Culture

Are Companies Embracing 'Reverse Mentoring' to Stroke Millennials' Egos?

Technology evolves at a more rapid pace than ever before. Society struggles to keep up, whether in the realm of education, government, or business. Old molds break under the stress. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Mentorship is getting turned on its head in today’s multigenerational workplace. Technology has flipped traditional roles, and the younger workers now have a thing or two to teach the veterans.

In boardrooms across Minnesota and the nation, “reverse mentoring” is taking root as baby boomer leaders seek out millennials to help them understand the latest in technology, social media and the fast-changing marketplace.

That’s all well and good. However, the trend comes with a danger of devaluing traditional roles.

[Millennials are] comfortable giving advice, having been raised by boomer parents who consulted them on everything from how to set up the Wii console to what to eat for dinner and where to go on vacation, said BridgeWorks’ Arbit, whose Wayzata-based company helps businesses manage the generational divide.

“Millennials have always been counselors at home,” Arbit said. “And then they get to the workplace and they’re never asked their opinion? It’s such an immediate way to disengage this generation.”

While it may make sense to leverage the technical knowledge of younger workers for “reverse mentorship” in particular areas, this idea that millennials must be engaged for general advice in all things ignores the merit of hierarchy and the value of experience. Younger subordinates should be consulted when their advice proves objectively valuable, not merely to stroke their egos or “engage” them.