If you’re a millennial, you may want to keep that fact to yourself.
That is, if you even consider yourself a millennial. A recent study found that only 40 percent of adults under 36 years old consider themselves part of the millennial generation, while another 33 percent — mostly older millennials — consider themselves part of Generation X, the next older cohort.
It certainly isn’t a surprise. A quick online search yields thousands of articles on how to deal with, hire or fire America’s largest generation.
And the most commonly searched term along with “millennials”? “Entitlement.”
As someone who has studied millennial motivation for over 11 years, I have discovered this to be true: It is mismanaged expectations, not entitlement, that is stalling millennial advancement.
Entitlement is situational. I often share this simple story to rooms full of executives and managers. If the HVAC unit were to stop working on the hottest day in July, they would feel entitled to air conditioning. Say those same executives were to meet in an isolated village in Sahara Desert — unlikely, but roll with it. If they began complaining about the absence of cool air in a community with limited access to electricity, they would certainly come across as entitled.
It is not the expectation that makes someone entitled. It is whether those expectations are set in reality.
The connection between employer and employee has changed drastically. For millennials, employment is a relationship of convenience rather than a lifelong commitment.
Ken Julian is the senior vice president of human resources at THOR Industries Inc. He says that “entitlement is driven by a desire for more information and feedback. Management and leadership perceive this desire as the easy way up and easy way out.”
If you ask millennials if their generation is entitled, they may agree with you. And that may not be a bad thing for you or your organization.
A 2015 Pew Survey found that millennials are more likely than those of other generations to criticize their own “kind.” Nearly 60 percent consider their peers “self-absorbed,” compared with 30 percent among Gen Xers and 20 percent of boomers who do. One-half of millennial respondents said their generation is wasteful, and almost as many say millennials are greedy.
Discussing millennial entitlement with millennials leads to powerful conversations around communication, work ethic, and perception.
Wright Dickerson is a millennial human resources specialist at Acuity Brands. He explained that millennials move faster, adapt quicker, and are the best opportunity for growth within any industry. However, he admits that millennials need to work on their personal brand.
Dickerson defended the entitlement claim: “We come into the workforce expecting to make a big splash. We’re not entitled … We come into the workforce not realizing [how we come across].”
Yadnesh Gotey is also a millennial. The supply chain engineer at University of Southern California shared this: “Our generation takes some things for granted and want things by default — regarding culture, work environment, and whatnot. That can be perceived as entitlement.”
“I don’t think millennials are a threat. We bring a huge variety of experience and unique, highly educated skill sets.”
But when you ask him to give advice to his peers, Gotey explained, “I don’t think millennials are a threat. I think we bring a huge variety of experience and unique, highly educated skill sets.”
By calling millennials “entitled,” that opens up a conversation around what makes this generation unique. Managers who are able to ask and answer questions on professional expectations are more likely to keep their millennials.
Gabrielle Bosché is founder and president of The Millennial Solution, America’s fastest growing millennial strategy firm. She is a best-selling author and popular TEDx speaker. She has advised presidential candidates, top military generals, and Fortune 500 CEOs on strategies to reach and retain her generation. Download a free millennial retention checklist at millennialsolution.com.
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