Millennials in the workplace – do they require special treatment?

No one likes getting boxed but generalisations are usually a useful guide when trying to explain certain behaviours. Millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y’ers, are people born from the early 1980s to around 2000. They are also classified as those reaching early adulthood in the 2000s and are caught between the old and new world of technology. But what makes this generation tick and do they require special treatment? A millennial herself, Jessica Edgson, investigates. – Stuart Lowman

By Jessica Edgson*

Jessica Edgson
Jessica Edgson

I’ve heard a lot of criticism about millennials over the years. I mean, who hasn’t? If you type “millennials are” into Google, you’ll get suggested searches along the lines of “lazy”, “entitled” and even “the worst”. We’re not the most celebrated generation. Even millennials have been known to denounce their own generation.

I don’t usually let the negative comments get to me. I know we’re worth more than people give us credit for. But the other day I overheard something that made me want to stand up and say something. Of course, I didn’t because I’m a millennial and we prefer to put our opinions online rather than pass them around in public.

What I heard was something like: “This generation think they deserve special treatment in the workplace.”

At first I inwardly denied it and shook it off as typical baby boomer disapproval of the “youth of today”. But then, after I’d thought about it, I realised we do deserve special treatment in the workplace. Now, before you shake your head and write me off as a “self-entitled brat who grew up getting praised for being average”, hear me out.

We consult Google before asking anyone anything

If we need to know how to do something, we’re far more likely to ask Google than our managers. We grew up with the access to internet so we know how to find the information we need in a matter of minutes. It’s not just about knowing how to type words into a search bar, it’s about understanding what words to use. Finding out what we need to know without moving from our seat is our speciality. Older generations may call it “lazy”, but we prefer the term “efficient”.

This means we need less facetime with our seniors than previous generations of workers. We’re able to figure things out for ourselves. Not because we’re smarter but because we’re more comfortable with the technology that enables us to access universal wisdom.


We can be as productive in our beds as at our desks

With technology these days entire companies can be run without a physical head office. You can access your email from anywhere send off reports from the bathroom and type up invoices while sitting at a bar. With the right processes in place, nobody needs to be chained to a desk in order to be productive. The thing is, millennials are better at working remotely than older generations.

The Baby Boomers and Generation X were taught to balance their personal lives with work. They learned how to leave work at the office and their relationship issues at home. Ten years ago those lines were easy to define. Where you were mentally was based on where you were physically. But we’ve never had to enter that mind space. We’re comfortable checking our emails from bed and won’t hesitate making a personal call on company time. If work needs our attention at 10pm, it doesn’t feel unnatural.

If there’s a shortcut, we’ll find it

If there’s one thing all millennials are used to, it’s being called lazy. But we’re not. We simply refuse to waste time doing things the hard way. For many years there was only one way of doing things. Perhaps processes were updated with inventions like the fax machine or dial up internet. But, in the last decade or so, things have sped up at an incredible rate. And we’re pretty comfortable adapting to them.

New apps and programs are becoming available every day and we’re looking out for them. If we don’t find out via our daily browsing then Twitter will send us a notification. And we’re not afraid to try new things. Instead of learning one process, we’ve been trained to adapt to whatever cuts the input and increases the output. We’re not lazy, we’re just efficient.

The world is advancing at a rapid pace and us millennials were born at the precise moment when everything changed. Soon the working world will be dealing with “founders” who were born with smartphones in their hands. At least we remember a world where newspapers had the latest scoop. If the workplace doesn’t adjust to making the most out of millennials, how will it ever cope with kids who had iPads before they could read?

  • Fuelled by caffeine and obsessed with cool sentences, Jessica Edgson is a fierce defender of all things millennial.
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