Millennials may be the most baffling generation till date. They have been subject to ridicule, praise and even scientific study in the recent past. Even in the professional environment, work habits of millennials differ from those of the Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, causing multigenerational friction and frustration. But stereotyping millennials as being “lazy”, “entitled” and “arrogant” is not the solution.
To deal with them in the right manner, we first need to understand the challenges they, as millennials, face at work. Only then can we think of effective solutions to ease out tensions and iron out differences among employees belonging to different generations. So, here are some of the biggest problems millennials face in their workplace.
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As many of them are currently fresh out of college, millennials often come from an academic environment where tools necessary for their trade are available at their fingertips. Once they make their foray into the professional world, however, it is often the case that many of these new-age tools and processes are met with a degree of resistance from the old guard. Failing to adopt the processes and tools that millennials are familiar with, workplaces often reduce them to having to perform pure grunt work. Unhappy with the inefficiencies that persist from this resistance to change, millennials often lack the patience to remain committed to years of menial work that is deemed necessary to move up the ladder.
Millennials are also more reliant on technology, firmly holding the belief that spending hours in the office is not vital as long as you produce results at the end of the day. This is almost jarring to their colleagues who are more old-school, who have traditionally measured performance by the number of hours spent in the office. While millennials prefer teleworking and remote communications, the older generation goes by the classic “early bird gets the worm” mantra, preferring to battle rush hour commutes to ensure a proper appraisal.
Supply vs. demand
Millennials are the largest and the most educated generation group in history. With a majority of all millennials having attended college, you’d think the opportunities available to them in the workplace are aplenty. The supply of an educated workforce, however, is often much higher than the demand that the marketplace can create, sending millennials into frustrating beginning years in a career spent scraping the bottom of the ladder, or worse yet, facing unemployment.
Mounting debts and performance pressures
Even worse, having racked up massive debts from foreign education that are themselves no longer job-guarantees, millennials are forced to stick to jobs that do little to help pay off mounting debts. With firm financial commitments, they don’t have the space to accommodate failure or setback. ‘Perform or perish’ is the mantra in a highly competitive workplace where the supply of low-paid millennials is in abundance. Everyone is replaceable.
Employees of earlier generations often complain of the inability of millennials to adequately conform to the demands of a professional environment. Almost 40 per cent of all millennials have tattoos that are often considered unprofessional in corporate settings. Others complain that millennials often take liberties with the dress code, indulge in gossip unbecoming of someone in a professional setup, are unable to adequately and accurately exercise discretion and even lack professional email etiquette. But the millennials do not really give all of this too much importance, they want to produce results their way. Engaging millennials to conform to the requirements of the professional world then involves dedicated learning by the millennial and committed training by the company.
The modern workplace includes a mix of professionals from various age groups, and generational differences can cause friction in the working environment. For the average millennial, the burden of stereotypes, distinctively different working styles and unmet expectations only exacerbate the difficulties of working in an imposing workplace.
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