How to Deal with Millennials in the Workforce

In this ever-changing world one thing that we don't realize that is changing, and changing drastically, is our workforce, especially our work culture and environment. We, the younger generation (Millennials), are taking over the workforce. For the managers and supervisors who are usually in higher positions than us, we can be somewhat difficult to deal with because of our different expectations and perceptions of work and how to deal with work. To better understand it all, we must see it from both perspectives.

Generation X (born between 1960 and 1980), currently occupy most of the senior positions in companies. They have experienced numerous changes in their lives with the introduction of the Internet, CD Players, and Cellular-Phones just to give a few examples. They are used to doing everything on their own and prefer to work independently. Their life experiences greatly differ from ours. When they entered the workforce they just had to work hard and wait patiently for their turn to get a promotion. Because of this, many of them have the mindset that "I had to wait my turn; you need to wait for yours". "I had to follow rules. So do you. You're asking for something quite different than what I had to go through." Even though they have experienced a torrent of change in their younger years they are now set on keeping things the same. If it's not broken, why fix it? To fully understand their way of thinking you need to start from the beginning. Most Gen X'ers had a "short youth"; they had to mature much faster than we had to and had little time to experiment or take risks. They're used to having a group of like-minded friends where everyone's tastes are nearly identical and their goals in life are similar.

Now let's take a look at the millennials.

Millennials are living in the moment for immediate satisfaction. The biggest, and probably the most important difference between Millennial workers and their Gen X managers, is that they really focus on characteristics of what they are doing in the moment.  Why is that? 

Millennials grew up being heavily influenced by terrorism and school violence, inexplicable things that can happen to anyone anytime.

That’s why, in the workplace, we are constantly asking, ‘Is what you’re asking me to do today meaningful and important and challenging? 

What most managers don't realize is that we grew up in a generation where most of our schooling emphasized teamwork; we did many activities in groups. We're very good at that. Thanks to the rise of social media, we freely exchange information with different people from different cultures all around the planet. This has worked to break down cultural barriers and has encouraged a greater sense of cooperation amongst people of diverse backgrounds.  This has caused a clash between the two generations. Where these mayor clashes occur are on the way gen Xers see and approach the workplace and work environment. Gen Xers are used to work 8 to 5, come to the workplace do their prescribed work on their own and leave. They keep work and socially separated, as to millennials see it all more flexible. To us it's all one big thing, we don't really mind starting a bit later and working until later hours as long as we are not doing it alone. To us, it's all the same because your colleagues tend to be your friends and the same people you work with are the people you meet when you go out to social activities.

No generation is better than the other. In order to have a harmonious workplace and a company that thrives, these two generations need to work together as one. Many companies who have seen this cultural clash hit the work floor have taken measurements to try and make the best out of it.

If you want to be a successful leader/manager with the Millennial generation, take a look at these tips and examples: 

  • Focusing more on the human aspect of the company by doing more social activities together.
  • Give frequent promotions. We are always looking and striving for progression; so rather than give infrequent promotions with large increases, we prefer more frequent promotions with a smaller increase. It lets us feel we're moving forward.
  • Give us a lot of feedback. For Generation X, feedback meant I was going to be judged in some way, usually negatively. But for Millennials, feedback is getting a tip. It's coaching, and we want it multiple times a day.
  • Annual reviews don't cut it anymore. Millennials want to know how they're doing much more often-and the best leaders are finding ways to give it to them, through social media updates, peer evaluations or extensive mentorship programs.
  • The biggest complaints I've heard from my peers are: "My manager cancels my one-on-ones all the time". This, understandably, leads them to believe that their manager does not value their time. The No. 1 reason Millennials leave companies is that they don't feel valued or respected. People don't leave companies; they leave managers. They're not mad at the building; they're mad at who they work with/for on a day-to-day basis. Generation X may have tolerated it for five to 10 years, but Millennials will only tolerate it for five to 10 months.

     Companies are beginning to take the grievances of Millenials seriously. They’ve made efforts to improve work conditions and foster a strong interest in the overall objective in the company. They’ve taken steps to improve the manager-subordinate relationship and make workers feel more like an asset to a team with a higher purpose, rather than just another replaceable cog in the wheel.