Managing Millennials & Moving On

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We’re inundated on a daily basis with content on millennials – a pervasive, complex, and reviled group of workers. So, I’ve been brainstorming about a key takeaway and what I could possibly say at this point that’s novel. I landed on a simple call to action: move on.

Here’s the deal: with the oldest millennials being about 36 years old, we finally have some definitive research on their workplace behaviors and can compare them to previous generations. Here’s the summary: there is little to no difference in levels of narcissism, job tenure, or work ethic amongst millennials and previous generations in their twenties. It turns out, all youth is narcissistic, indecisive, and distracted.

Okay, okay. You need evidence. After all, I’m a millennial – why trust me?

Most of the studies you see compare millennials to the current feelings and behaviors of Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers. A study cited in Business Insider just this week provides a perfect example. “Daymon Worldwide notes that millennials are more obsessed with being unique and standing out than their parents and grandparents are.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/differences-between-boomers-gen-x-and-millennials-2016-6) I hope they didn’t spend a lot of money on that research because if I compare any 25 year old and their 75 year old Nana, I would certainly hope their level of maturity and narcissism differed.

In regards to the job-hopping, Baby Boomer’s actually changed jobs in their twenties at the same rate that millennials do now (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/nlsoy.pdf)! Let me demystify this: young people usually take whatever job they can get starting off. They don’t know what they want to do long-term and millennials came of age during a recession where if you didn’t take whatever job you could get, you were perpetually unemployed. (Unemployed = no brunch. Millennials love brunch).

Lastly, millennials work differently but they are not aggregately lazy. Lazy is a really loaded word and I don’t have the space to enumerate the dangers of characterizing an entire group as something derogatory, so use your own intuition here. Every time you’re tempted to say “lazy”, replace it with “different.” Because the truth is millennials are very different from previous generations in their beliefs about work. We don’t always subscribe to traditional hours. We value work-life balance and sometimes prioritize it over a demanding career. We want to understand the why’s behind what we’re doing because we need purpose. Are these good qualities? Bad? Admirable? I don’t know exactly, but aren’t all those statements what people tell us to prioritize after it’s too late for them to change? Spend more time with your family. Do something you love. Work hard, but set boundaries.

On the upside, you’ll also find that we answer late-night emails. Because we grew up with technology, we constantly look for ways to be more efficient. When we find our passion, we’ll work however many hours it takes. The key for employers is to harness that passion and not let vintage expectations drive away a talented workforce.

So, that’s it. There’s your answer. Young people are needy and kind of difficult to work with and they always will be. Maybe in a few years I’ll be blogging on the pains of Gen Zer’s. Que sera, tale as old as time. Let’s stop dwelling it on it now.

Written by: Hannah Barfield Spellmeyer

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