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What Millennials want and Generation Xers struggle to give

It’s an inconvenient truth that Millennials (or Generation Y, as they used to be called) just aren’t the same as the Baby Boomers and the Generation Xers that went before them. This is both exciting and disturbing depending on your perspective.

For some companies their ‘uniqueness’ from those that enter the workplace before them, is complex and difficult to accommodate. For example, Millennials, will not work long hours, doing a job that has little meaning for them for a manager that bullies and provides very little autonomy or influence in the role that they have.

Hhmm. It’s amazing that anyone puts up with that!

Still, conformists do, and companies rely on the fact that economic circumstances are such that employees refuse to put their job at risk by challenging the status quo. Expecting people to work in a company where they feel overworked and unappreciated is becoming less viable as time passes. Millennials grew up in an environment where there parents removed any obstacles in their path before they even realised that they had challenges to face. They are surprised when they reach the workplace that their managers do not respond in the same way as a loving parent would. Generation Xers would like to be praised for the work that they do, but have become used to this not happening. Millennials find it hard to get through the day without praise and encouragement. Generation Xers have become used to their companies lying to them, and the need to start at the bottom and work their way up. Millennials believe that their managers must be trustworthy and they believe that they should make immediate impact in any job that they do. They want to start at the top, straight after leaving University with no prior experience.

This difference in work ethic and attitude remains perplexing for both parties. Generation Xers ponder why Millennials aren’t just getting on with things, and they in turn wonder why Generation Xers aren’t as nurturing as they expect them to be. This leads to the accusations that Millennials are ‘snowflakes’ and Generation Xers are distant and uncaring.

Whilst there is some truth to both assertions, when viewed from the other perspectives, this isn’t the whole story.

Millennials want the following:

Trust and Integrity

They want to trust the organisation that they work for, and they want their managers to have integrity.  To Generation Xers this seems like a naïve request, which is a shameful indictment of many organisations. Millennials want to be proud of the organisations that they work for and expect them to have a strong sense of social responsibility and have a stellar reputation. The company's brand must be strong and authentic.

To be cared for by authentic people and given meaningful work

Millennials grew up with parents that watched and supervised every step and was educated in a system that prioritised team work and participation over competition. For example, every kid got a medal for being in the race, not just the winner. Millennials therefore expect to be mentored, given positive feedback and guided through every step of their career, all the time. They do not want to do routine work, that is boring even if it's vital to the organisation. Whilst Generation Xers see this type of work as an essential rite of passage; Millennials see it as demeaning. Their resilience level is low, and when they are given unstructured, critical feedback (which unfortunately is a common management flaw), they are put into a ‘tailspin’; earning their nickname of ‘snowflake’.

What is forgotten is that no one should have to put up with poor management, and that Millennials should not be penalised for refusing to endure it. Whilst Millennials are unlikely to be openly disruptive (in the same way that a maverick would); they are likely to be disengaged and might publicly denounce you on social media.

If you want the respect of the Millennial, then you will need to be authentic as they have less tolerance for games and people not being who they claim to be. I will be writing more on what type of leader Millennials  need to be as successful as they can be.

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