You’ve heard the refrain, “These kids today!”, maybe from your grandmother or someone you work with – or perhaps you were the one to use the refrain. It’s a popular way of deflecting older generation’s bewilderment with the younger generation. And it’s especially true today in the case of Millennials. The 20-to-early-30 somethings, also known as Gen Y, are now striding confidently into the workplace with an entirely different attitude than their Gen X (mid-30s to late-40s) and Baby Boomer (55+) colleagues. This Gen Y attitude can rub some the wrong way – they seem indifferent to the seniority of older figures, for example, and many don’t believe in working behind a desk for eight hours. But what seem like implausible habits for workplace success to their older contemporaries, are actually a developed response to the world around them. The world of 2014.
At closer inspection, the way Millennials approach the workforce, and their position in it, may be significantly more efficient and progressive in the fast-paced business world of today. So, the next time you get frustrated by the millennials’ lack of tact, take a minute to put yourself in their pumped up kicks and see the view from their perspective. Just because it’s different doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. But if you can look past their brazen approach and find the reasons behind it, you just might learn something. And the time to start is now, because it’s expected that by 2020 there will be 86 million Millennials in the workforce, making up 40 per cent of the working population. Here are 10 of their potentially annoying approaches to the job, and the illuminating truth behind their motivations.
10. Absence of Fear
There’s a new kid at work, and he’s not only dressed casually, but he’s making himself coffee like he owns the place and is already friends with someone in accounts – you don’t remember her name. In the staff meeting he’s throwing out brainstorming ideas like it’s no big thing, talking to the boss like he’s an equal equity partner. Who does he think he is? Millennials. Are. fearless. The more you fight it, the harder it’s going to be to accept. This fearlessness stems from a lifetime of developed confidence socially, technologically and academically. They aren’t afraid to challenge tradition, and they possess an unwavering sky’s-the-limit confidence.
This shouldn’t be frowned upon; it’s the way we would want our own children to tackle life, and it’s the way many older generations tackled life once upon a time. The difference is that Millennials’ unique ability to accept and adapt to change is going to help them maintain this fearlessness as they grow.
9. Unsettling Familiarity
It’s widely understood – and also collaborated by a 2010 Pew Research study – that Millennials are the most open-minded generation we’ve seen in history. They are widely embracing of different cultures and lifestyles that the older generations are still trying to come to terms with, including feminism and gay rights. Because of this understanding of equality, Millennials don’t believe so much in corporate hierarchy. Since everyone is equal, there’s no reason to treat anyone differently based solely on their role within a company. This means that the Millennials’ offhand, highly comfortable attitude translates to everyone – from janitor, to boss, to co-worker. To consider this a negative trait is to also see the world through a very old-fashioned lens.
8. Requiring Constant Feedback
It may seem needy, but these are kids that grew up under the whirling blades of ‘helicopter parenting’, parents who hover around supervising every move of their precious kiddy. So millennials are used to receiving feedback by way of criticism, and it’s part of their expectation in the workplace. How else will they know they’re on the right track? While 72 percent of Millennials admit they would like to be their own boss, 79 per cent believe that if they do have to work for a boss they would like it be a coaching or mentorship experience. The lesson here is that Millennials are hungry for constructive criticism. According to Time magazine, when asked which they’d rather, focus on their weakness or their strength, the large majority of Millennials surveyed chose to focus on their weakness. This is, in fact, the opposite of the response from the older generation. Through regular communication Millennials can develop themselves to be more efficient and productive because really, what’s the point of just being good, when you can be better?
Millennials will talk about themselves, and their accomplishments, in a way that can grate on the last nerves of the more quietly productive Gen Xers. But it’s second nature; they regularly talk about themselves on Twitter and Facebook, taking selfies on Instagram and so on and on. That’s just the way Millennials communicate, and why should anyone fault a co-worker for voicing their successes?
It doesn’t often prove fruitful in this day and age to silently work hard and hope someone notices. Millennials understand this inherently – their instinct is to sell themselves and self-promote wherever they go, which parlays into the workplace as an effective way of conveying information, ability and potential. And the “self-obsessed” label may be unfair when we take into account that this is also the “recycling generation.” Millennials have been raised to think about the environment and do their part to minimize their carbon footprint, which can be viewed as altruistic.
