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Millennial myth-busters: the truth behind the stereotypes of millennials in the workplace

Generation Y - also known as the millennials - comprises people born roughly between 1980 and 1994

Raised during an unprecedented period of technological change and witnessing two recessions, they have adapted to a future that predicts they will be worse off financially than their parents by displaying some interesting values and behaviours in the workplace. Let’s look at the truth behind the myths.

The myth: millennials have no staying power

Millennials are often cited as being flighty in the workplace, changing jobs at the drop of a hat; however, a comparison between job tenure figures now and during the 80s reveals that young Americans today are no more eager to jump ship than their predecessors.

Tanya de Grunwald, founder of Graduate Fog, says that there are two types of millennial graduate. The first is those who quickly find a permanent job after graduation and rapidly become integrated into the organisation, typically remaining there for longer and happy to progress internally rather than looking externally for career progression. The other type is those who get off to a rocky start post-graduation and develop a more cut-throat attitude towards employers, seeking promotion wherever they can find it.

In defence of millennials, they have witnessed financial insecurity on a grand scale and therefore do not place their faith in institutions and organisations; instead they focus on self-development and the optimisation of skills that will make them stand out.

The myth: millennials are lazy

The phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’ is commonplace to most millennials; however, previous generations were indoctrinated to believe the more hours you put in, the more you will achieve, progress and get noticed. Today, most young people seek out flexibility in their work because it does not make sense to be chained to a particular desk working rigidly fixed hours when you can work from your device at home or in a cafe, at midnight or midday.

Ann-Victoire Meillant, who wrote the seminal From Millennials With Love, describes the way in which millennials prefer to work as ‘work/life integration’ – their social lives, work lives and leisure are intertwined.

The myth: millennials are entitled

Another element of the millennials’ approach to work is that they value the concept of ‘playbour’- the idea that if you find work you love, it will feel like leisure. In a world of insecurity, unattainable house prices and crippling rents, there is no guarantee that slaving away at a job you hate will ever reap any concrete rewards that will protect you in old age and benefit your children; therefore, work should contribute to your life in other ways. This is why many millennials seek out work that either fulfils a passion or aligns with their values or ideals.

The Deloitte millennial study found that half of millennials worldwide had rejected work that conflicted with their beliefs. Another survey revealed that 70 per cent of millennials value civic engagement and the chance to give something back as top priorities in their everyday lives. In other words, millennials do feel entitled to meaningful, fulfilling work with a social, environmental and political conscience.

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