Millennial in the Workplace – Are They Different? And If so, How?


It’s 12am on a Monday and boss, Jim, asks his new Millennial employee (let’s call her “Vicky”) if she can “Grab him a cup of coffee.” Vicky pulls out her earbuds, “Oh,” she says, “I’m on my break.”

This scenario is the sweaty nightmare of baby-boomer managers across the world. According to many, Millennials are entitled, lazy, impatient, and often insubordinate. A horror, in other words, in the workplace. But is this actually true? Or is it just another case of older generations complaining about the “kids these days!”

What’s the Big Deal?

Some people don’t realize that the 80-million-strong Millennial-generation is the largest age group to emerge since the Baby Boomers, and as this group grows significantly as a proportion of the workforce over the next 20 years. So yes, the problem is, potentially, huge. If manager don’t figure out how to handle Millennials and or Millennials don’t figure out how to get along in the workplace, we are going to be left living in a world run by incompetent nincompoops. And nobody wants that.

How Millennials ARE Actually Different

Okay, to avoid getting dragging down into the rather opaque “empirical” sociological evidence let’s just assume for the sake of the article that SOME of what is said about Millennials being a “pain” for older managers is true and SOME of it isn’t.

Let’s first consider the clear ways that Millennials ARE different.

Among other things, Millennials have a drastically different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience. Millennials are well educated, skilled in technology, very self-confident, able to multi-task, and have plenty of energy. They have high expectations for themselves, and prefer to work in teams, rather than as individuals. Millennials seek challenges, yet work life balance is of utmost importance to them. They do, however, realize that their need for social interaction, immediate results in their work, and desire for speedy advancement may be seen as weaknesses by older colleagues.

Don’t Forget the Good!

One of the positive characteristics of Millennials is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70-percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.

Coupled with the socially minded millennial comes their desire to be creative. Millennials have grown up in a time where information has become available instantly. Through a Google or Wikipedia search, answers to even quite complicated questions can be found. As such, millennials have developed into a group that wants to work on new and tough problems, and ones that require creative solutions.

The Bad

If we Millennials are being honest, it is clear that we suffer from impatience. We, in other words, desire instant gratification. This is, perhaps, one of the more obvious faults of our generation. Every generation has its faults, some worse than others, and one of ours is, undoubtedly, our desire for instant gratification.

Millennials should work on this psychosocial shortcoming by getting a better sense of perspective and time, and by appreciating the fact that all of the best things in life are require time and, usually, hardship. Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day. We should all try to balance the achievement of our long-term goals with the short-term experience of fun and pleasure. Having both—long-term success and regularly expired short-term pleasure—that is what it means to be happy.

The Future

Creating engagement strategies is one of management’s big goals. But managers who have developed successful strategies for retaining boomers are going to have put those strategies in the corporate archives. Creating strategies to engage millennials requires a whole different approach – and strategy.