6. Not Interested In “Paying Dues”
Perhaps the biggest difference in the generation gap that exists today is the confidence in using and applying technology. Millennials, unlike the Gen Xers who remember the days of ghettoblasters and, almost unfathomably, the days before email (and we won’t even go back to the black-and-white days Baby Boomers remember), grew up on computers. They are now looking for a job that will allow them to make the most of their ability to best serve the company. That’s not to say all Millennials are working in the computer industry; they are simply unafraid to seek the position – any position – that best suits their skill-set in order for them to be considered indispensable by their employer. They seek opportunities to learn and to grow within a company. Ironically, this isn’t about wanting to “jump the ladder,” so much as wanting to make the most of what they know.
5. Their ‘Helicopter Parents’
It must be incredibly unsettling for employers to call in an interviewee who shows up with his mother. And it’s no surprise this is not considered a positive. In a recent Forbes article, it was stated that Millennials are the most managed generation in history, with their hovering parents scheduling, over scheduling and involving themselves in every minute of their children’s day. This includes their hands-on approach to college applications and interviews, resumes and the job hunt. While this might sound suffocating to anyone else, Millennials don’t mind, since they don’t know any better; in fact they often have very close relationships with their folks.
The unexpected result? They’re more invested in family, and look for opportunities to stay connected with others, while approaching the world with a larger “global community” mindset. And, because their parents always told them they can accomplish anything, they take that mentality into the workplace. With a strong support network, a keen interest in community and a long-held belief they can achieve everything they can set out to do, Millennials look startlingly similar to the way many companies want to be perceived.
4. They Can’t Handle A Normal 9-5 Office Day
Millennials are flexible, they have to be: they’ve seen countless Apple updates in their lifetime! Because of this, 74 percent of Millennials indicated they want a flexible work schedule. They prefer to do things on their own time, outside the confines behind the desk from 9-5pm. This newer approach suits them because they are willing to work at any time, which has a lot to do with being “on” all the time. 88 per cent of them want “work-life integration,” which is different than a work-life balance, since they see their work and life blending. The point here? They are willing to work hard, all the time. After all, regardless of where they are, they’ll pick up their work emails on their smartphones.
3. Lack of Loyalty
It’s true – the times have changed from back in the day when you worked a job for 30 years until retirement. The average worker now changes jobs on average every four years. While it may seem lazy to some, not wanting to “stick it out” or be a “loyal” employee, it could really just come down to the environment for Millennials, who are constantly looking to develop their skills and have readily available options to expand their network globally. 88 percent prefer a collaborative work-culture over a competitive one, so if they’re not feeling it, they’ll go elsewhere. It is somewhat self-serving, but it’s also incredibly insightful in terms of looking out for their needs and making sure they’re being met. Why should you stay in a job that makes you unhappy and keeps you from growing? Millennials seem to be setting the example for seeking out your bliss.
2. They’re Impulsive
Before you mutter that they’re just young, and not yet jaded enough to know better than to follow their bliss, Millennials’ actions seem to suggest that they don’t know how to be jaded, or perhaps they just don’t see a need to be, because they aren’t willing to settle. This is a generation that lives in the moment, controls their destiny, and views things from a glass-is-half-full perspective. They do not not sit around and complain – as Gen Xer’s favourite pastime. If they have a problem, they seek a solution and if they are unhappy they embrace transformation to alter circumstances for the better.
Rather than trembling in paranoid anxiety at the speed with which the world is moving, they are part of the cogs that push the revolution forward. They have the ability to appreciate how far we’ve come and where we’re going, while focusing on the now and adapting to changes all while pushing hard towards future goals. These skills, when nurtured in the workforce, can be invaluable to any company seeking relevance and staying power.
1. Lack Of Respect
Really, imagine how annoying it must be to a Millennial when a GenXer responds, “Snapchat what?” It’s no wonder Gen Xers and Baby Boomers feel alienated and sometimes patronized by their younger colleagues. They often just aren’t as “in the know” as Millennials in terms of what is happening on the web, which is really a sign of weakness in the older generations. It’s going to be vital, if it isn’t already, for the older office staff to stay on top of technology and keep sharpening their skills. That doesn’t mean they need to start a Snapchat account, but it might be worthwhile to start an informal conversation with the 24-year-old across the aisle, and find out what he knows about SEO. Given their data-driven lifestyles, sure, they can appear less emotional – or at least, more interested in parlaying facts, and this can come off as disrespectful. But it’s a fact that Millennials are always developing strategies for investing themselves in a place where they can make a real difference in the world. The majority, 64 per cent, say it is a priority for them to make the world a better place. Now, what exactly is so bad about that?