The ‘Spoiled’ Generation: Managing Millennials at Work


Narcissistic. Easily offended. Cocky. Self-indulgent. These aren’t attributes that we’d necessarily like to be told we have. However, a whole generation appears to be labelled with these qualities by their predecessors. That’s right, it’s time to talk about the millennials. Are they as terrible as the press would have you believe? More importantly, what does this mean for bosses who are in charge of managing millennials at work?

First things first; what is a millennial? The millennial generation consists of those individuals born in the late ‘80s up until the early ‘00s. Another name you may have heard for this group is Generation Y. The millennial debate has been bubbling in the press for a number of years, with the relatively young generation often being slated for their alleged lack of money sense and spoiled nature.

More recently, the millennials have been dragged back into the public forum by the marketing guru and public speaker, Simon Sinek. He explains that those from the controversial generation struggle to create meaningful relationships, are addicted to technology and lack perspective. Sinek goes on to say that millennials are more likely to job hop, desperate for approval and impatient. Not exactly positive, is it? Are the millennials up in arms over this slander? Quite simply put, no, they aren’t. But, why not?

Despite Sinek’s undeniably blunt approach, he has won the hearts of the millennial generation. Where his peers have chosen to see only the flaws of Generation Y, Sinek instead chooses to reach out as if to say “it’s not your fault” and “I understand”. For this reason, the marketing expert’s recent talk on the topic has gone viral. (Want to see what all the fuss is about? You can check it out here.)

Finally, someone is talking about millennials without malice or prejudice, without criticism or judgement. Like any generation, the millennials have their own unique set of struggles, needs and incentives. Perhaps their predecessors simply don’t understand them.

Millennials at Work

Everyone has their own strengths and, of course, with this comes weaknesses, too. This is true at an individual level, but we can also make general statements about a generation as a whole. For instance, millennials are particularly good at tackling multiple tasks at once, quick learners, creative thinkers and strong team workers.

When talking about their weaknesses, Generation Y has a tendency to be selfish, a need for attention and to be liked. Additionally, thanks to the instant world the internet has created, they can be a little impatient and have short attention spans. At work, these flaws will obviously have an impact. However, it’s important that employers learn to encourage millennials to work on their weaknesses, rather than criticise them.

Another reason that millennials can receive a bad rep in the workplace is their motivation. Now, this isn’t to say that they lack this vital characteristic, quite the opposite; millennials want professional success. However, due to the fact that they probably can’t afford a mortgage and the fact that people aren’t settling down until later in life, their incentives to work are different.

For earlier generations, simply maintaining a full-time job was enough of a motivator. Millennials grew up in a world full of choice and they have always been told that anything is possible. The fact of the matter is that many millennials are unlikely to spend more than 2 years with the same company.

Does this mean that they are disloyal or unreliable? No. All this means is that employers need to switch up their tactics to keep their talented and hardworking millennials happy.

Managing Millennials

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? The way you manage your business and your staff has been working for years and most of the workforce seems content. So, why do your younger employees keep leaving for pastures new? Smart bosses know how to prevent this, they know that millennials have their own needs that must be met in order to win their loyalty.

What do they want? Before you assume that millennials are fussy and demanding, it’s worth noting that what they require from their employers is not unreasonable. Their main motivators are their happiness and their future prospects. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

To retain millennials at work, managers will need to bear the following in mind:

They want to make a difference

This is great news for employers – but only if they choose to use it to their advantage. Millennials want to see results, they want to see that all of their hard work is having an impact on the team or business as a whole. If they feel like their efforts are in vain, they will soon lose motivation.

Therefore, it’s key that employers help millennials to have visibility over what they are accomplishing at work and acknowledge their achievements.

They want to progress

In the long term, the millennial need to make an impact means that slow progression will not suffice. If workers from this generation feel like they’re not going to move up the ranks quickly enough within a business, they won’t stay.

To keep them on your team, make sure that they know where they’re headed and what they need to do to get there. However, be careful not to dangle a fake promotion in front of them, they will catch on quick!

They want support

A good company cares about and invests in its workers. Millennials won’t accept anything less, and quite rightly so! Having a focus on things like development plans and ongoing mentoring is music to their ears.

They want a strong company culture

Life is about balance, and given the fact that we spend so much of our time working, we all seek the elusive work/life balance. Millennials know this; they want to make the most of their time and get as much enjoyment out of life as possible. For this reason, they need to feel genuinely happy at work.

Managers need to think outside of the box; upped salaries or traditional staff perks are enough. If a company offers their workforce flexible working, a fun work environment and other benefits that make their day-to-day life that little bit easier (e.g. bring your pet to work or free breakfasts), millennials will feel happy and valued.

So, what’s the lesson here? Well, yes, millennials have their flaws – but don’t we all? There’s no reason why millennials at work can’t thrive. Nor is there any excuse for bosses to not start managing millennials a little differently to make the most of them.

Millennials, the future is in your hands!

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