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Millennials: generational understanding for independent optometrists


During his TedxTalk, Scott Hess recalled his first job out of college and a reaction from his boss. He said, “I was told that my performance was strong but that my appearance was a problem. I was upset… I thought I looked awesome. I couldn’t understand why this older boss of mine was making a big deal about my hair cut. And so, at the end of my review, I got online… and typed in how mad I was about my boss complaining about my hair… I somehow became a story… I was interviewed by Time Magazine, USA Today, Forbes and Fortune … and reporters told me that there was a generational clash …I was part of an entitled, lazy, goof-off generation”. (Scott Hess, VP of Insights for TRU at TEDxSF)

Did you assume Hess is a Millennial? He’s not – he is a self-proclaimed “Gen-Xer”. How could that be? Aren’t the Millennials the entitled and lazy ones?

Growing up, I lived on a dirt road and I had to knock on my friend’s front door to know if she was around. We would play in the woods that surrounded our houses and I only knew it was time for dinner because my mom would ring a bell. Oh yea – I am a millennial and I lived in the New York Metro area. Are you surprised?

So what generation do YOU belong to?

Are you part of the “Tech-Challenged Generation” born between 1925 – 1945? (The Balance Careers)
Are you part of the “Me Generation” born between 1946 – 1964? (New York Magazine)
Are you part of the “Slacker Generation” born between 1965 – 1979? (
Are you part of the “Self-Entitled and Soft Generation” born between 1980 – 1994? (Chicago Tribune)
Are you part of the “Unaware and Unforgiving Generation” born between 1995 – 2012? (Huffington Post)

 As you can see, all the generations in the workforce have had unflattering labels applied to them and, just like individuals, the more we rely on these stereotypes, the less opportunity we have for growth.  

Yes– there are differences between the people in each of these age groups. Each group was exposed to different things at different times of their lives. In addition to times of war, technology and expectations from parents or elders, major events like economic surplus or decline have shaped each group differently. That doesn’t mean that one is better than another nor does it mean we must completely reinvent the wheel to manage them. 

So, leave the stereotypes behind – they are cramping your management style anyway! Instead, let’s talk about some tips you can put into your practice now that will help you make a difference, no matter how old or young your employees are.

  1. Be Clear – Set clear expectations for your employees through policies and actions. Write policies for your practice that create a framework for how your employees will behave during the workday. Communicate those policies through conversations with your employees AND your actions. Be consistent with all your employees. Don’t be afraid that you will upset an employee by communicating these policies either. Someone who is chronically absent, for example, is causing harm to your practice no matter their reasons.
  2. Embrace your Employees Talents – Use their natural talents to create individual responsibilities that will help them (and your business) excel! You only hired those who you think are talented and good fits for your practice so put that talent to work! If Susan is very organized and is frustrated how the understock is being managed, ask her to take over the process.
  3. Give Feedback – Speak to your employees as often as you can about their performance, positive or negative. Correct inappropriate behaviors in the moment by calling out the behavior in a supportive tone and explaining why it is not done that way. The reason why something is done can be as important as the actual policy. Encourage your employees to give feedback, to each other and to you, positive and negative!
  4. Know the Individual – Tailor your message to ensure you are checking in with your employee in a productive way. We all communicate and learn things differently. Personality and experiences shape how information is both received and delivered. Consider your own tone and message when you communicate as well.
  5. Recognize Times are Changing - Acknowledge the world is ever changing. Technology shapes the world we live in and is improving so rapidly that it can be hard to keep up sometimes! There are also changes in the workforce as well. Flexibility was listed as important as health insurance when employees were surveyed about benefits (Harvard Business Review). Embrace these changes and make them work for your practice!

For information on multi-generational marketing, you can read our dedicated blog right here. 

Alternatively, you can discover the benefits of an IDOC membership below: designed to help grow your optometry practice. 

Discover IDOC's membership benefits



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Amy Alvarez

Amy Alvarez

Amy Alvarez, MS-HRM, joined IDOC in February 2018 as Human Resources Consultant. Amy has experience in Human Resources in healthcare and retail, Management in big box and specialty retail stores and Physician Recruitment. Through these roles and training, Amy is well-versed in recruitment and hiring strategies for “hard to fill” roles, dealing with low productivity, helping encourage employee engagement, on-boarding, training, day-to-day management in a retail setting, employee relations, and so much more.