The "Me, Me, Me" generation tends to get a bad rep in the workplace with a never-ending list of stereotypes that makes them seem like they want the world handed to them and who will cry, scream and blog uncontrollably until they get it. Millennials are degraded for being "narcissistic", "lazy", "coddled" and "even a bit delusional" lovingly put by this Times article. Though the reality is, if these stereotypes continue to plague the minds of executives and companies, placing the roughly 80 million people of this generation - the people who will take over the workforce within the next few years - into these categories steers a company's culture and market down the wrong direction.
Even though these traits can be somewhat true, the negative aspects of these words will put a bad taste in anyone's mouth, and in order to embrace the change that millennials want to bring, collectively we need to reshape the palate of the working world.
Passing out participation trophies did not teach millennials that they should be rewarded for their every move, but rather that they should be accepting of everyone and acknowledge the work that's been put in by the team as a whole. We are one of the most inviting generations and see the world as more than just black and white, but as the sea of colors in between.
We are confident in our abilities knowing that we have the potential to become whoever we want to be and are on our way towards being the most educated generation. Does this make us narcissistic? Maybe, but why do companies want to stop this excitement and desire to learn and be successful? Once you stop the process of upward momentum, we become just another dull member of the corporate office, here for our unfulfilling, 9 to 5 job when we desire to be so much more.
For companies wanting to recruit top talent, this boring, ready-for-nothing person is not exactly who they should be looking for and it is what causes millennials to jump from job to job so quickly. Embrace the desire for success, companies can help us direct that momentum into our everyday work by giving us small side projects to work on or allowing us to become more familiar with the different teams and the company.
There are plenty of studies that say most millennials will take a pay cut to work at a company they love, but what people need to understand is that we also have bills to pay, and being reminded of how so many of us still live at home and the ever-crushing student debt we put ourselves into doesn't help. Once we start to know our worth in a corporate environment, we consider how we are treated versus how we are paid and if both are unfulfilling, or if one is lacking, we will take the first new job that satisfies both. We see people who work for companies with unlimited vacation time, with great training programs, pay and culture - so why shouldn't we feel like we deserve these things if people of similar ages, education and industries are getting all of that too?
A majority of us are coming into the workforce straight out of college where we pulled all-nighters to do well in school, where we worked on top of going to school full-time just to afford it, where we attempted to spend whatever free time we had left enjoying our youth. We are are used to a life that is always changing, that is always on the go.
In the time I have spent in the corporate world, it's the millennials that I always see willing to stick around until 9 pm, or put in weekend work or to help work on new projects. “More than four in 10 (43%) of work martyrs are millennials, compared to just 29% of overall respondents.” according to this recent study. This isn't because we think we're better than anyone else, it's because we still have our independence, without spouses or kids we have the free time to dedicate our lives to work.
We want to be successful, we want to show our worth to a company - this is why we aren't necessarily lazy but rather we want to become the person that we see ourselves having the potential to be.
Millennials seek verification for their good work; most of us have never held office positions and are winging it. Although this may come off as "needy", it shows our growth mindset where we are open to make mistakes but also ready to talk about and learn how to correct them. Companies need to take advantage of this and create a transparent environment; we seek verification from mentors because we look up to their success and want them to help us grow to be as successful as we can be.
We seek this support because we want to grow our leadership skills to the point where we can work confidently and independently. According to The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016, as many as 63% of respondents said their leadership skills are not being fully developed. It seems to be a key reason why respondents are willing to leave: 71% of those likely to leave in the next two years are dissatisfied with how their leadership skills are being developed. Instead of pushing the desires for success away from millennials, I encourage companies to get involved with colleges to incorporate training programs for incoming young professionals. This will help them see what it takes to get to where they want to be without overstepping their boundaries.
We are delusional because we remain enthusiastic and pragmatic during difficult times. We have adapted to the ever-changing technology that has given us voices to make changes in the world. We question corporate strategies and "the Man", not because we are looking to take your jobs, but because we were raised with a desire to become strong and great leaders and will question the things that we find morally wrong. Kimberly Jones puts it right in this article saying "an employee...questioning your business practices isn't necessarily a sign of disrespect, it's a sign of them being engaged and genuinely wanting to know more".
It's time to stop placing blame on one generation over another and to start making moves to create a collaborative work environment between all generations and remove the stigma of a millennial. Understanding that millennials are enthusiastic, hard-working, motivated, confident and creative is the first step to understanding how to introduce young professionals into the corporate world. Finding a happy-medium between reasonable pay, responsibilities and culture is key to keeping top talent.