Millennials: The Misunderstood (& Micro-Analyzed) Generation Y

Co-workers in the office

The mystical millennials ­— that group of 18 to 34 year-old creatures that confuses managers with their life and work desires, and stereotyped “entitlement”.

Steve Paikin held an interesting panel on TVO’s The Agenda the other night about millennials. The topics ranged from their workplace expectations, to the (perhaps forlorn) ideal of home ownership and of course, social media and the digital sphere of work life.

I’ve always felt an obligation – especially as an agency business owner – to bring interns and young people into Wellspring. It helps them enhance their skills and opportunities, and importantly for my business, brings fresh thinking and ideas to the table. After 20 years of serving clients, that freshness factor definitely matters! And sure, the ‘young folk’ might break a few eggs along the way, but that’s part of the fun. And, they can be hilarious.

Some stereotypes attached to this generation are that they’re entitled, lazy, and not hard workers (or at least ‘difficult-to-manage’ workers). Yet I’ve worked with (and raised) millennials who have purposeful ambition, work ethic and drive coming out the ying yang.

There’ll always be the lousy people, those who fulfill stereotypes in any generation. In the 60’s and early 70’s we called Baby Boomers pot-smoking hippies who would never amount to anything — true of some, not so much of those running business, government and the planet (not altogether well, but they got their heads out of the ‘pot’ clouds and broke doom-saying predictions).  I think millennials will likewise break most of the negative stereotypes currently attached to them as a cohort.

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via GIPHY

Steve Paikin refers to how this generation wants to feel heard and respected in their workplace, and compares that to the earlier days where we were told to shut up, keep our head down and work. Hearing what young people have to say and having them contribute as part of the team isn’t coddling them in my view; it’s embracing them, enabling  them to contribute and will ultimately help you as a business as they become more confident in their knowledge and abilities to help you succeed.

I’m not saying every intern or young worker should have free reign or be encouraged to vocalize opinions on everything … especially when in hearing distance of clients! But if  you coach them, make them part of your plans and respected members of your team, you’ll give them a chance to surprise you … ideally in  a very good way!

Only 60 per cent of workers aged 25-65 in the GTHA labour market are in some form of secure employment, according to the newest PEPSO report. The job market is changing with precarious work an on-going reality.  That’s not breaking news, yet we scrutinize and criticize millennials for shifting jobs and wanting to grow their careers and opportunities in a market that’s much different than it was even ten years ago. Giving them more frequent and positive feedback (when earned) than a yearly review (something millennials need—an entitlement?) isn’t ‘being too easy’ on them (as some proclaim), it’s called frequent communication — and that’s constructive for all parties.

At the end of the day, millennials are young people who want to learn, build careers, make money and have a good work-life balance. So let’s, please, stop micro-analyzing them and get to the part where we help them become the next generation of excellent business owners, public leaders and human beings.

You can check out the TVO panel for yourself here. 

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