By Natasha E. Feghali
Millennials are changing the face of work and the traditional model that exists in the workplace to something much more flexible, flat and drastically different. As millennials move into the 21st Century they are dominating the work force and will not settle for any “old” job or behavior from their superiors at work.
More and more businesses are struggling with the millennial work ethic and are having a hard time keeping their employees satisfied. According to Louis Effron in his article Why Millennials don’t want to work for you (2015) for Forbes, “Millennials will represent 40% of the total workforce by 2020”. This change in the workplace should not come as a shock though; millennials are raised in a culture of reward and recognition brought on by home, school and peers. Millennials also grew up as the “selfie-kids” with their parents, teachers etc., continuously “snapping” anything they do and showing it off to “the social media” world. Therefore, millennials could be perceived as needing constant support and praise. These “kids” as seen by the baby boomers, view work as a place of work only and favor having a full and enriching life as opposed to the traditional work-life balance. The challenge for employers lies in shifting their workplace policies to reflect the behavior and mindset as millennials continue to replace baby boomers in the workplace.
Managers who once used certain tactics to motivate baby-boomers cannot use the same strategies when working with their younger counterparts. One example that has been frequently debated is the notion of feedback by superiors to millennials. Such examples include the traditional semi-annual reviews are too infrequent for millennials and would prefer continuous engagement from superiors. With that being said, millennials respond to a healthier dialogue from a superior; that engages them in a positive way and allows them to be creative. In a 2009 article by Tamara Erickson, a millennial who had been struggling in her role, admitted to peers, “I guess I just expected that I would get to act on more of my ideas, and that the higher ups here would have figured out by now that the model’s changing.” (Gen Y in the Workforce, Tamara Erickson, Harvard Business Review, February 2009). Even Erickson’s use of higher ups indicates that millennials also view superiors and hierarchy as flat and sometimes irrelevant to their success.
Many questions arise with this topic and what are the repercussions to this behavior and the workplace shift that is happening? According to some researchers, such as Dan Schawbel in his article Millennials vs. Baby Boomers: Who Would You Rather Hire? (2012) for Time wrote that even though young workers are less likely than previous generations to actually be in the workforce, the youth of today have very strong opinions about the workplace and how it should be run, and what their place should be in it. Millennial babies are not used to receiving critical feedback and may not tolerate workplace hierarchies. After receiving trophies for participation, discussing household issues and decisions with their parents and a community concept in schools, millennials are not going to tolerate a condemning pyramid structure in a work environment.
According to Rawan AlMarzouq, a certified stylist and fashion/lifestyle blogger as well as personality in Kuwait and the GCC, “everyone needs to work and communicate positively together which in turn can generate creativity, collaboration and success.” She continues to add, “I was working in a 9-5 job yet I felt the calling to go out on my own and use my skills to create and build my business as well as help other aspiring creatives in my field”.
In another attempt to understand the way communication is transforming amongst those in positions of authority and those mentoring under them as AlMarzouq mentions, it is important to continue to understand your role in the system. Because communication is an integral part of the work environment, learning the etiquette necessary for respectful and appropriate communication is extremely important.
Although the non-millennial generation see the dynamics changing, it is very wise to remember that individuals in positions of leadership have worked hard to get there. Keeping that respectful dialogue present whether in person or via on-line medium is important.
In conclusion, can it be a career breaker?
As Schawbel also mentions in his article cited above, millennials will also reshape the workplace—sooner than later, if they have their way. Among other characteristics that stand out, millennials, who have come of age with the text messages and social media, are an impatient bunch: They’re hyper-connected, tech savvy, entrepreneurial, and collaborative. They also favor fast-paced work environments, want quick promotions, and aren’t fans of traditional office rules and hierarchies.
Above all else, are the relationships created in the workplace. It is important to ensure that relationships remain trusting and respectful. Although many working relationships are friendly, it is important to understand that a hierarchy does exist in the workplace and responsible communication, cooperation and collaboration are important. If a millennial does decide to quit their job and become an entrepreneur, one day they may need to look back to their previous peers and therefore keeping those doors open are always best practice in any field of work.