunt, and in a tough job market I absolutely do not advise you to up and quit your job. But take Forbes’ fairly recent article, “Five Really Good Reasons to Quit Your Job,” to heart. Don’t have a “Millennial mindset” and job hop just because. That doesn’t help you grow and it’s not fair to the companies you serve. However, be objective enough to recognize when pursuing other opportunities is not only better for you, but also for your company.
This article considers your personal health, as well as your quality of work in an unsatisfactory situation. If this is you and you’ve tried all of the above, I advise you to begin your search for something more fitting for your skills and desired professional culture.