People lose their minds trying to understand the Millennial generation — a generation that, for some reason, everyone thinks is different, not quite right. The term Millennial makes me twitch, maybe because I remember when we were just normal Gen-Y’s with bright futures. But somewhere along the way, I suppose when we started driving and getting jobs, we became Millennials, an insulting and entitled generation of special snowflakes.
Beards? Check. Hipster Haircuts? Check. Sunnies? Check. Phone/Tablet? Check, Check. I tried to find the most stereotypical picture of Millennials possible. Nailed it.
Millennials want to find meaning and purpose in their work.
Millennials want to be a part of something bigger.
Millennials want to work for people and with people who share their values.
Millennials want the hours of work they give to an employer to mean something and to make a difference in the world…
I guess that makes us weird.
The funny thing is, we thought these desires were a part of being human, not just a part of being in this generation. We get compared, boxed in, and treated like freaks because we want things that, in reality, every generation has likely wanted, but has maybe been less vocal about. It’s frustrating to say the least.
So you can imagine the joy I felt as I read this passage from Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, a book that takes place in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, and was written in the 80s, before we Millennials were potty trained and able to disrupt the workforce. Check it out:
What I am trying to say — and I do not think this an unfair comment — is that we were a much more idealistic generation. Where our elders might have been concerned with whether or not an employer was titled, or otherwise, from one of the ‘old’ families, we tended to concern ourselves much more with the moral status of an employer. I do not mean by this that we were preoccupied with our employers’ private behaviour. What I mean is that we were ambitious, in a way that would have been unusual a generation before, to serve gentlemen who were, so to speak, furthering the progress of humanity…
Butlers of my father’s generation, I would say, tended to see the world in terms of a ladder — the houses of royalty, dukes, and the lords from the oldest families placed at the top, those of ‘new money’ lower down and so on, until one reached a point below which the hierarchy was determined simply by wealth — or the lack of it. Any butler with ambition simply did his best to climb as high up this ladder as possible, and by and large, the higher he went, the greater was his professional prestige…
…such thinking was quite out of step with that of the finest men emerging to the forefront of our profession. For our generation, I believe it is accurate to say, viewed the world not as a ladder, but more as a wheel…
…we were, as I say, an idealistic generation for whom the question was not simply one of how well one practised one’s skills, but to what end one did so; each of us harboured the desire to make our own small contribution to the creation of a better world, and saw that, as professionals, the surest means of doing so would be to serve the great gentlemen of our times in whose hands civilization had been entrusted.
Whoa, wait, what? Is this describing Boomers vs. Millennials? Or have other generations cared about the ends and not just the means?
Is it possible that every generation starts out wanting the very same things we weirdo Millennials want? Could it be that the grouches who think Millennials serve no purpose in this world are just jaded at the thought of being replaced in the workforce or having to do things differently because the times have changed? Could it be a jealousy that rises from the fact that this generation seems to be more comfortable vocalizing their desires than the generation before?
Here’s the reality: every generation thinks something is incredibly wrong with the next. It’s part of aging. Hell, I almost said something to the loud and obnoxious teenagers who were on their phones for the entire screening of Wonder Woman…almost. But then I remembered that I was that loud and obnoxious teenager to the generation before me.
My point is this: it’s time to stop putting people into little generational compartments and deciding who they are, simply based on when they were born. We’re all human and we all want to know that we matter, that we’re making a difference. Even the most rigid and unemotional tough guy wants these things — he may simply be less honest with himself about it than his younger neighbor.
So can we all agree to stop using the M word and start getting to know the people who are working for us and coming into the workforce personally? Can we agree to give people the opportunity to show us who they are, what they’re about, and what motivates and inspires them, without using profiles and personas to label them and box them in? Please and thank you.
There are two ways of thinking about customers: as transactions and as relationships. Have you ever stopped to consider which your customers are? If you don’t know which category you put your customers into, all you have to do is ask your customers, because the way you treat them is a direct reflection of which stance you take. They can tell whether you think of them as relationships or transactions by how you serve them.
So what’s the difference?
Transactions Don’t Create Connection & Lasting Impressions
When you think of your customers as mere transactions, you do your job, take what’s owed you, and leave. In your mind, you’ve done what was required or asked of you, and that’s the extent of things. There’s no need to go above and beyond. No need to follow-up. No need to make sure the customer is 100% satisfied. The end of the transaction is the end of the relationship.
So, what’s the harm in this thinking?
Well, for one, you’re not likely to provide the high level of service you’re capable of providing, because when it’s just a transaction, not a relationship, you simply won’t care as much as you could. You might provide adequate service, but you’re not going to go out of your way to provide memorable service. You’re not going to look for additional ways to serve your customers or make their lives better. You’re just going to do the job and then leave.
Engaging in transactional thinking is not how you build a loyal customer base. More and more, we see Google infiltrating organic results with Paid Ads, Yelp hiding positive reviews (supposedly because of an algorithm, not because you don’t pay for their service), and HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and other companies trying to get a piece of the service pie by taking a cut of what you do in exchange for putting your name out there.
