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24 Aug 2015

Motivational Madness about Millennials in the Workplace

There is much info about millennials in the workplace. How much is real? Junk?

The massive mountain of material about the motivations of millennials in the workplace seems to be a good example of junk knowledge.

Just as there is junk food there is junk knowledge. What sweetly tingles our ears and easily fills our brains is often just empty realities. The massive mountain of matter about the motivations of millennials in the workplace is such a reality.

Yes, their skills differ from other generations. Their buying habits do too. Do their motivations do too?

More and more it seems to be just a digital age spin on a fact that has been with us for millennia. There is a natural tension between the younger and the older.

Why does it seem different though? The digital age has made it easy, fun and exciting to put a fresh face on an old idea. It has also made it very profitable to pitch it too.

Where is the Evidence?

The evidence of a motivational difference among millennials in the workplace is all around us! Tons exist. So what is the beef?

The beef is that evidence and proof are not the same thing. All of this evidence does not prove anything. It is inconsistent.

The article, “Myths about Millennials,” in The Economist superbly dives into this. It does cite one consistent finding though. It is this. Millennials want the same things from their work as older folks do. They want to be:

  • “Given interesting work to do”
  • “Rewarded on the basis of their contributions”
  • “Given the chance to work hard and get ahead”

More about Millennials in the Workplace

A client had asked me about millennials in the workplace. I shared my view. They asked why they seemed different.

They are baby boomers like I am, so I said, “It is because we are the older ones now. Rather than think that, we prefer to think they are different from us and our younger selves.” Yes, experiences differ. Things change. That has been true for all time not just now.

We are far different from the group in which some expert threw us. This is true for each young person too. “Companies need to recognize that individual differences are always bigger than generational differences.”

Yet, “in their enthusiasm to embrace that generation, [companies] risk swallowing a lot of snake oil.” It is going to be easy to get fat on junk knowledge that is. Pigeonholing is easy though. Placing people into groups does not need much thought.

The real food comes when we learn millennials are individuals first.

8 Responses

      1. “You mean there were such times, Glade?” Like the 1980s, when even The Future didn’t have it! As close to the modern world as it looked, the only way to communicate out of state, or in some cases just two towns away, was to pay for it by the minute; including dial-up BBSes on the old 300 baud modem which could get expensive quickly. I actually knew an online addict with a thousand dollar phone bill. Some fear a change in the nature of the Internet (censorship by gatekeppers, surveillance, etc.) could be worse than not having it at all.

  1. Ah, Yes, they are…individuals…individuals…individuals… Pigeonholing…that’s the blind spot. Problem is, it’s not just done to millenials, it done to us all… Individuals. Hopefully one day we can as a society expand our vision.

    1. Mike Lehr

      You’re so right, Valencia. I found the video humorous especially since it was from 1943. Yes, perhaps one day, but in the meantime there will remain plenty of work for us both! ~Mike

    1. Mike Lehr

      Yes, I agree, Fiona. This is especially true with what they want from work as we had discussed. Complaints about the younger generation has existed for eons.

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