Millennials' Expectations in the Workplace

Millennials dress pretty much the same for work as they do for socializing.

Millennials dress pretty much the same for work as they do for socializing.

If you’re easily swayed by stereotypes, you may think that millennials -- the generation born between 1977 and 1997 -- are a bunch of spoiled young adults with a “what’s in it for me” attitude. But it’s not that simple; this new generation has a complicated psyche. Financial success is less important to them than family life, and they value freedom and flexibility above all. Due to the difficult economy that plagued their formative years, many stayed in school longer than their predecessors, so they are poised to become the best educated generation in the current workforce, according to a 2010 study by The Pew Research Center.

Whiz Kids

Millennials are the first generation born into the Internet era. They grew up with a cell phone in one hand and a keyboard in the other, and they frankly don’t know how to live without either. They expect their employer to provide the electronic tools they need to get the job done efficiently, and they can manipulate technology in a way that makes older workers' heads spin. The down side is that millennials are more likely to be distracted by text messaging and social media on the job than their counterparts from other generations.

Stability at Home, Not on the Job

Tough economic times have been the hallmark of millennials’ work experience. Wary of the possibility of being laid off or having their employer go out of business, millennials are always on the lookout for the next career opportunity. Since they can’t depend on a steady paycheck over a prolonged period, the quality of the work experience matters intensely to them. They want work that is interesting and meaningful, and they are more likely to leave their job if they don’t get it. In fact, half of millennials who participated in MTV's 2012 "No Collar Worker" study said they would rather not have a job than be trapped in one they hate.

Breaking Down Boundaries

Gen Y’ers, the other name for millennials, are all about breaking down boundaries. Unlike earlier generations, which cherished the privacy of a cubicle or an office, America’s youngest workers like open office spaces so they can converse and collaborate with their peers. They also are blurring the line between the office and outside life. Millennials like to socialize with colleagues and they don’t see the point in dressing differently for work than they do for after-work outings. They want flexible hours so that they can tend to things they value, including family, entertainment and social life. They believe they should be judged by how much work they get done, not by how many hours they put in.

Co-existing With Elders

While millennials don’t agree with their elders, they do respect them. A surprising three-quarters of millennials surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2010 said that older adults have a better work ethic, stronger moral values and greater respect for others. Millennials admire them for this. In fact, 75 percent of millennials say they want a senior person as a mentor, according to the MTV study. At the same time, they believe that the older set is clueless when it comes to the power of technology, but, rather than mocking this deficiency, millennials want to help them overcome it.

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About the Author

A retired federal senior executive currently working as a management consultant and communications expert, Mary Bauer has written and edited for senior U.S. government audiences, including the White House, since 1984. She holds a Master of Arts in French from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, French and international relations from Aquinas College.

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