Part 3 – The Greatest Complaint – The Millennial Sense of Entitlement
“Yes, I am entitled to apply for a vice president’s job. I was a community organizer for two years and have been here a year already”!
What is the singular greatest complaint leveled against Millennials?
Many employers would say that this generation sees each new undertaking with a “sense of entitlement” that is entirely out of proportion to their age and experience. After all, as the M-generation sees it, shouldn’t they at least be allowed to apply for a vice presidency of the company where they have worked for one year? After all, a community organizer can become president.
They are not taking into consideration that this president had a law degree and was a law professor for 12 years before he was a three time State Senator, and a U.S. Senator for two years before he ran for the office.
Simply, from childhood the M-Generation has developed a reputation for “being overconfident and spoiled”. They expect praise (even coming to work on time to them is an important recognition) long before they have earned it. Also, remember they probably have no understanding or appreciation for the reporting and accountability hierarchy in an organization.
As the authors of “The M-Factor” say, “This generation shows signs of being far too impressed with their own value and importance”.
Now, before you beat me with the proverbial wet noodle of indignation, I acknowledge this trait is tempered by individual personalities. While one Millennial may exude “cockiness and arrogance” that turns off even his/her peers, another one is a model of humility.
Authors do say that anecdotal evidence, along with the general trends, suggests that at some point you will shake your head in disbelief at the unreasonable expectations you have just discovered in your new employee. Despite their intelligence and competency in many areas, the Millennial has a lot to learn. But, in a different time in a different way, didn’t we all?
Let’s examine a few generalized expectations you may encounter so you will be prepared:
Millennials may expect to advance quickly. Once they have mastered their current responsibilities, they want to be promoted to higher positions or greater responsibility NOW.
They often have a very low tolerance for the mundane work that usually falls to the lowest rung of the workplace ladder. They don’t understand the concept of seniority, and to them that is an anathema of their value system. They value capability over experience and believe that a fresh, young perspective is always more valuable than the tried and true methods of the “old gray heads”.
The ideas of “doing your time” within a role and job and “paying your dues” just do not make sense to them and are at odds with their expectations. The kind of work and status that M-Generation new hires are likely to encounter in any job may not be to their liking.
Many employers, when they encounter the M-Generation employee’s high expectations and impatience with their low status, are tempted to conclude that he/she is just plain “spoiled rotten”.
As a path to understanding, let’s consider how we acted out our own social norms of the 1960s and 70s and were complacent to “climb the ladder” appropriately by gaining experience and education. The M-Generation new hire and his peers are simply acting out the social norms and experiences and examples that have thus far shaped their lives.
Many behavioral psychologist and sociologists have concluded that one prevailing norm for the Millennial has been the constant availability of choice. Simply, in all aspects of life, at home, at school, in extra-curricular activities and even the marketplace, they often could choose their experiences. Everything from what playlists they might load to their I-pod to what reading list they preferred in high school or college was a personal choice. For them, their world has been easily customizable. It is going to be a shock to some of them to find out that life is not always that way.
In my mind, members of this generation can be overly-sensitive. This can certainly be a factor in their employment lives. For example, there were college students who were appalled at “chalk drawings of presidential candidates” on the sidewalks. Few employers are expecting or prepared to deal with an employee reduced to crying over inanimate objects and even fewer are going to provide “safe spaces”, cookies and hot chocolate when something upsets one of their new hires.
Let’s remember that many of the parents of the M-Generation believed and practiced that praise and self-esteem were the first priorities in parenting and teaching realms. The child learns that if you play on the little league baseball team, you get a trophy for showing up. Turn in your homework, and get a gold star for turning something in with your name on it regardless of the content.
While effort is important and trying your best is important, life, and certainly the business world, does not necessarily hand out trophies for these worthy attributes.
Millennials often hear “You can accomplish whatever you want in life” hundreds of times by the times they are adults The flip side of that coin is that hard work, perseverance and some luck are usually the prerequisites. And, even with all that in place, there is still no guarantee. Millennials may have a hard time grasping this.
Granted it will be difficult to alter the high expectations about choice, and the need for quick and constant affirmation, of the typical Millennial. Many employers may see it as impossible! But fear not – there are ways to approach your new hire’s expectations that will minimize conflict and frustration while utilizing their potential.
Next: Part 4 – Minimizing conflict and crisis when dealing with a Millennial
Sources: The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010)
PWC.Com – Millennials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/assets/reshaping-the-workplace.pdf