At my first job, I often felt ashamed of being a millennial at the workplace- trying to prove to managers that I am not one of the: “Self-obsessed, entitled, egoistic generation that was given everything for nothing” as Simon Sinek so graciously put it. In spite of my efforts to break the mold- I felt unfairly rounded up as a short-fall of expectations who makes impulse decisions and gets bored much too often. I criticized myself every day for not learning quickly enough- repeatedly trying to fix myself because of the day to day screw ups I’d make.
After being more seasoned in my role I recognized that the problem is not my “millennial traits” or the outlook fostered by managers who assume that millennials need a trophy to be motivated. There is an opaque inter-generational understanding of millennials’ expectations and values at the workplace which resort to managers’ out-of-touch leadership styles.
It is a misconception that millennials feel they deserve a promotion without working hard- millennials have grown up in pressure- cooker environments whereby we have only known to work hard. 73% of millennials in 2016 have reported to work for more than 40 hours a week- compare that to 36 hours in 2005. Speaking from personal experience- I can attest to finishing high school completely burnt out. I was told that in order to succeed I had to be: a straight A student, captain of the netball team, first chair of the debating society, class representative and any other extra-curricular activity that would make me a more competitive student. By the time I went to University and met hundreds of other versions of myself- my hair had already started to fall out.
This is not to say that we are not or have not been a generation of 6th place medals- even as a high achiever it was frustrating to witness awards given to “most improved” or “nicest student” who, without discrediting their efforts, would de-merit the achievements of top grades. Nonetheless, recognition should not be accredited to bulk us all as a “special” case who need to be reminded that we need to work hard to be successful. We were told that if we worked hard there is nothing we couldn’t achieve. A slogan indoctrinated to us and in effect establishing limitless expectations through the notion of working beyond measures to which any other generation has ever worked.
Overlooked are the strenuous results of millennials who grow up and carry into their adult lives the leakages of trying to meet criteria’s set for us by the generation that calls us entitled. My peer group is made up of well-rounded, multi-talented individuals who are over-worked, under-challenged, over-caffeinated, under slept and still manage to be driven. Unfortunately, the workplace environment often inhabits a culture that stretches millennials by ignoring the need to create work life balance.
We are the first generation that was raised with schedules to facilitate going through the most demanding education system in history while being raised in multi-faceted environments that contributed to the immense social pressures to strive for impact and achievement. Yet the COO of the Be Wiser Insurance Group felt it was exhausting to “massage the egos of graduates” -which in itself is a condescending and patronizing mindset that shows the lack of accountability and understanding Generation X has for requiring a multi-dynamic workforce.
Perhaps there needs to be a substantial shift in perspective- an institutional approach whereby millennials are extracted as assets who reflect the need for management styles to shake off traditional structures in order to recognize how company culture needs to be shaped.
Standard recruitment procedures have to be revisited, especially for entry level jobs which have no rotational functions and (without sounding like a grungy “millennial”) are boring. Innovative institutions have made increasing efforts to digitalize day to day practices to reduce admin functions- a millennial trait which institutions need to get up to speed with. This may be a frame of reference that managers should get to terms with; maybe it’s not boring, maybe it is not innovative enough. Traditional practices need to evolve, most admin tasks can be handled by software systems and digital hardware which reduce paperwork activities and monotonous tasks.
“Task” is the other word which needs to be avoided; a go-fer term often listed in job descriptions which diminishes an employee’s capacity to a fixed cycle that discounts the importance of measurability. Millennials are driven to make impact and actively contribute to see their results. Job descriptions should be designed to create output oriented focuses and avoid task-oriented roles which remove tangibility and visible results. Objectives to generate output create a goal driven group.
Goal commonality is an effort managers need to constantly communicate with millennials by constantly and repeatedly asserting the institution’s mission and vision- a millennial who is dedicated in belief of a goal is a devoted employee. Social dynamics have changed- millennials are having families much later in their lives and have a “new normal” in their need for work- life balance. The need for workplaces to be an extension of their communities is a valuable tool that can be used to retain and mold millennials into company assets.
Millennials are individuals who value team work and the feeling of belonging- a healthy team-oriented environment that reduces the rigid and often alienating walls of departmentalization creates spaces for shared knowledge. Recruitment should be the beginning and end of for creating a community with a unified mission- team member who are properly trained and multi-skilled will generate innovative ideas that contribute to the relevance of an institution and its external environment. Institutions should milk the benefits of having a mind frame that is global and not limited to their immediate regions; recognition of this is a bank of ideas and techniques which create learning and research relationships at the workplace.
Managers should recognize their roles as leaders and mentors as opposed to individuals who are seen to handle and delegate. Gen Y is a group of designed leaders with little official experience- creating a healthy transition process for graduates to transfer the overwhelming amount of theory into streamlined and effective practice. Leaders who recognize strengths should assign responsibilities which will help grow and excel millennials without micro-managing and under challenging them.