YOUNG INDIGO ADULTS IN THE WORKPLACE

 

Bruce I. Doyle, III, Ph.D.

 

There has been an enormous amount of publicity about the Indigo children that have been arriving over the last twenty plus years.  Some observers have labeled the Indigos with attributes associated with unacceptable behavior, while others see profound uniqueness that is demonstrated through advanced skills and keen insights. 

As I became aware of the Indigo children, I thought, “I wonder what is going to happen when these Indigo children become young Indigo adults and start to populate the workplace.”  Workers with attributes such as: have difficulty with authority, demand respect, impatient, frustrated by routine tasks, daydreamers, lack social graces, impulsive, etc. aren’t exactly the kind of workers that one would see fitting into a typical command and control organizational structure.  Additional attributes such as: display strong intuition, very intelligent, visionary, creative, value community, understand interconnectedness, etc. help make the picture a little brighter.  How would these seeming conflicting attributes impact the workplace environment as the young Indigo adults begin populating the workforce? 

To get some first hand information about our young Indigo adults, I surveyed a group of High School and College students, from around the globe, about their workplace preferences.  The survey results created for me a bright picture of tremendous possibilities - provided that their environment was supportive. 

The key to assimilating young Indigo adults into the workplace requires today’s leaders to be open to allowing them to develop and unfold their gifts rather than trying to mold them into the old energy paradigm that exists in most work environments today. 

Based on the survey, our developing young Indigo adults want leaders who will show a personal interest in them and help them develop their talents.  Two of the students surveyed, responded, as follows, to the question, “What are the most significant skills and personal attributes that you want in your company’s leaders for you to feel supported in expressing your skills and talents?”

Mark, a high-school student in California, wrote:

“For one they must be very confident in their decisions.  They have to be very social and open to debate and discussion upon any issue brought up while working.  I believe they must follow guidelines, but enforce them in an environment that is friendly.  They also must be human and have a comical side to them, so they don’t feel intimidating.  They must make themselves feel as equals to all in the company, not someone superior and top of the line.  To push around with authority would only stress me out and make me want to leave the company.” 

Annette, a student in France, wrote:

“He has to care for me.  To want to teach me things or give me the information I need without resistance.  He must delegate interesting tasks. Clear out tensions, have a sense of humor and not be stressed out each time there is a problem.  Be trustworthy and be like a guide and help me to progress by showing me the way and giving me the opportunity.  A good communicator that gives me feedback and that is patient.  Know his job and do it well with integrity.”

It’s clear, valued leadership is no longer measured by a leader’s “technical business skills”, but by how he/she is ”being.”  Personal attributes and values are more important to the young Indigo adults.

Young Indigo adults also want to work in an environment that promotes integrity, teamwork and fun.  They want the opportunity for full self-expression.  They want to make a difference in the world by transforming those organizational structures – business, social, and political – that are not in alignment with truth and integrity.  They will not avoid the corporate world, but many - because of their need for autonomy - will take up entrepreneurial endeavors. 

This is validated by Jenny’s story.

“I started ‘working’ when I was twelve teaching tap-dance to five year olds.  I loved the idea of teaching and couldn't wait to learn from my students as well.  I never quite understood that age meant "wisdom" yet my boss kept reminding me that I needed to only teach tap, not give the 5 year olds ‘free time’ to explore.  I remember feeling so saddened by the lack of creativity I was being told to ‘instruct and implement.’  This became a challenge for me for many years.  After graduate school, I was hired to be the Dean of Dance at a high school. I was so excited to make a difference, teach and learn, inspire and empower my students to fully be who they are.  My excitement wore off immediately at the first teachers meeting.  To my amazement, the individual students were not even mentioned - grades, money, tenure and SAT scores were the priority.  

I tried for two years to fit in, but never really did.  I did my best to empower the teens I was teaching to love who they were, even if they were not getting the best SAT scores.  I dodged parent/teacher meetings because I could not deal with how attached parents were to perfectionism.  The only place I felt accepted was with my students.  

After being told numerous times that I needed to ‘grade’ my students, I decided to leave education and enter into another ‘responsible’ adult career - non-profit.  The most challenging component of the workforce is the attachment to money and time.  We clock in, we ask for more money, we make sure our overtime is noticed, we complain in the lunchroom about how much we dislike someone in the office, we put on our costumes and set out on a day full of masking what we really need and what we really want.

I lasted two years in the 9-5 work place.  I sat in amazement at how many of my co-workers didn't really want to be there 95 percent of the time and I was one of them.  I looked at the clock each hour and imagined what I would be doing if I was ‘free.’  

I began to write at work instead of doing my job.  Words spilled out of me as I began to uncover my beliefs around work and where I inherited them.  The more I wrote, the more peaceful I began to feel.  Layer after layer, I began to realize that I could be the difference - not sit in the lunchroom and collaborate in misery.  I found it fascinating that a majority of my colleagues did not want to think outside the box that was given.  Even I began to develop the perception of being "stuck", which eventually affected my body.  

My writing became a book and this book catapulted me into creating a job that would truly bring me joy and allow me give to the world.  Even in the non-profit world, there was a feeling of having to give and take in a particular way that felt limiting.  

