As more baby-boomers are contemplating retirement, closer attention is being paid to the generation poised to replace them in the job market. Known alternatively as Gen-Y or “the millenials,” and encompassing those born between the years of 1980 and 2000, they are being primarily viewed by employers as needy, self-centered and having unrealistic expectations. As expected, however, this is far from how people of this generation view themselves.
Lauren Stiller Rikleen, founder of the Rikleen Institute, which has been studying both the perception of millenials by others and their own view of themselves, says that the members of Gen-Y say they are actually loyal and that their work ethic is undeservedly scorned. This view is echoed by the founder of Millennial Branding and author of Me 2.0 Dan Schawbel.
Both Schawbel and Rikleen agree that the contrast in how this generation is described has to do with limited transparency and compromise between various generations of workers. To dispel some of the workplace confusion, here are three of the most common descriptors for millennial employees that may cause conflict:
Members of Gen-Y like to have their work assessed and seek recognition for their contributions. For older colleagues and managers, however, this attitude seems like a constant, cloying need for ego-stroking.
Rikleen says that the need for validation has a lot to do with how this generation was reared, compared to how their own parents were raised. As a whole, as children, those who are entering the workforce today were much more likely to be listened to and given input in family decisions and were given a choice about activities they took part in. They also received constant feedback on their performance and were continuously encouraged. This might make them ill-suited for a job environment that doesn’t provide constant validation, with feedback on job performance being limited to biannual, or even yearly evaluations. They might also be unable to sell themselves to their manages or justify their contributions. This kind of expectation also forces managers to make adjustments as their older workers leave and are replaced with employees who might require different approaches to supervise effectively.
Telecommuting and flex-time aren’t seen as work privileges to this generation, but rather, work requirements. Some Gen-Yers enter the workforce indignant to receive remote access, demanding an office Blackberry, and inquiring about their summer-hours schedule. Their ease with technology means they also expect leniency to visit social media sites and use personal electronics during work time.
“This is a generation that always grew up with computers,” Rikleen says. “So they don’t understand why they would need to come in [to the office] every day if their work is primarily done on a computer.”