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#aremillennialsdifferent? (Part I) Do we need to adjust to make room for millennials in the workplace?

Millennials are self-entitled, over-confident and are difficult to manage… or are they?

There are a lot of opinions out there about millennials, with a strong consensus in mainstream media that there are drastic differences between the generations and this is impacting on how we work together.

But who are millennials?

Although there is a lack of consensus regarding the exact cut-off range for generational boundaries, generally millennials are designated as individuals born between 1980 and 2000. This means, millennials reflect those individuals who are currently between the ages of 17 and 37 years of age.

So, with four different generations currently working in our organisations why is the spotlight on millennials? Our fascination with millennials is likely spurred on by the abundance of opinion blogs and media that is surfacing on millennials. Just try a google search on ‘millennials’ and you will see what we mean.

While the opinion blogs and media highlight the drastic differences of the millennial generation, the ‘actual’ research conducted to date tells a different story…

Yes, millennials are digital natives and use technology ‘differently’ to previous generations[1],[2], however all generations use technology differently to the generation before them.

Yes, millennials talk ‘differently’, however language always shifts and changes and our use of language really reflects the current culture of our society.

No, Millennials are not lazy and want to work less than other generations. The research highlights that work attitudes do not differ between the generations and millennials work just as many hours as Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers did at the same age.

Yes, Millennials are a ‘Me’ generation, however all generations following the Baby Boomers are ‘Me’ generations- this is nothing new or different.

 

So, the big question is, based on the ‘actual’ research, are millennials substantively different to previous generations when they reach their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s that we will have to change the way our organisations do business?

The answer is yes and no… the world of work is changing and we need to keep up whether this is due to generational differences, life stage differences, or contextual influencers of society.

So, whether these differences fundamentally exist or not should not be our focus- we need to understand the perceived differences between the generations and determine how this influences our behaviours when we work together.

 

If we believe that there are substantial differences in our work ethic, attitude, skills, and abilities how will we ever be able to work together effectively?

At Kaya, we know that it is important for generations to not only work together cooperatively, but to work together collaboratively. To do this, we need to collectively explore our mental models* about generational collaboration and start the journey to shared sense-making.

Stay tuned, to find out more about generational collaboration in our workplaces in part II.

*Mental models are the deeply engrained, implicit and automatic assumptions that we rely on to make meaning and sense of the complex world around us. Although mental models are essential for processing the world around us, they can become outdated and leave us with obsolete paradigms of how to view the world.

[1] Pînzaru, F., et al. (2016). Millennials at work: Investigating the specificity of generation Y versus other generations. Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy, 4,173-192. Retrieved from http://www.zbw.eu/econis-archiv/bitstream/handle/11159/360/176-648-2-PB.pdf?sequence=1

[2] Hershatter, A., & Epstein, M. (2010). Millennials and the world of work: An organization and management perspective. Journal of business and psychology25(2), 211-223.