Limitations were something I could not understand.  What brought me joy?  What did I love to do when I was younger?  Play!  I began to understand that what was lacking in ‘the workforce’ was play.  We are conditioned to believe that we have to follow the rules, yet the rules are not even the ‘truth.’  We are conditioned to believe that work cannot be fun and we have to wait for the weekends or retirement to finally be happy.  I know I am not alone when I say that this is not serving anyone.  Even those who claim to love working 60 hours a week are seeking to be messy once in awhile.  Imagination is lacking so much that even the children of today have to get good grades in kindergarten.  I created my company with the heart felt intention to start a new way of ‘working’ - one that involves working smarter and being joyful - not harder and longer.  Playward is challenging the paradigm of all that has been established with glee.”  

Jenny, a young Indigo adult, wanting to have the freedom of expressing herself and making a difference in the lives of the “new kids”, fired up her entrepreneurial spirit and started her own company, Playward.  See www.playward.com.  

In larger organizations, the key to allowing the young Indigo adults to experience self-expression and permit them to make a significant contribution is to match their skills and interests to the appropriate job.  This may sound obvious, but many companies still do a poor job of recruiting and have weak or no employee development programs.  Young Indigo adults are curious explorers and want to learn by experiencing new situations.  If they are not feeling fulfilled or challenged, they will leave.  They want to be in positions of influence.  There they can begin to influence the transformations that they see are needed. 

One of my friends is the Vice President of Production for a midsized manufacturer of electronic products.  He mentioned to me that his young employees are demanding and want to be promoted quickly.  He said, “They don’t understand why they have to wait for promotions.”  This is a good example what today’s leaders need to understand about the young Indigo adults.  Age related to capability is changing rapidly.  The young Indigo adults are very talented and many can do the job of older workers - in some cases - better. 

There was an article in the local paper recently discussing the concept of “reverse mentoring.”  Older workers being mentored by the young Indigo adults to help the older workers develop their computer and communications technology skills.  I encourage “two-way” mentoring.  Mentoring to teach the “young adults” about real-life business issues and reverse mentoring to teach older workers advanced technology – a good way to build intergenerational respect and teamwork. 

To facilitate career development it is essential that young Indigo adults be matched to the position that best matches their personal desires and dominant attributes.  The table in Figure 1 can be used as a guide to view the potential workplace benefits associated with specific “young adult” attributes. Naturally, each young Indigo adult will have varying degrees of the defined attributes.  

Matching the attributes to the benefits desired is the key that will help define where in the organization a young Indigo adult can best contribute his/her passion toward helping the organization achieve its goals.  As business guru, Peter Drucker, once said, “The key to greatness is to look for people’s potential and spend time developing it.”

 

GROUP

ATTRIBUTES

BENEFITS

A

Strong self-worth, want responsibility with full authority, require uninhibited self-expression and freedom, no fear, demand respect

Will take the leadership role to tackle challenges that involve risk, require courage, persistence, and a passion for achievement.

B

Immense curiosity, easily bored, explorers, scanners, good at multitasking, thrive on chaos, avid technology users

See things that others do not. Have a sixth sense for spotting problems, wide bandwidth, push the envelope

C

Intelligent, creative, spatial thinkers

Define disruptive strategies, create unique solutions, develop revolutionary products and services

D

Integrators, Networkers, collaborative

Bring diverse functions into alignment,  develop global relationships, foster and enhance communications

E

High energy, impatient, non-conforming, seek truth

Moved to action. Force transparency, catalyze change, and get things done the right way.

F

Personal integrity, committed to serving others, inclusive, community, interconnectedness

Build trust, build teams, foster openness, develop people, honor oneness

 

 

Copyright 2006 Bruce I. Doyle, III, Ph.D.

Figure 1. Young Indigo Adult Attributes vs. Benefits

If you have ever taken a personality test, you will recall that you exhibited a strong or dominate attribute in one area with contributing attributes in several other areas.  Apply the same thinking to the attributes in Figure 1 and you will be well on your way to matching a young Indigo adult with the opportunity for him/her to be in the right position to be fully self-expressed while he/she makes a significant contribution to your organization.  To jumpstart your thought process, here are some matches that come to mind from my workplace experience.  I would want a young Indigo adult who is dominate in Group A for positions in Leadership, Business Development and Project Management.  Group B dominate: Strategic Marketing, Product Development, Research, Competitive Intelligence.  Group C dominate: Design, Architecture, Software Development.  Group D dominate: Global Marketing, Business Development, Strategic Planning, Sales.  Group E dominate: Business Processes, Research.  Group F dominate:  Human Resources, Leadership and/or Organizational Development, Coaching. 

Take your workplace or domain of experience and see where you might recruit young Indigo adults to help you achieve your goals.  Remember, age is not part of the equation.  It’s attributes vs. benefits.  Give a young Indigo adult - a chance to make a difference - and watch the results.  You’ll be amazed. 

This information is free and available for you to print out and copy for your personal use.
Its Copyright by Bruce I. Doyle, III, Ph.D. prohibits distribution or sale in any form except by the publisher.