A few months back, Leslie Toff wrote an article for the Huffington Post about appreciating millennials in a piece called Loving Millennials: A Message to Generation Y (and Those Who Know Them). This is the first article I’ve read in awhile that didn’t condescend to millennials, hand out backhanded compliments to us, or simply state how useless and unappreciative we are. Toff laid out simple, helpful suggestions to millennials in the workforce while noting our skills and talents – a far cry from some of the articles dissing my generation. So thank you, Ms. Toff, for your counsel and not speaking to my peers and me like we’re dummies.
USAToday published an article online today about millennials in the workplace – specifically, that millennials prefer to be in an actual workplace than work from home. According to the article, a new report proved millennial workers want more face-to-face collaboration with coworkers. What a concept! The study also said we prefer to work in teams more than Gen Xrs and that we are becoming more and more frustrated with a tech overload. While I, personally, am fine working on my own as well as in a team, I can definitely relate to the feeling of being slowly swallowed by information overload.
This article got me thinking: How else do millennials feel in the workplace? What are we doing to change the face of the modern-day office? What should our more experienced colleagues and bosses expect from us?
Job Satisfaction is Important to Us
First and foremost, we want to be happy in our jobs. Money is nice, but my contemporaries and I want to feel that the company we work for is doing something important – whether it’s for a non-profit or working on something innovative and new. According to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey, 78% of us feel that innovation is essential for business growth and 71% of us believe that business innovation improves society. According to a Pew Research Center study, helping others is our 3rd highest priority (being a good parent and partner come in 1st and 2nd,, respectively). Another important part of job satisfaction is the feeling of teamwork and inclusiveness. A survey put out by Ernst & Young showed that millennials are highly collaborative. This goes hand-in-hand with wanting more face-to-face interaction. We millennials are often maligned for being addicted to tech, but we crave meaningful, real world interactions as well, which part of being a team entails.
You Should Embrace Our Skill Differences
We are, without a doubt, the generation with the most access to, and therefore affinity for, technology. With our deep knowledge and understanding of new technology, we are able to quickly share ideas with others, multitask, and do it all at an often speedier rate than our older colleagues. These different skills and work styles aren’t going away any time soon and can add great value to an organization. Since we love working in teams, we’d also love to share with you our approach.
We’re Okay With Grunt Work
Don’t let stereotypes from the millennial-haters fool you: the smart Gen-Yrs are okay with getting their hands dirty. Even if it’s a bit of a shift to go from college where we have the newest technology at our fingertips to a workplace that hasn’t yet adopted the latest and greatest tools, that surprise shouldn’t be confused for frustration. Managers should take the time to explain to their millennial employees why they’re doing a task and why it benefits the team.
One of the millennial stereotypes I hate most is that we don’t know how to take care of ourselves or how to get things done. To the surprise of many, we’re extremely self-sufficient. According to a poorly named article on Reuters, when faced with a tech problem, 71% of us, instead of calling support, turn to Google for answers. This isn’t to say, though, that we won’t ask for help from our more experienced counterparts when the time comes.
Fundamentally, millennials want what everyone else wants and should be treated with as much respect and consideration as our more practiced coworkers. We want to learn, we want to be valued, and we want to do something meaningful, just like every other generation.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about my generation – The Millennials/Generation Y. Namely that we’re entitled, egotistical cry babies who serve no purpose but to irritate everyone with our whining about how life isn’t fair while living in our parents’ basements rent-free. This may be true of some people, but it certainly isn’t true of me, my friends, my family members of the same age, or, I’m betting, the majority of my peers.
At the forefront of all this badmouthing are authors such as Mark Bauerlein, who wrote The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future and articles with titles like “Generation Y Bother” and “Millennials: The New Office Moron.” Thanks, media. As obnoxious as these books and articles are, the phenomenon of older generations stereotyping and trivializing younger generations is nothing new. Baby Boomers did it with Gen X, and the Silent Generation and Great Generation did it to Baby Boomers. Socrates even did it in a famous rant about the corrupt youth of Athens. The amount of attention millennials are getting for our perceived flaws is pretty new, though, and as much as I know I shouldn’t take it to heart, it pisses me off. Not only are generalizations about Millennials offensive, they are categorically untrue. Read on…
- Millennials are lazy slackers. In every age group there are going to be lazy people, so surprise – its not just people ages 18 – 30. Most of us have a strong work ethic and work our butts off. The technology many take for granted nowadays has helped how we work in a number of ways (i.e., making it faster) and while older generations may not recognize it as how they did/do things, we are getting just as much (if not more) stuff done. I promise.
- Millennials are weak. Many of us grew up being told we were unique and special and older generations feel this has made us soft. Look, almost every parent thinks their kid is special and just because we were the first generation where it was generally looked down upon to smack your kid doesn’t make us wimps, it means we were brought up in loving, healthy homes. Homes that strived for higher levels of self-esteem and confidence in our skills (attributes employers want in a worker). True, some of us are entitled jerks, but guess what? So are some old people. That’s just the way the world works.
- Millennials are entitled. This relates to #2. Being told you’re special and great is generally wonderful, but it can certainly have adverse effects on some people. Having gone to a private art school, I was surrounded by my fair share of entitled bozos. But as soon as the real work started and the harsh landscape of secondary education and no-nonsense professors kicked in, entitlement problems were promptly squashed. And any of the aforementioned bozos who squeaked through graduation were summarily bitch-slapped into reality when it came time to find and keep a job in the real world.
- Millennials are irresponsible. Oh puh-leez. Having been told we’re so fabulous during our formative years, we have big, big goals and the drive and ambition to go out there and achieve them. This means being able to get a job, pay our bills, live on our own, and generally be functional and (gasp!) contributing members of society. Social responsibility is huge for my generation, as well, and ofttimes we’ll rally to help those of us who aren’t as fortunate. We grew up watching horrific events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, which helped to shape our moral compasses and develop strong senses of social responsibility.
- Millennials don’t respect previous generations. I take great issue with this one. While I don’t feel that just because someone is older than me they automatically deserve my respect (Hitler is older than me. Just saying.), I don’t think discounting my elders because they are so totally un-hip or out of touch or whatever is a smart choice, and I think many of my peers would agree with me. Older people, having lived longer, have (duh) experienced more than I have and can pass down to me their wisdom, thereby shortening the learning curve. Teachers, parents, and mentors are treasure troves of wisdom and tips and can provide a unique perspective on a wide variety of things. Like I said, though, I don’t respect someone just because they are older – respect is something to be earned on both sides of a relationship. That said, when someone from an older generation earns a Millennial’s respect, that respect is powerful.
While certainly not a comprehensive list, these are the top five complaints I’ve heard lodged against us Millennials that really exasperate me. Being able to address and recognize these issues, though, can help us stand up against the mounting marginalization we face on a daily basis. And if all else fails, just remember that we can put all the complainers in substandard retirement homes in a few years.