In Defense Of Working Millennials

February 11, 2016
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Why are millennials buying tiny houses? Why are they so obsessed with kale? What is kale — and when did it become a popular kid's name?

Anyone 35 and older is trying desperately to find the answers to these and other pressing questions to gain insights into the millennial generation. And for good reason: People 18 to 34 now make up the largest segment of the population at 75 million strong. To older generations, millennials can be both vexing (step away from the iPhone) and inspiring (volunteering is life).

In the workplace, there seems to be extra confusion over what millennials want and what they value. As a millennial, I will attempt to debunk the myths about my generation. Spoiler: It’s not all casual Fridays and office parties.

Myth: Office parties or bust! When’s the next rager?
Truth:
Yes, millennials value a fun office culture, but even more so they value a collaborative and supportive work environment. With companies making a move toward booze-friendly and denim-clad offices, employers often think they need to go over the top to attract young workers. Wrong. Millennials are a team-driven bunch and thrive in a culture where group work and friendly office relations are present — not just parties.

Myth: Out with the old — new is hot!
Truth:
Millennials are known for spearheading the next trend, thanks to this generation’s entrepreneurial spirit and roots in the tech movement. However, this doesn’t mean they want to throw old plans out the window for pure excitement. This enthusiasm has many believing millennials don’t follow orders and only want to do what’s hot (or hawt). Millennials simply work best in different environments than in the traditional office setup. They thrive on team thinking, group work and creativity, which is why many companies now look more like adult playgrounds than offices.

Myth: The workday ends at 5 o’clock. See you tomorrow.
Truth:
There is often a disconnect between millennials and baby boomers on when the workday starts and ends. Baby boomers are known for their willingness to work long hours, which they often require from younger subordinates. The issue should not be if millennials are hardworking or afraid of overtime, because many in this generation do both. Younger employees prefer to work remotely or have a flexible schedule instead of staying at the office until 8 p.m. They also want to ensure they can use their vacation days, even if that requires clocking in from the beach.

Myth: Give me title change or give me death.
Truth:
Young employees can often be viewed as a flight risk or lumped into a group that wants to ascend the corporate ladder before they have earned promotion. It’s true, the average length of an employee's tenure in their 20s is shorter than it is in their 30s, and so on. But this pattern should not be attributed as a negative. Millennials don’t want to quit — they want room to grow. We are a spirited bunch and are not afraid to acknowledge when a career becomes stagnant. To prevent turnover, companies should provide continuous growth opportunities and dialogue on ways to best contribute.

The takeaways? Millennials work well in collaborative, creative environments, take their careers seriously and perform best with continuous feedback. They prioritize a workplace with flexibility and are great assets to companies that value new ideas (cough, Branigan). They also, as far I’ve been told, really do love kale.

– Bridget Franke, assistant account executive