What do Young Workers Need to Hear but Don’t Want to Hear?

Many of you over 40 have to deal with Millennials – those colleagues or employees between the ages of 18-30.  And while it is almost a cliché to identify generational differences, many of them are real and do cause conflict at work.

Below are a number of things that people have told me their younger workers need to hear (although in words less harsh, perhaps).

  1. “There’s no such thing as a perfect job.” Many millennials believe that they have the right to decide which parts of the job they like and will do and which they don’t, and therefore don’t have to do.  It’s as if work is an extension of dinner – if you don’t like vegetables then you don’t have to eat them.
  2. “You don’t get a raise just because you’ve worked here 3 months.”  Many young people have lost (or never had to begin with) the concept that raises are tied to performance and not to existence.  As they got older, their parents increased their allowances – usually without demanding more work around the house in return.  They also fail to recognize the difference between a raise, a cost of living increase, and a bonus.
  3. “Yes, you do have to show up every day for work!”  Many young people are absolutely astounded that they can’t waltz into their boss’s office and announce that they are taking a long weekend next week.  And, to make it worse, they are expected to show up at work every single day even if they were out late the night before.
  4. “Put down your damn smart phone.”    Millennials need to know that there is no such thing as sending or receiving a text message unobtrusively.  We see you staring intently at your crotch and we sort of figure that something is up, and it’s probably not physical.  Paying attention to a smart phone while in a meeting, or even worse, during a conversation is the 21st century equivalent of being introduced to someone at a party in the 20th century and walking away looking for someone far more interesting to talk to.
  5. “Grow up”. By this we mean accept some adult responsibilities.  Show up for work on time.  Don’t leave work and leave a job half-finished merely because it’s quitting time.  Wear clothing that is appropriate to your work environment and not something that looks cool to a 13 year old.
  6. “No, I don’t want to friend you on Facebook – I’m your boss”.  Respect work boundaries.  Your boss is not your friend; s/he is your Manager or supervisor.  Do not confuse work and personal roles.
  7. “Stop whining.”  One of the reasons that playing sports is so important for children is that their playmates clue them in pretty quickly to what is acceptable and unacceptable social behaviour.  You’re going to take your ball and go home because you’re not winning?  Fine!  See if anybody wants to play with you anymore.  Of course, this doesn’t happen much these days because children almost never engage in playing sports in an unsupervised environment.  We learn lessons from our peers that can never be taught as effectively by adults.
  8. “Get off social media and get your job done.”  This means No Facebook, No Tumblr, No Instagram, No Pinning, No YouTube, and probably No LinkedIn during working hours.  This also includes games and roaming the net.  Unlike school where, when you are finished your work you can read a book, employers have a something unrealistic expectation that when you are finished an assigned task, you will find something else work related to do.
  9. “Life is not fair.”  Although most parents tell their children this around age 4 when the little ankle biters first begin to figure out that “Mom always liked you best”,  and even though we are possibly genetically engineered to constantly scan the environment for signs of unfairness, the cold truth is that life isn’t fair!  Bummer.
  10. “You are not special.”  This may be the hardest reality check for the generation who has been told since birth that they are the best, the brightest, the most special.  The rise in Narcissism is obvious to anyone who teaches kids, coaches sports, or instructs in the arts. The Narcissist hallmark of a huge sense of entitlement hangs over the workplace like a thick fog permeating every job discussion and every performance appraisal.  Somebody else will clean up the lunch room.

Now of course, not ALL millennials exhibit the above traits, and, they do have many positive traits.  But if you have a millennial who shows more than 3 of the above, it may be time for a “Come to Jesus” chat.

Copyright © 2015 Pitsel & Associates Ltd., All rights reserved.