Second Wave Learning
Each generation in the workplace has its own nuanced way of communicating – while Boomers can have a “My Way or the Highway” attitude and Gen X is the “Just Do It” generation – Millennials are a little bit different.
Older, First-Wave Millennials grew up with “The Get Along Gang” on television, and Second-Wave Millennials are even more inclined to seek common ground with colleagues and management. This is the “Friend me!” generation, and many Millennials don’t know how to manage conflict in the workplace.
One of the soft skills Second-Wave Millennials are lacking is how to respectfully disagree with someone. They don’t know how to agree to disagree. Fortunately, like many other soft skills, this can be taught.
How to Teach ‘Agree to Disagree’ in the Workplace
There are three ways those who are managing and coaching Millennials can teach this important professional skill.
Lead by example. In meetings, in hallway conversations and in collaborative projects, make sure you’re leading the way and demonstrating effective communication. How do you respond in office disagreements, both physically and verbally? Do you, as a manager, accept feedback and new ideas? Do you remain approachable and open? Millennials look up to their managers as professional coaches and will emulate what they see in the workplace.
Give them language. Teaching Millennials to use key words and phrases in the workplace when they disagree with someone can go a long way toward helping them communicate. Teaching them to use phrases such as, “I understand what you’re saying, but…” can make them feel comfortable. Encourage them to ask questions about how someone arrived at their conclusion: “Can you tell me more about your approach to this issue so I understand more?” Teaching them to listen with the goal of understanding goes a long way toward peaceful conflict resolution in the workplace.
Teach empathy and help them develop EQ. EQ (emotional intelligence) is a person’s ability to recognize their own emotions and relate to others. Have your Millennial employees take time to reflect on their conversations and interactions with others, and have them assess their behaviors and reactions to conflict and adversity. Having a high EQ is one of the most important predictors of career success and satisfaction, and it can help them learn to agree to disagree with confidence.