Google Search: “Working with Millennials”

Some of the results on the front page:

  • “Working with millennials is the worst | New York Post”
  • “Effectively Managing a ‘Typical’ Millennial Workplace Traits – The Muse”
  • A “Millennials in the Workplace Training Video” from YouTube

Some of the related searches:

  • “How to get millennials to work”
  • “problems with millennials in the workplace”
  • “how to deal with millennials in the workplace”

 

Can you begin to see the picture I am trying to paint for you? This picture is part of the issue that we are facing today – especially as someone who is a part of the millennial workforce. Before you can even step in the door there is a negative connotation attached to your entire generation. How are you supposed to combat that when they don’t know anything about you?

I’ve attended a couple of diversity and inclusion workshops that have been hosted by the University of Cincinnati – some of which were focused on generational differences. In each one some of the same buzz-words were thrown around that you can find in articles describing millennials: lazy, entitled, un-motivated, out for themselves, un-focused, etc.

However, I think that these buzz-words are coming from a lack of understanding of the millennial generation.  Most of us have grown up during a time of economic and social upheaval. We saw our parents lose their jobs, retirements, housing, and everything in-between during the 2008 economic crisis. As millennials were working their way through school they were being told that there won’t be as many opportunities for them. They watched families lose everything even though they worked so hard to earn it. We have seen the emotional, and physical, toll that this took on our parents. Realistically, the toll that it took on our grandparents as well that were forced back into the workforce. Which, in a cyclical cycle, makes fewer jobs available for the younger generation to even have a chance to obtain because our predecessors haven’t left yet. Millennials are also constantly being reminded that social security is shot and that they better have a plan for retirement when it isn’t around.

Our society has also gone through a dramatic change as millennials were growing up.  Social and technological advances led to massive changes in the world around us. It happened at such a time in our lives that we adapted to it. It was still a part of our youth and growing stages. We were no longer learning, and adapting, in the same way that our ancestors had done. Among some millennials there is also a growing sense of resentment towards those that are calling them lazy – the Baby Boomers:

“Our generation has been called “entitled.” We beg to differ. If any generation is entitled, it’s our parents’ and grandparents’ generation: the Baby Boomers.

Give us a break. Millennials are not entitled. But we are frustrated.

We’re frustrated because the same Baby Boomer bloc that created or tacitly perpetuated the policies that have hamstrung Millennials now makes up almost a third of the American voting-aged population and holds nearly two-thirds of the seats of the United States House of Representatives and Senate.”3

This resentment in itself has caused its own form of social unrest. There is a power-struggle going on between generations that exist before either party walks in the door of their workplace. Which, at the end of the day, really isn’t fair for either party. What we need to do instead is come to an actual understanding of one another instead of perpetuating a divide.

For example, a topic that was mentioned in one of the workshops was the ability to work remotely. From a traditional standpoint this is something that was not a part of the work environment. You came in and worked at your desk for your entire shift and then went home. However, the viewpoint of the younger generation has shifted. With technological advances and more of a flowing lifestyle most millennials don’t want the typical “chained-to-your-desk” work style. Their minds operate in a different way and they want to take advantage of the time of day that they work best. Millennials aren’t asking to miss meetings, they are asking for the freedom to be as productive as they can be. “77 percent of employees report greater productivity when working remotely” and “52 percent were less likely to take time off when remote working.”4 The challenge is when these opposing generations either look at each other as “too rigid” or “lazy”. Until they are willing to understand each other, and the viewpoint that each holds, there will be a growing sense of resentment between their work styles. Thus, when it comes to managing millennials if you are a part of a different generation, you need to be able to understand their viewpoint to succeed. This is also true for millennials – they need to understand that their coworkers might not necessarily operate in the same way they do.

All of this is part of the reason that you see millennials fighting to achieve whatever they can to find their definition of success. After seeing success taken from those you love, from those who were your heroes, you don’t want to let it happen to you. Thus, millennials are fighting for everything that they’ve been told they probably will never have growing up. Which, if you take a step back and look at generational shifts in general, this is a common phenomenon. We just have to be willing to accept that it is real for millennials too.

In the end, as said by Andrew Challenger (Vice President at Challenger, Gray & Christmas), “A lot of studies show that they [millennials] are not really that different from generations before in what they want for their lives – they just have a different background.”1 We need to stop punishing millennials for having a drive portrayed in a way that has not previously been seen. We want to work, and we want to do amazing work, you just have to be willing to give us a chance to showcase it.

 

References:

Dowdy, Landon. “Millennials Aren’t as Lazy as You Think.” CNBC. CNBC, 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Kuhl, Joan Snyder. “Misunderstood Millennial Talent: The Other Ninety-One Percent.” Why Millennials Matter. Rare Bird Books, 02 Aug. 2016. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Pomeroy, Ross, and William Handke. “The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials. It’s Baby Boomers.” RealClearPolitics. RealClearPolitics, 08 Jan. 2015. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Sword, Alexander, Ambrose McNevin, Hannah Williams, and James Nunns. “77% of Workers Say Remote Working Boosts Productivity.” Computer Business Review. N.p., 19 Aug. 2016. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

 

 

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