Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation: Millennials in the Workplace

Millennials in the workplace. We’ve all heard the stereotypes about the generation that is lazy, entitled and glued to our iPhones. Day after day we are seeing news articles publishing ‘credible’ studies revealing that millennial are lazy workers in comparison to their baby-boomer counterparts. But how much of this is actually true?

News Corp recently published an article, titled: “We’ve raised Generation Hopeless: Millennials who lack basic life and workplace skills”. According to the article, technological advances have meant that “young people aren’t used to speaking to someone in person or on the phone, and the thought of doing so terrifies them”.

We are constantly reminded that Millennials (and only Millennials) are addicted to social media and lack the ability to have meaningful communication, which causes issues within the workplace. Michaela Launerts, author of #GirlCode said millennials have grown up in online worlds where they make their own rules and don’t learn the social conventions that are still expected of them. “Eye contact, not interrupting, a proper handshake, social engagement- they struggle with what older generations consider basic niceties”.`

Ongoing research has supported that there are differences between generations when it comes to work ethic and values, but one generation is not necessarily worse than the other. According to Hobart & Sendek “Awareness of these differences in Gen Y is important. The differences have implications for everyone in your organization. However, what those implications are will not always be clear. As a leader, you need to be in the forefront of handling these implications. Where they impact people directly, you need to make sure that others are changing to meet the new reality—for instance, in accepting Gen Y without bias”.

A number of studies have disproven the stereotypes, some even going to say that the Gen Y work ethic is more effective that that of older generations. Jennifer Deal of the Centre for Creative Leadership and Alec Levenson of the University of Southern California studied 25,000 people in 22 countries and concluded that most generalisations about millennials as employees are “inconsistent at best and destructive at worst“.

Chairman of the Australian Human Resources Institute Peter Wilson said the behaviour of Millennials could frustrate older colleagues but good managers would adapt to it. So rather than reinforcing negative stereotypes and inaccurate labels, employers should be taking the initiative to adapt and understand all of their employee’s values. Each generation is seen to hold different values and attributes, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. While Baby Boomers may possess qualities such as leadership and generating revenue, Millennials may be considered more efficient, tech savvy and more adaptable to change. All workplaces are made up of different personalities and each generation tends to hold different values, and by adapting and catering to a variety of needs, the workforce will be more harmonious.

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