Drip. Drip. Drip.” Welcome to the incessant sound that invades my space and challenges my senses. It won’t stop. I examined the cup, peered at the lid, studied the design, and even looked for holes. Nothing worked. Regardless of how many times examined the paper cup this monolithic drip continued to challenge my patience and peace.
What is wrong with this Starbuck’s cup?
I’m not proud to admit, but after the 40th drip, I took a breath, counted to ten, and tried my darndest envision the Dalai Lama as I tried find peace in the midst of annoyance. For one heavenly moment the dripping stopped. And then…it started all over again.
People are a lot like coffee. Sometimes they ‘drip’. Some they even splatter and create constant chaos whenever they go. But, in many ways, all of us are someone’s dripping coffee cup. We get on each other’s nerves and create organizations in our image and projects in our likeness. We love similarity. It makes us feel good, but it doesn’t make us all that productive.
Dripping is actually a “good thing”, as Martha Stewart would say. It brings us back to the reality that not everyone thinks like us, acts like us, or behaves likes us. And that is a positive outcome. It’s not something to be fixed. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re always going to see eye-to-eye?
For the first time in history, we are trying to navigate a shared purpose with 5 generations in the workplace. If you thought creating a safe workplace during Covid-19 was difficult, try presenting a space where all generations thrive and feel like they’re valued. Good luck. Don’t worry. I’m only half-joking with my cynicism. However, it’s not easy. Creating an environment where all generations can flourish is a huge undertaking, but I can assure you, it doesn’t happen by avoiding conflict. If anything, it comes from having a strong conflict plan.
Here are some practical tips that work with all generations, especially Millennials:
YOU NEED THE RIGHT TOOLS
Wait. Is this a mallet or hammer? I promise. I’ll go slowly. When I was a kid, I loved helping my family build things. They didn’t have to function or even look nice. But there was something incredible about developing callouses while creating something new. I’d strap on my tool belt, peruse the blueprints, and then set to work. However, in my desire to get things ‘done’, I’d usually choose the wrong tool. I was so focused on the finished product that I skip some steps. I wanted to meet the goal, but I hated the preparation for the journey.
Conflict resolution occurs when we take the time to understand the person sitting next to us. This means that we take a backseat and listen and lean in more than respond.
When we realize that we all see the world differently, then we stop making assumptions and operate from a place of conversation. When trying to ‘deal’ with people, we must choose to try to ‘understand’ people. Patrick Lencioni recommends that leaders “use a profiling assessment like the Meyer-Briggs because people’s attitudes to conflict can be shaped by their personalities and behavioral preferences as much as their families and cultural background.” It’s imperative that we take the time to use the right tools.
The most important thing to remember is that we are leading people; not projects. Before I work with anyone, I ask them two questions, what is your personality and what is your enneagram? Yes. I know. These questions seem trivial and more popular for a first date instead of a team meeting, but, I can assure you. If you don’t take the time to know yourself and the people that you work with, then you’ll operate with blindspots and not a clear vision. And no one wants someone leading them with blinders on.
YOU NEED THE RIGHT WEATHER
Relationships are a lot like building a shed. You lay out your plans, gather your tools and pick out the perfect paint color, but you forget to check the weather and find yourself soaking wet. You’ve done all the preparation and taken the time to use the right tools, but the atmosphere isn’t conducive for construction. The same is true for people. You have to pay attention and approach people at the RIGHT time in the RIGHT way . This means that you have to take the time to understand your employees as people and not just pawns for the bottomline.
If you want to attract Millennials to your company, then learn how to see them as people. Understand their hopes, hangups, and needs. Take time to learn about their family, their children, or even their pets. This generation does not eat, sleep, and breathe your business. It doesn’t matter that your company hosts Quidditch tournaments, Super Bowl parties, or an annual Toys for Tots campaign. I they don’t feel known by you personally. They won’t invest in your company.
Take the time to ask about their present storms. If you rush in without assessing the weather, don’t be surprised when you get struck by lightning. Preparation takes time. Get to know your employee’s needs before you pose your demands.
YOU NEED THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
Welcome to the 21st century workplace. A conglomerate of ages, backgrounds, and options for employment. For the first time in history, employees are the ones running the show. Millennials don’t need to work at your company. I know that’s harsh, but it’s true.
We live in the world of opportunity. Even now, during this Covid-19 pandemic, entrepreneurship is booming, the consulting business is paying seven figures, and a a better lifestyle is within reach of every single employee. Wait. Isn’t this article supposed to be positive? It is. But I’m taking you on a detour for a reason.
Choice should challenge us to change.
According to Ron Zemke, “There is a problem in the workplace–a problem of values, ambitions, views, mindsets, demographics, and generations in conflict. The workplace we inhabit today is awash with the conflicting voices and views of the most age-and-value-diverse workforce that world has known…”
Conflict is happening and we are ALL part of the problem. But, if we lean in and listen, then we can be a huge part of the solution. Choice doesn’t always equal better.
Millennials aren’t looking for what’s over the rainbow–they’re looking for real relationships in the present. They want to be known and heard.
YOU NEED THE RIGHT MOTIVATION
We live in a Globalized world. This is fantastic news, but it’s also a sobering reality. This Globalized perspective causes us to evaluate our own biases, assumptions, and ideas in light of others. It dares us to listen before we speak and learn before we judge. If we want to create spaces for conflict resolution, we must first come to the realization that we might be a huge part of the problem. This means that we must step out of our own shoes, so to speak, before we can step into someone else’s shoes. This brings us to the last point: motivation. It’s the why behind our purpose.
What is our why? Are we willing to put in the work that is required for conflict resolution?
Resolving conflict is much easier when we approach people with the right perspective, use the right tools, check to see if it’s the right weather, and make sure that we have the right motivation.
We are all someone’s ‘dripping’ coffee. We all get on each other’s nerves and try one another’s patience. All of us are guilty of creating conflict. So, the next time that we approach others. We need to ask ourselves: Are we trying to rebuild structures, or break windows?