Diary of a Millennial: Changing the Workplace


workplaceAs the last of the Millennials are entering the workforce, most of us can say we’ve experienced negativity surrounding our generalized generation. We have gotten the condescending comments from the 40-something to 60-something coworkers and our standing in the world has been made perfectly clear to us. Liz Ryan’s Forbes article about the Millennial-hating in the workplace highlights the reasons that the generation has been so poorly received.

It seems that every generation has to deal with negative comments and broad-brush generalizations, but the generation-bashing is worse for millennials.

-Liz Ryan, Forbes

Ryan says part of the problem is that older workers feel pushed aside by the young and fresh-faced Millennials who are new on the market and willing to take a much lower salary for twice the work. Discrimination is prevalent in the workplace because of the technology that has worked its way into nearly every industry. When employers don’t assume that older workers will understand it as well as a 23-year-old who just graduated and was raised by an iPad, they have a significant disadvantage. That’s understandably frustrating on its own, but there’s a lot more to the way we have changed the workplace and mixed up the lives of our Baby Boomer and Gen X elders.

The biggest shift in working culture is the questions that Millennials are asking. There has been a static employment structure over past generations that the youths are shattering by challenging the process and expecting more form their work experiences. Millennials want to know why the workforce has looked the same for so long and what we can change about it. Ryan outlines four major points of the status quo that we’re successfully breaking down:

  1. Why do jobs still require us to be at a certain place at a certain time and stay there all day, when technology enables many jobs to be performed from almost anywhere?Something that older generations could never have imagined: working flexible hours and working from anywhere. If an employee is completing the tasks assigned to them and producing satisfactory work, what difference does it make if they’re sitting in a cubicle 15 feet down the hall or if they’re sitting on a couch in a coffee shop? And what difference does it make if they come into an office building at exactly 8:00 a.m., start lunch at exactly 12:00 p.m., and head home at exactly 5:00 p.m.? The reality is that Millennials are actually enduring much longer hours than the plush 8-hour work day that America’s used to. If our laptops are still going to be open at 9:30 p.m., we want to be in our sweats, and we don’t think that’s too much to ask.
  2. Why is fear-based management still so prevalent in the working world? Millennials are rational and set boundaries for themselves. There is not an element of fear in our employment like older generations experienced. Our grandparents learned to do whatever they were asked because they were grateful to have jobs and knew the privilege could easily be pulled out from underneath them, leaving them high and dry. Millennials don’t live that same reality. We are more likely to have a safety net (aka, our parents) and are not driven by the fear that older generations had instilled in them. “They were taught to respect authority no matter what, and it is hard to step out of that mindset,” Ryan explains in her Forbes piece. Millennials are much more likely to push back, which makes the older generations uncomfortable. But it also gets us what we want.
  3. Why do some managers require employees to be docile and obedient when what businesses really need are big new ideas and pointed questions about the status quo? Say what you will about this generation, but we really know how to challenge the world around us. We have been doing it for years in the political and cultural spheres, so it’s natural that we’d do the same in the workplace. It’s clear that Millennials value companies that are open, progressive, and morally responsible – that’s why no one can even sell a bottle of water anymore without a form of charity attached to it. We want companies who listen to us and the smart companies want Millennials to listen to. It’s a match made in heaven.
  4. Why do people commit every waking hour and brain cell to their jobs when employers commit almost nothing to their employees? Great question. We value personal satisfaction more than past generations have, partially because we have the luxury of doing so. It may not be fair, but it’s the reality. Refer to the previous discussion of boundaries – we are willing to tell our boss what we will and won’t do. That’s why we’re happier in our jobs and why we expect more satisfaction out of our jobs. We don’t see the point in doing something we hate for our whole lives, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Companies have really begun bending to this expectation and a lot of work environments look more like parties than professional offices. Employees all over the country are enjoying drinks at work, bringing their dogs into the office, being rewarded with generous gifts and bonuses, etc. because why not? You’re welcome, Gen X.

The workplace has changed a lot since Millennials hit the force and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Companies resisting the flexing market are going to disappear with their loyal Baby Boomer employees. I believe it was Bob Dylan who once said, “The times they are a-changin.”

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