Photo of adults in business casual playing Red Rover

Probably dating myself a bit and potentially even alienating people.  Red rover, red rover was a game that we used to play on the playground when I was a kid.  A game, like so many others that are no longer played on playgrounds throughout the country, that has been deemed inappropriate.

I can make some guesses as to why – the point is to clothesline a kid (your forearm extended about neck’s height) as he is running full speed toward said arm – can cause injuries.  That’s likely one reason it isn’t played any more.  I have found myself talking about this game a few times in the last week though.  Why?  Because I have a tendency to not feel badly for people who are managing and having tough times managing millennials.  Or as someone recently said “ME-llenials”.  Listen, we didn’t have a problem letting people know there was a pecking order when we played red rover, red rover – there were fast kids, slow kids, short kids, all-around athletes and those who simply didn’t want to play.  You left the playground with a pretty well-established “pecking order”.  It was a system that, on the playground, worked out pretty well.

Well, we got older and realized that the environment at work was kind of similar – you have yes-men, those really good at office politics, those who refuse to play politics, those who want to stay off everyone’s radar, those who are jockeying for position and every other version of the playground kid, but all grown up.

Things changed on playgrounds in America and, as a result, we have millennials.  As a reminder, I have blogged and spoken about how much I love them, and it’s important to know that before reading on.  My issue is this – as a society, we created the lack of interest in the “going along to get along” mentality that frustrates many managers today.  You want people to act in a manner that mirrors what you did – be loyal to the company, stay in the current role until it is mastered and then money and promotions will follow, oh yeah – show up at a predetermined time for work every day.  It used to be that you were an authority figure and, therefore, you commanded respect.  HA!  Good luck with that today.  This isn’t the playground (or work environment of your day), your peers decided that everyone on the playground should have an equal opportunity to win, get a trophy and be considered an athlete (whether they had any natural ability or not).  Natural selection has disappeared on the playground and is now all but gone from the workplace as well.

So how are you going to deal with it?  The entitlement, the lack of loyalty, the desire to be promoted for doing exactly what is expected and nothing more, and on and on.

My recommendation, play by the new rules and do what is expected (within reason).  Recognize often, create new opportunities for your people (this may not only be upward mobility, but could often be lateral development opportunities), send people to training outside the organization, give them a chance to find charities to get themselves and the company involved in (this generation loves giving back), create a collaborative environment where they can teach (and learn from one another) rather than lecturing them and expecting them to fall in line.

Many companies, managers, and markets throughout the US have done a great job of developing this part of the workforce.  The faster you get there, the better your company (and you) will do.  Maybe having an understanding that we brought this on ourselves will help.  Whether you allowed your kid to keep the basketball trophy when she only showed up for 3 games of the season and never played again, or used your camcorder to record their graduation from the mid-year of second grade to the second half of second grade – you helped create what we now call the “millennials”.  This huge part of the workforce that can be highly productive and wants to add value, but has a very different mode than we did.

Embrace it – don’t clothesline it.