Millennials, Gen Y, and the MyPod Generation are all names for young men and women under 29. My name is Nicole Giuntoli and I am the resident Millennial at the Families and Work Institute. I graduated from Georgetown University in 2007 and many of my observations are based of the personal experiences of my friends and me. As the youngest and newest entrants into the workforce, Millennials have encountered countless debates regarding technology, productivity, and attitude. Millennials’ work ethic is plagued by myths and constantly questioned by their older coworkers. Is the newest generation of workers as disengaged as their bosses and the media claim? The purpose of this post is to address three popular myths surrounding this new section of the workforce. One thing to remember is a quote from Adam Stewart in Judy Martin’s Work Life Nation Blog, “All Gen Y’s are not created equal”, especially for a generation that is used to customizing everything from Ipod playlists to work schedules.
Are they slackers?
One of the most prevalent myths surrounding the Millennial generation is that they are slackers. It is easy to assume that an individual isn’t working hard if they are requesting days off or they don’t want to work the traditional work week of 9-5. However, Millennials are the first generation to begin working in the new 24/7 world of business. The workday no longer ends when an individual leaves the office, but continues throughout the day. In a world of BlackBerries and wireless internet, it only becomes increasingly harder for someone to leave work at the office.
The new 24/7 economy can only lead to one thing: burn out. Millennials have begun to focus their energies on other areas of their lives. Data from the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW) paints a picture of a generation that is slowing down: Employees under the age of 29 desires’ to advance to jobs with greater responsibility has declined 13% from their counterparts in 1992. Millennials’ understand that a career is important in one’s life, but not the main focal point. A 24 year old male consultant framed the idea in his own words, “A job will always be there for an individual, however their kids won’t be. You can always take a job, but you can’t take back that time with your kids.” The 2008 NSCW shows that Millennial men are spending 4.3 hours per weekday with their child, an increase in 1.9 hours from 1977. Millennial women are spending 30 more minutes per weekday with their child. Millennials aren’t slacking in the workplace, but rather are redirecting their energies towards their families.
They are too focused on technology to be productive.
The Millennial generation created Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Technology has permeated every aspect of a Millennials’ life and being “logged on” is second nature to this generation. However, older workers find mobile devices and social networking distracting. Social networking is similar to the old idea of “congregating by the water cooler, it provides a “brain break”. However, Boomers and Millennials don’t see eye to eye on technology protocols, as displayed by LexisNexis’ Technology Gap Survey, which found that 2/3 of Boomers feel that devices and technology lead to a decline in office etiquette. The lines around social networking are blurred for younger workers in numerous offices. Technology is more than a form of leisure for Millennials, it is a part of many job descriptions. Millennials are typically asked to build an organization’s Facebook page, tweet on behalf of their boss, conduct internet research, and blog. While it may appear as “goofing off” to an older worker, the Millennial is actually productively contributing to the organization. The problem isn’t that younger workers are unproductive; it is just a new way of conducting business.
Why are they so entitled?
Millennials are part of a generation that was constantly told they can achieve anything they desired. Boomers and Gen Xers can view this high level of confidence as arrogant or entitled. However, it is important to remember that they have seen their parents downsized from companies and they also are experiencing a recession very early in their career stages. Data from the 2008 NSCW shows that job security has declined from 45% to 40% since 1977. The combination of confidence and the current economic climate propels Millennials to search for a workplace that works for them and their goals. Once Millennials learn as much as they can from one job, they look for another one to challenge them. Older workers may be frustrated by this constant job hopping because Millennials are avoiding the notion of “paying their dues.” However, it is important to note that 39% of Millennial employees rate being able to advance at a desired pace as extremely important. The key words in that phrase are at a desired pace, which means that they are conscious of burn out. Millennials strive to achieve all of their goals both at work and home. Data from the Families and Work Institute shows that younger workers rate a flexible job environment as an important priority. Millennials are continuing to earn their dues, but just in a different work arrangement and style.
The values surrounding work and life evolve with every new generation that enters into the workforce and the Millennial story is no different. Generational differences are just highlighted among Millennials because this the first time in history where 4 generations are concurrently in the workforce. These young men and women are part of the current sea change towards a new type of workplace. All of the myths mentioned in this post stem from a lack of understanding on both ends. The debate surrounding the multiple generations will only intensify as Milennials climb up the corporate ladder, and I look forward to debunking myths along that ride.
Next week: an interview with Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist