For those of you who have heard me present or have read my book GENERATION EVERYONE! A Guide to Generational Harmony at Work, School, and Home, you know I am a huge fan of the Millennial and Gen Z generations. The goals of my teachings have always been to help people become self-aware of their own generational preferences and biases before seeking to understand others. In most cases, I succeed. I start by asking everyone to stop before "JUDGING" and ask themselves... Are they "DIFFICULT" or are they just "DIFFERENT"? This question will usually help get to the bottom of an issue and bring Generational Harmony to the workplace.
After nearly every workshop I conduct, I get the same question, usually from a Boomer or Gen X manager. "Why are my young employees late for everything?" If there is one "Difference" that I can't get my hands around, it is the Millennial's propensity to be late for work, meetings, and social appointments.
I have personal experience with this strange phenomenon. Over the last year, I have hosted dozens of lunch and learn events for PTA leaders to help them learn how to engage different generations of parents in schools. For the most part, attendees are Millennial Moms. There will be an occasional Dad, but that is the exception. The attendees register for the event in advance and receive multiple reminders through text, email, phone, and even social media. On average, I get about 50 percent no show. They don't even bother to reply to a text and let me know. The majority of those who do attend, show up late, sometimes as much as a half hour or more for a two-hour event. Yes, I bought them a nice lunch that will go to waste, I have to start late and rush through the presentation, so I take a deep breath and ask; Are they being difficult or are they just different?
Let me start by saying this is just my opinion as a Gen X - Boomer Cusper so take it with a grain of salt. As for the no shows, I don't think everyone in the younger generations fully understands "RSVP." And, when they are not paying to attend, they have no skin in the game, nothing to lose so they get busy and just skip it. Some may say that is selfish and rude. What do you think?
As for being late, this is a bigger problem for younger generations when they get into the workplace. I also know this first hand as many of my clients and co-workers are Millennials. If I had back all the minutes, I have wasted staring at a screen waiting for Millennial-led Skypes or G Meetings to start, I could take a year off!
In my sessions with Boomer and Gen X managers, I fight for the Millennials, especially as it relates to job flexibility and the 9-to-5 workday. Boomers started their careers in a time when work was done between the hours of nine to five in the same cubicle at the same office Monday through Friday. Anytime outside those times, you rarely performed work-related tasks. Even if you did, you had to come into the office.
Today, it is not uncommon to see a Millennial parent come in at 9:30 after dropping off the kids at school. Then they may leave the office at 3:00 to pick up the kids, take them to soccer practice, bring them home, bath them, feed them dinner, read them a bedtime story and then hop back on email from ten to midnight and get S#!T done. Thanks to technology and smartphones, Millennials, and many of us, older gens who still work are "always on." We may be kicking back on the beach or at our child's dance recital on the weekend, but in most cases, we are ready to respond and "WORK" if we are summoned by the "always on" smart leash. So older bosses, get over it. As long as the work is getting done satisfactorily, you shouldn't care where, when, or how it is getting done.
Now Millennials, I have defended you being late to work or leaving a little early, but when it comes to meetings and appointments, its time for you to grow up. Here's why. This practice of being habitually late is damaging your credibility, and it is allowing older generations to confirm your most common stereotypes, lazy, entitled, spoiled, etc.
There are many articles out there trying to make some sense of why tardiness has escalated in the past decade, especially with younger generations. I want to say that this is not a blanket statement because not all Millennials are habitually late, but if you are one of those who are "always" late, you are making it difficult for your generational peers.
Some say technology is to blame. It is too easy to send a quick text "sorry...running 5 minutes late," and then you show up 30 minutes later. Some claim it is because of your social events and gatherings often don't require being on time, and being fashionably late is "sick." (that means "cool" for you Boomers) What you need to know is your being late to meetings at work affects other people, customers, and even the bottom line. When you are late, you are telling the other meeting attendees their time doesn't matter or that your time is worth more than theirs and confirms the Millennial "entitlement" stereotype. You are also making everyone else late too. If someone has to wait an hour to start their meeting with you, they are now backed up the rest of their day. If the meeting has ten people and they have to wait 20 minutes for you to arrive to start, the company just experienced 200 minutes of nonproductive activity. That downtime could have meant a dissatisfied customer was on hold longer or a recruit had to wait in the lobby for an hour waiting for an interview giving a negative first impression of the organization.
I often tell my Gen X, and Boomer peers Millennials are going to end up being the most productive and caring generation in history. I am writing this because I am tired of getting the question and having no answer. If you can't even show up on time, how do you expect people to believe you can do the job and when it is time for a potential promotion, you can bet your ass this will come up.
Being late for a meeting or appointment is just rude and selfish! I encourage you to keep pushing the boundaries, bringing new and better ways of doing business to your organizations but punctuality is a critical life skill that will help you build credibility and move up the company ladder.