Millennials in the Workplace: Millennials speak up about the workplace

The ‘speak our mind’ mentality is a refreshing trait that Millennials have. Admittedly, it’s been interpreted by many a gen as a need to be right, or a sign of disrespect – but the reality is, speaking our truth in terms of our values, wants and opinions is what the world needs more of: honesty and truth.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the workplace, restrictions – whether formal or self-imposed – tend to limit the playground so to speak, of having meaningful conversations around what matters to employees: the very values that drive engagement and productivity.

For Millennials, this appears to be more apparent than not – ultimately leading to suppression of said wants and needs, and the risk of losing incredible talent.

Often, I like to ask Millennials what they see as the biggest challenges in the workplace; not least because it continues to reaffirm where the challenges lie and what needs to be done about it, but because it allows a space for expression and to be heard.

Below, I’d like to relay a sample of contemporary challenges in the workplace, as expressed by two of my Millennial colleagues:

            1. Entry level work

More so than in past generations, entry level work is challenging for Millennials. Growing up in an era where technology has created much broader mindsets through avid amounts of information and arguably enhanced our intelligence at a relative age comparison to previous generations, we’ve become accustomed to “big things” early on in life. Not to mention our values have us wanting to make a difference, to be able to contribute something of value to our organisation and to purse big dreams. When we are in positions that are monotonous or heavily admin – such as making calls, responding to emails, and making copies – it doesn’t translate to substance: making us feel conflicted. Organisations would benefit from creating more diversity in terms of tasks and more opportunity to keep Millennials engaged.

         2. Workplace value systems clashing

For generations such as Baby Boomers and X-ers, working 9 to 5 is a reality of life. However, Millennials view this as just one option of many. Millennials strive to find a workplace that offers flexibility – such as the chance to work from home, and the ability to work when we feel most motivated.

Rigid working hours and a requirement to be physically present does not equate to productivity.

The problem is, while some workplaces are opening their minds to flexibility, some are still behind par.  For those that are hanging on to traditional working structures, it is causing issues – and placing Millennials in difficult positions: forced to either adapt to the system or attempt to change it.

The result is friction, tension and lack of engagement. Organisations would benefit from being mindful of the different workstyle preferences of each generation and where possible, accommodate these needs.

         3. Inter-generational relationships

Millennials sometimes find it difficult relating to older generations. Workplace conversations may include Millennials stating that they have nothing to talk about with older colleagues or referring to age in a negative way against one’s capability to do a job. This raises the prudent point around lack of awareness of generational differences – which isn’t one sided – and places responsibility back on organisations to ensure that better relationships are happening with colleagues, through education and awareness.

These issues are not exclusive but do shed light on Millennials speaking about ‘Millennial issues’ – and should therefore be taken seriously.

Acknowledgement and thanks go to Eric Johnson and Lila Schneider for their contribution to this article, for creating greater awareness around workplace challenges and being a voice for other Millennials.

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