You don’t want to have to rely on search engines and paid services to keep business coming in. You don’t want the customers you have served to go right back to the search box the next time they need the services you provide. It costs 7 to 10x more to attract new customers than it does to retain customers, which means, you want those customers to keep coming back to you.
But when you think of your customers as transactions, they feel it, and they think of you and the service you provide as transactions as well, which means you’re just one ship in a sea of competitors. You’ve given them no reason to remain loyal to you, and they’re just as likely to use you as they are a competitor the next time they need service. At the end of the day, you’re left with a slew of transactions, not a slew of customers.
With this kind of thinking, you’re cheating yourself and your customers, and throwing money at a problem instead of fixing it. You’re missing an opportunity to realize the lasting impact you can have on your community. And you’re missing an opportunity to really become a part of your customers’ lives and find true meaning in your work.
Relationships Create Value
When you think of your customers as relationships, it changes everything. You’re suddenly considering them as people and looking for ways to provide exemplary service that goes above and beyond meeting their needs. You’re connecting with them, following up with them, asking them how their customer experience was, and letting them know you truly care about the way they feel at the end of the service.
You’re letting them know that you appreciate the opportunity to serve them, and that your relationship with them is a valuable one that you’re willing to invest in. And when a customer feels like a valued relationship, as opposed to a meaningless transaction, they’re not as likely to go out and start fresh with someone new the next time they need your services. They’ve already got a guy for that. They’ve already found a company that’s 100% capable of meeting their needs and caring for them. They’ve already connected with you and it’s not worth it for them to go back out and possibly be burned by a competitor.
So take some time to think about which category you put your customers in. If you’ve been thinking of your customers as transactions to complete as opposed to relationships to build and nurture, it’s time to make a cognitive shift.
As our very own Taylor Hill put it: some people are like cats, some people are like dogs. And cats and dogs have different personalities, different likes and dislikes, different ways of thinking, and different ways of handling things. But what happens when these differences lead to interoffice conflicts? As the leader of your business, what do you do when employees on your team are fighting like cats and dogs?
Address each individual involved separately and privately – Every story has two (or more) sides, and you need to have private, one-on-one discussions to get the full scope of the problem at hand. Addressing each person individually will also help to keep the conversation cool and open.
Verbalize the problem & the reason it’s a problem – Even though the problem might be clear to you, when emotions are high, it can be difficult to zoom out and really pinpoint the true issue at hand. Verbalizing the problem and the reason it’s a problem will save a lot of time, ensure everyone is on the same page, and help you get to the bottom of things faster.
Avoid accusatory language – You want to get past this problem, and the only way to do that is to have open communication. When accusatory language is used, the individuals involved will feel personally attacked, which isn’t conducive to openness and growth. Stay focused and clear everything out of your mind but the problem at hand. Avoid bringing past situations or issues with the individual back up as a sort of “list of grievances.” Remember, you’re here to solve this problem – and if the individual feels personally attacked, they are likely to shut down instead of working with you to resolve this issue.
Listen – Pay careful attention to the wording used by the individuals. It may come out that one of the involved individuals is having trouble outside of the workplace and a comment or tone was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. As the leader of your company, it’s important to remember that we all have a life outside of work, and sometimes outside issues can bleed into our 9-5.
Act fast – Whatever you do, don’t let a problem escalate by ignoring it or letting too much time pass before addressing it. Nip it in the bud! If any of the involved parties need a minute to cool off, that’s one thing – but ignoring it is not an option.
Ok, so now you have the tools to mediate and diffuse interoffice conflict, but what you can do to prevent it altogether?
Foster A Respectful Company Culture & Encourage Communication
As the leader of your company, there are two big things you can do to prevent interoffice conflict:
Foster a respectful company culture – One of the things we all love about being a part of the team here at Spark Marketer is the company culture. Our leaders have made it very clear to each and every one of us that, no matter what is going on, we are to respect each other, PERIOD. And we do! We have several different personality types with several different innate communication styles, and enough sarcasm to make Lewis Black look like the Pope. But another thing we aren’t lacking is true respect and appreciation for each other. Sure, we joke around and we’re pretty laid back, but coarse jesting and passive aggressive, intentionally hurtful remarks are 100% absent from our work environment.
Encourage communication – Oftentimes, interoffice conflict arises as a result of miscommunication, poor communication, or a complete lack of communication. The more you do to prevent communication breakdown, the less you’ll need to worry about office conflicts. Encourage your employees to develop systems for communicating and to be open, direct, and polite about it. But remember, communication isn’t everyone’s strong point – be mindful of which employees might need a little push and direction, and give them a little nudge when they need it. With time, your guidance, and a little positive reinforcement when you notice them exhibiting excellent communication skills, it’ll only become more and more natural.
The good news is: once your company culture is in place and your employees start working on open communication, for the most part, they should keep the peace for you.