Millennial Workers: They Really Aren’t That Different From Any Other Generation

Millennial Workers: They Really Aren't That Different From Any Other Generation
Generations in the Workforce

There is this common belief that somehow the millennial generation are entitled, lazy, and disloyal, and while in some instances that may be true of a few, it can be just as true for many GenXers and Baby Boomers.  I have many a millennial client and the above myths couldn’t be more untrue.  They are successful business owners, marketing and sales professionals with numerous accolades, accounting professionals who have saved their companies millions of dollars, hero police officers, firefighter and military personnel, and even an ICU nurse already appointed to Charge Nurse two years into her career over more tenured staff.  Lazy, entitled and disloyal doesn’t apply here!

Certainly some younger individuals have a skewed concept of age, which can be problematic in hiring situations where the bright, shiny, new HR Generalist reviewing resumes suddenly thinks anyone who was working before they were born is old (but weren’t we all that way when we were 22?).  I posit that each generation has had to deal with this same perception – where older generations in the workplace think the new generation coming in is unprofessional, lazy or had too much handed to them at too young of an age.  We tend to forget that at one time we were the new workers who everyone thought of as “stupid, spoiled and apathetic.”

I also believe technology is encouraging this thought process.  People always seem to notice the young person attached to their smartphone but aren’t mentioning the four other individuals all over 35 who are equally as obsessed.  I do a lot of people watching and personally observe those over 35 making very negative comments about millennials and their technology obsessions while they tweet, text and play games on their mobile devices.  In the seminars and workshops I offer the worst offenders of the “I don’t know or care to turn my ringtone off” and thus disturb the entire class with “I’m Sexy and I Know It” are very typically GenXers and Baby Boomers.  This literally happened to me in a presentation last week where a Baby Boomer’s phone went off not once, but twice, with a loud ringtone and much to the chagrin of the other attendees. These same individuals often give me or the seminar host the “aneurysm face” when ask to turn their smartphones to vibrate prior to starting the seminar.

Each generation needs mentors in the workplace to teach them certain aspects of “corporate” etiquette, proper workplace relationships, to listen more than talk, and to expect they might have a few maturity issues that will prevent them from moving up the corporate ladder as quickly as they would like.  I dare any of you close to my age (46) to say at 22, 25, or even 30 years old you were the modicum of professionalism and maturity and never did anything that you shouldn’t have at the office.  While we may have to deal with a few additional issues due to technology like overuse of Social Media venues and smartphones in the workplace, those are easily solved with proper HR policies and even-handed enforcement.

Before we rush to judge let’s remember how we were at that age.  Instead of complaining, try mentoring and coaching these individuals so they don’t make the same mistakes you did.  I recall a recent article by the CBS MarketWatch Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas where she was answering a question from a reader (I have included the link below) about this very issue.  This reader stated younger employees lack understanding in how they should act in an office environment.  Some of the reader’s complaints included that young people didn’t chip in for the candy jar, bathroom stalls aren’t a phone booth, and they should wipe their feet when entering a building.  She did cite a few truly serious issues like employees not staying their full eight hours or young workers being upset that she expected them to work while they were “at work.”  I have to say if she dealt with the individuals leaving early without permission and those with the bad work attitude she probably would have had more success, but instead she found all of these “problems” to be fairly egregious and worthy of correction.  Ms. Lucas rightfully pointed out that the constant nitpicking of her young coworkers probably wasn’t working well for her and was alienating her from her young charges.  Furthermore Ms. Lucas also pointed out that her boss’ observation that she was a tattletale for him seemed quite accurate considering the nature of the complaints.

We can all find things to nag about regarding coworkers, like my millennial client who was decrying how several of their coworkers who ranged from millennial to GenX would go out and get drunk all the time with their coworkers and often call in sick the next day.  I can also provide an example of a client who is my age dealing with a worker of Baby Boomer age that spent the majority of their work time on Facebook instead of implementing ISO9001 protocols, and was ultimately fired.  Some (a minority) people just will never “get it” and some have to learn for themselves.  Nagging them isn’t going to be fruitful, and whether fired or reprimanded, perhaps that will be the very thing that teaches them to change their ways.  Remember, millennials are us 10, 20 or 30 years ago, and just like someone taught us along the way and gave a break or two for our misbehavior, these young people deserve the same courtesy.

Young employees don’t know how to act in the office:

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