We introduced you recently to our “Millennials in the New World of Work” series. Today we’d like to dive a bit deeper into how Millennials like myself work – what we value, how we respond to career demands and where we’d like to see ourselves in a decade’s time.
As noted in our first post in the series, a Millennial is anyone born between 1982 and 2000 (roughly). That means we’ve come of age in a time of great turmoil. The older Millennials among us grew up amidst the 1990s’ culture wars and genocides abroad, while middle-aged Millennials like myself reached adolescence as global terrorism came into the national consciousness. Even the youngest Millennials haven’t been unscathed by societal tensions, with the Great Recession erasing savings and household wealth for millions.
Also essential in understanding the Millennial is the nature of media today. Thanks to cable news and the internet, information is shared at a near-instantaneous pace. That means events that would have gone largely unnoticed a generation ago are reported, shared and commented on shortly after they happen.
How have these trends had an impact on the Millennial mindset? In a nutshell, they’ve made us more attuned to the world’s problems and inequities. A 2012 Georgetown University survey found that nearly three-quarters of Millennials think the nation’s economic system unfairly favors the wealthy – and according to a Pew study from 2010, we generally prioritize family and marriage over career advancement.
Those points are important ones to consider when looking at Millennials in the workforce. We’re not interested in pursuing career success for its own sake: rather, we see work as just one component in a well-rounded life. (I’ve had more than one friend state explicitly that one or both of their parents spent too much time at work, and that they didn’t want to go down the same path.)
What this means for Millennial managers, significantly, is that conventional rewards – raises, promotions and the like – may not cut it. At least, not indefinitely – we seem likelier than older generations to willingly exchange lucre for a life.
In short, we’re inclined to favor authenticity over all-or-nothing success, a point noted by speaker and brand researcher T. Scott in this Forbes piece.
“Of the living generations, none is more put off by phoniness than Millennials,” he writes.
Do we sound like a tricky bunch to manage? Maybe. There’s little doubt we’re different from the generations that preceded us. But, if we’re given the opportunity to express ourselves authentically, we do tend to respond positively. Pew (in the study cited above) found that we respect our elders greatly.
“A majority [of Millennials] say that the older generation is superior to the younger generation when it comes to moral values and work ethic,” Pew’s abstract reads.
Like any and all young people, we’re just seeking to be understood. And we can do good work – we just need our managers to provide the right mix of carrots and sticks. Sounds like the classic managerial challenge, hmm? Maybe the more things change in the workplace, the more they stay the same.
Keep an eye out for more Millennial-related posts in the days to come!
Originally published Jun 18, 2013, updated Sep 20, 2021