Have you ever worked for a Millennial dentist – those who are currently in the 19 to 35 age bracket? They make up about 34% of the workforce, nudging out Gen X (ages 36 to 51) for the first time last year as the largest segment. Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 70) are down to about 29%.
Research has shown that Millennials have a decidedly different business management style than older generations and so it’s important to keep these things in mind when considering a job opening with a Millennial boss.
Today, I’ll share a few cautions to think about before going to work for a Millennial as opposed to other generations, as well as some suggestions on dealing with these issues should you decide to take the plunge.
Lack of Feedback
Millennials tend to not feel as comfortable providing constructive feedback – it just feels more awkward for someone who isn’t as experienced. Younger employers feel those who are a little younger than them are almost their peers, and yet they don’t have the conviction or confidence to deliver good feedback to someone who is older.
They fear they won’t be taken seriously and worry about the impact their feedback will have on workplace relationships. If they are the sole owner of their practice, they will also likely be concerned about rocking the boat too hard and impacting the bottom line.
What you can do: Ask (and encourage your co-workers to ask) for an annual review of your performance. Feedback is way too important in any profession to simply live without it. If your employer doesn’t follow through on it, ask your co-workers for it on an annual basis. It can be formal or casual but really seek it out and don’t take “you’re great” as the final word – probe deeper, this is your career.
Inability to Properly Manage Stress
Starting a new business can be very stressful, especially when huge investments in specialized equipment are necessary. Add to that college debt and you’ll see many young dentists opting to not even get into owning their own practice – trading the security of an established practice and less pay for potential upsides.
But for those who do take that leap, you’ll likely see some emotionally-charged days and weeks as they feel the pressures of building the necessary patient load and revenue figures needed to keep the doors open. Millennial’s age and lack of experience, coupled with having lived through pretty rocky economic times recently, may result in some irrational behaviors at times such as outbursts, rants, or even the silent treatment with co-workers.
What you can do: Offer to help the office out with some public outreach and keep your eyes open for ways the office can be run more efficiently. No, it’s not necessarily part of your job, but it shows you are committed to the success of the practice and when an employer feels his team is committed and working together, stressful situations are minimized.
Poor Hiring Decisions
Millennials are noted for their interest in hiring and working with employees who are strong in the area of “like-ability,” preferring relationship over skills and abilities. For them, it’s about comfort in communication and not creating a situation they feel burdened to have to try and “figure out” how to manage someone they struggle to relate to.
That means that the office may have some strong cultural elements of support for the boss, but doesn’t always mean co-workers who are like the boss will necessarily be like each other. And it also means that skill levels may be all over the board – some who are competent and others who aren’t.
What you can do: Ask your employer if you and others on the staff can help him or her review resumes, sit in on interviews, and even help decide who to hire. Some employers don’t think the rest of the staff cares or wants to be bothered with this but it helps to ensure the employer makes a more well-rounded decision.
Difficulty Resolving Conflict
As a bi-product of the higher levels of stress mentioned above, you will also tend to see that conflict resolution doesn’t come easy. Millennials tend to avoid conflict at all costs – even if it leads to a much bigger conflict or problem later.
Millennials grew up and are comfortable with lots of different technology. That sometimes means that situations other generations might have handled more face-to-face will play out over text and e-mail during off hours (even sometimes while at work).
What you can do: Insist that you have deeper more meaningful discussions in person as opposed to electronically. You can also suggest your office has more regular staff meetings to talk through problems. Even just a 10-minute weekly “huddle” as some offices will call it can do a lot to prevent unnecessary conflicts. Ideally, you can get your boss to hold an annual office retreat to discuss how the office is running and even do some kind of fun activity together – the offices that do this know how important it is.
Summing it up
It isn’t your job to prevent, fix, or even smooth out the ups and downs of a new dental practice – and yet there are lots of things you can do to help. Most dentists will figure things out through trial and error. But it is important for you to be aware of these factors when going to work for a Millennial.
Don’t be discouraged or feel bad if you don’t see that type of environment as the best fit for you. Remember, Millennial dentists only make up about one-third of all the practices right now, so there are plenty of other options.
I’ve worked with several hygienists who enjoyed their experience working for a dentist right out of dental school. Many of them say the same thing, that they were able to “train” them in a way that benefited not only them, but the rest of the staff, and patients, too.